Getting pulled over is scary enough, but being hauled away to jail because you failed a sobriety test is even worse. The same is true whether you’re heavily intoxicated or just barely above the legal requirements.
This sets in motion the DUI process.
Being found guilty of this crime can wreak havoc on your life – you can end up losing your job, facing jail time and/or paying hefty fines. Not to mention, all of this will also go on your criminal history record.
So anytime you apply for a new job or place to live, this will show up in your background check. Some employers and landlords will deny your application for that reason alone.
But what does the DUI process entail? If you’re wondering the same for yourself or a loved one, then continue reading.
Let’s review what happens from the time you’re arrested until the time you’re set free.
Pulled Over: The Beginning of the DUI Process
Once you’re pulled over by state police and the officers suspect you’re under the influence, they will attempt to give you one or more sobriety tests.
Let’s take a look at the different types of tests.
Field Sobriety Tests
If you’re asked to perform this type of test, then you will have to do things like walk in a straight line and do vertical gaze tests.
Just so you know, you’re not required by law to take these tests. The point of it is to determine whether you have coordination. If not, then you’re not fit to drive.
The issue here is that some people lack coordination, even when they’re not drunk. So think twice before submitting yourself to take this test.
Here’s another iffy sobriety test. While anti-drinking associations give it praise, there’s really no scientific proof breathalyzers actually work.
In fact, some studies show that the results vary from person to person. Again, you don’t have to submit to this test.
Now, this is normally given once you arrive at the police station. It’s a machine that measures the alcohol level in your breath and how it corresponds with the levels found in your blood.
However, there are certain medical issues that can present false positives. There are cases where the individual subjected themselves to this test and are found guilty even though they weren’t drinking.
Most find this to be the most reliable of all the tests. But this too isn’t foolproof.
This is because some medications can actually alter the results in your test. Remember, in order for a police station to give you this, they must have a warrant authorized by a judge.
The next step in the DUI process is the arrest. This normally occurs when you submit to a sobriety test or the officer has reason to believe you committed a crime.
Once you’re read your rights, you are taken to the station for booking. An arrest is only lawful if the police officer observed a crime (you drinking or using drugs), there is probable cause or you a lawful traffic stop occurred beforehand.
During your first arraignment, you will see a judge, who will read you your charges. It normally takes several days for arraignment.
After you’re read your charges, you will have to make a pleading. If the evidence against you is strong, then it may be best to get a plea bargain. Hopefully, before this point, you already have a lawyer.
You are then granted or denied bail and given future dates of your proceedings (preliminary hearing, pretrial motions, and trial).
In this meeting with the judge, he or she will go over the evidence presented by the prosecutor. You have to convince a jury that you aren’t guilty of DUI.
This is when your attorney can size up the case built by the prosecutor and go over your available options.
If it seems you will lose your case, your attorney will suggest entering into a plea bargain with the prosecutor. However, some states have outlawed this or discourage it. Some believe that DUI is a serious crime and shouldn’t come with plea deals.
Your attorney will likely file certain motions to try and keep particular damaging evidence out of your trial. Some may include:
- The results of your alcohol tests
- Physical evidence like beer cans and bottles found in your vehicle
- Confessions or incriminating statements you made to the arresting officer
Sometimes, DUI cases resolve before the date of the trial. Other times, they proceed to trial in a predictable manner.
For instance, jury selection occurs, both sides give opening statements and each side presents their case. Testimonies from witnesses, such as the police officers, will also take place at this time.
Other details will come from cross-examination of the witnesses by both lawyers. Then your attorney can present motions asking the judge to dismiss the case for insufficient evidence.
Afterward, both sides give closing arguments and the jury makes their verdict.
Your sentencing is at the end of the DUI process. You may end up facing jail time, paying fines or getting probation.
Other times, guilty DUI defendants will have community service and substance abuse counseling. It’s also not uncommon for the court to place an ignition interlock in your vehicle to prevent you from driving if you fail your sobriety test.
The sentencing is at the discretion of the judge, so it’s whatever he or she deems fit for the crime.
Find a DUI Lawyer to Represent Your Case
It’s always better to have an attorney to guide you along your DUI case. A lawyer will know the ins and outs of the process and potentially get you a better outcome.
Your best bet is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. At James Fletcher Law, you can get a consultation with a lawyer knowledgeable about DUI.
Contact this firm today to have your case reviewed.