While most people have a basic understanding of the legal process, it is not necessary for them to fully understand the process. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence though, you’ll probably want to know what to expect in the upcoming months. While this is a useful overview of the DUI criminal process, if you have any specific questions, please call San Diego DUI attorney Peter M. Liss.
The first part of the DUI process occurs when an officer pulls you over and arrests you. You should write down everything you remember from the arrest as soon as you can because this information could be useful to your San Diego DUI lawyers later on.
Next, call a DUI attorney in San Diego as soon as possible. You need to act quickly because of the 10 day deadline for requesting a DMV hearing to challenge the license suspension. Filing for this hearing is optional and will not affect your criminal trial, but if you fail to do so, your license will automatically be suspended after your 30 day temporary license expires.
If you do file for the hearing, your license suspension will be delayed and no suspension will be issued if you win at the hearing –although your license may still be suspended if you lose at the criminal trial. You do not need to be present at the hearing if your San Diego DUI lawyer appears on your behalf.
Shortly after your arrest, you will be formally charged with a crime at an arraignment. In most DUI cases, you will face two charges, “driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or both)” and “driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.” This is merely a formality and you cannot be convicted and sentenced for both crimes. If you have been accused of driving under the influence of drugs, you will only be charged with the first offense.
At your arraignment, you will be asked to plead “guilty,” “not guilty” or “no contest” to your charges. If you plead guilty or chose to settle the case with the prosecution, the criminal process will end here and you will be sentenced accordingly. If your lawyer has entered not guilty pleas, the court sets pre-trial settlement conferences. The settlement hearings allow your lawyer to provide information on your behalf to the prosecutor and judge so that you achieve a favorable resolution to your case.
In some cases, DUI attorneys in San Diego may be able to have your charges reduced to a “wet reckless,” which is a less serious offense than driving under the influence. Like the DMV hearing, you do not need to come to the arraignment in person, as long as your San Diego DUI lawyer appears on your behalf.
Your lawyer may also file motions on your behalf to dismiss the charges due to unlawful stop, arrest or illegal police conduct. These hearings are held pre-trial.
If your case is not dismissed or settled before the scheduled trial date, your San Diego DUI attorney will need to appear in court and you most likely will be ordered by the judge to appear at the trial as well. Nearly all cases are settled before trial, but a trial could last several days.
The jury will be selected by the prosecutor and your DUI lawyer. San Diego residents will make up the jury pool and twelve of these individuals will be selected to hear your case.
Before the trial officially commences, your San Diego DUI attorney will file pretrial motions to have evidence against you withheld or suppressed from the trial whenever possible. He will then present his opening statement to the court and introduce evidence, witnesses and expert testimony. When the prosecution introduces their evidence, witnesses and experts, your San Diego DUI lawyer will try to cast doubt on their story in order to invoke reasonable doubt into the minds of the jurors.
After both sides make their closing statements, the jury will be asked to make a decision. Generally, they will come back with a decision of “guilty” or “not guilty.” If they cannot come to a unanimous decision, your case may be declared a mistrial. In these situations, the prosecution may drop the case or come to an agreement with your DUI attorney. San Diego prosecutors may also chose to re-try the case if both sides cannot reach an agreement.
If you were found guilty, you will then be sentenced. If you are found guilty, but feel the jury, prosecution or judge made an error or that your civil rights were violated in some manner, you may chose to file an appeal with the help of your San Diego DUI lawyer.
Still have questions about the DUI legal process or how to fight drunk driving charges? Peter M. Liss can help; please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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