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What is the Typical Procedure in a DUI Case?

Oftentimes, people who have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence (“DUI), have a clear criminal history. The process of a DUI case includes many steps that can seem lengthy and complex. While procedures may vary from region-to-region and for each individual defendant, this is the typical procedure that someone would encounter in a DUI case. 

1. Arrest, Booking, and Bail

A DUI case officially starts once a police officer arrests a person for DUI. The police officer has the legal power to make an arrest on the basis of probable cause.  There must be probable cause per the Fourth Amendment if the police officer does not have a warrant; meaning, the police officer must find under the “totality of the circumstances” that the suspect has committed a crime. 

After the arrest, the person is brought into custody for booking. During the booking stage, police officers record the suspect’s relevant information, including their name, address, age, and general physical characteristics. Typically, the police officers will then file a report of the suspect’s alleged crime before placing the suspect into a holding cell until an arrangement for bail has been made, or the person is brought to court. Bail gives the suspect the ability to pay for their release. However, the suspect must appear to all future court proceedings. In scenarios where a suspect cannot afford to pay bail, a bail bond agency may be able to pay on their behalf. 

2. First Court Appearance in a DUI Case – Arraignment

The arraignment is the earliest time the suspect is able to appear in court. Commonly, in misdemeanor DUI cases, defendants do not appear on their arraignment date; instead, their lawyers will appear on their behalf. The arraignment serves to alert the defendant of the charges being brought against them. At this stage, the judge will then ask the defendant to submit a plea to the allegations. The defendant may either respond guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The judge might revisit the topics of bail and issue dates if there are any potential later court appearances. 

3. DUI Case Pretrial Conferences

Pretrial conferences are typically comprised of plea bargains and pretrial motions. Plea bargains allow the defendant and prosecution the opportunity to reach a resolution of the case. In these scenarios, the defendant might choose to plead guilty or no contest for a punishment that is less harsh. Separately, before the in-court trial commences, the defendant and the prosecution have the opportunity to introduce motions to the judge. Motions can range widely, but typically include requests for evidence or witness testimonies to be presented or included. Essentially, the goal is to set ground rules that both parties must follow in trial. 

4. What to Expect in a DUI Trial

If the defendant pled “not guilty” or a plea bargain was not met during the pretrial conferences, the DUI case proceeds to trial. Before the court date, a jury is selected and instructed. From there, both parties present their opening statements. Throughout the hearing, the prosecution asserts that the defendant is guilty and attempts to convince the jury to believe this claim. Meanwhile, the defendant rebuts, introducing their own evidence to persuade the jury that they are not guilty. After both parties have presented their arguments, the jury deliberates. Once the jury reaches the conclusion, the verdict is read. 

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