What to Expect from DWI CourtJames Fletcher
When one is arrested for a DWI, oftentimes, there is a lot of shame or guilt associated with it. The person arrested may fear their friends and family has seen their mugshot or are making comments on their lapse in judgment.
All of this should be secondary, as the accused is facing an appearance in DWI court, which can be scary if the process is unknown.
Many wonder what type of sentencing they will face, if they will have their license suspended, and how much money and time they will have to spend. A bigger fear is a jail or prison sentence.
Ahead is a look at the DWI court process, what to expect, and how to prepare.
The first court date in this series is the arraignment. This may sound like a scary word or might be confusing unless looked up, but it’s really not.
An arraignment is just the first stop in DWI court. It’s where the defendant can enter their plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
Information is also given about the charges being brought, and that the accused has the right to an attorney, which hopefully they have by then.
A preliminary hearing in DWI court is basically when the judge decides if there is enough information and evidence to force the defendant to stand trial.
This is not the time where the judge decides “guilty” or “not guilty,” just whether or not the information present is enough to move forward with court proceedings.
At this point, depending on what facts are presented the defensive attorney may look at possible plea bargains to present to their clients. These options can vary depending on the criminal history and leniency given by the prosecutor and judge.
Often times the bargaining comes in if it looks like the defendant may have enough evidence against them to be found guilty of driving while intoxicated.
A good defense attorney will do everything in their power to help their client. The judge will look at many circumstances other than just the charge being brought.
Some items that an attorney may try to suppress or keep out of the courtroom may include details about your arrest or the results of a Blood Alcohol Content test (BAC.)
When intoxicated, some people may make decisions they wouldn’t otherwise, including leaving open alcohol containers in their vehicle whether or not they are empty and inadvertently confessing their crimes.
It is known that when an officer of the law pulls you over, he will often ask if the driver has been drinking that night. Without thinking, the driver may say, “just a little,” or admit they had been consuming alcohol or other substances earlier that evening.
These statements are viewed as a confession. They are damaging to the defendant’s case, and a defense attorney will attempt to get them thrown out in DUI court.
Unless the defense attorney believes the defendant has a good case proving his innocence, or that the case will be thrown out, the trial portion is unnecessary and does not happen.
However, every now and then, someone will want to fight their charges. They have the chance to do so at their trial.
When a DWI case goes to trial, it means the defendant has entered a “not guilty” plea and the proceedings will continue as most other criminal matters–with a judge or jury deciding the verdict and fate.
Sentencing for DWI Court
What is common in DWI cases is for the defendant to enter a “guilty” or “no contest” plea in exchange for a lighter sentence. This is usually called a plea bargain.
Because of these pleas, a trial is often skipped and the defendant goes to sentencing. Most people find the sentencing to be the scariest part because they do not know what to expect.
Depending on whether or not the accused has a prior record or is a repeat offender, will play a large role in the sentencing. Sentencing can vary from state to state, but generally involve probation, fines, possible outpatient substance abuse rehabilitation or anonymous support groups and some community service.
DWI courts also will offer suspended sentences where long-term jail or prison can be avoided if all terms and conditions are met. If the accused is a repeat offender and is lucky enough to find their way into one of these programs, it is highly advisable that they complete it, as if left undone, the judge may enact the full sentence.
Please keep in mind every sentence is different, every case is different, and every circumstance is different. Aside from the aforementioned repeat offenses, a judge can and will look at the defendant’s alcohol test results; if anyone was involved in an accident and if anyone was injured due to the DWI.
There are also other charges that can make a DWI charge worse, particularly having a minor in the vehicle. These are all things a defense attorney will take into account when representing a client’s case.
The True Cost
Assuming a drunk driver doesn’t kill anyone or harm themselves, and assuming the DWI they are attending court for is their first, a DWI in any state can cost them upwards of $9000.
The best thing to do is to not drive drunk. The driver should make plans on how to get home before imbibing in alcohol. A DWI can also be avoided by not drinking at all, or by using a designated driver or cab. If another way home cannot be found, staying in that location is a must for the driver.
In the unfortunate event that a DWI occurs, the first thing one must do upon release from jail is to find an attorney. Lawyers are a dime a dozen, but finding one who specializes in DWI cases is absolutely necessary to aid in this process.
Contact us to discuss any pending charges or with questions regarding alcohol-related offenses.