What to Expect When You Go to Trial for DUI
All states are cracking down on driving under the influence, and when you’re arrested for a DUI, you may be unsure of your options for how to proceed. You’ll be thinking how you can save your license from being suspended, as well as what the penalties will be in the justice system and at work.
For most people that get pulled over for drunk driving, the case won’t make it to trial. Most DUI cases are resolved through a plea agreement early in the criminal justice process. Depending on the case file and the charges you face (most DUI cases involve multiple tickets), there are different ways a DUI case will proceed.
Rely on the advice of your attorney, who examines the facts of the case, looks at the arresting process and whether the officers involved followed all proceedings correctly, and determines if there’s an issue with the breathalyzer that could have misread the blood alcohol content. If the case is solid from a prosecution standpoint and you’re facing a suspended license or jail time, you may elect to go to trial.
With your fate decided at trial, there are high stakes because your DUI lawyer in Philly, as well as the prosecuting attorney believe they have the upper hand. The outcome of trials depends on the presentation of your case by the opposing attorneys.
The Pre-Trial DUI Process
As your arrested, you could stay in holding, get released on your own recognizance, or have to put up bail money depending on the extent of intoxication or a multiple offense. Your first appearance in court is the arraignment where the magistrate will inform you of the charges against you and your rights as a defendant. At this point, depending on individual circumstances, it’s best to have representation from a DUI lawyer who will provide the advice of whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
When issuing a not guilty plea, a preliminary hearing is scheduled where the prosecutor will have to prove there is sufficient evidence tying you to the crime. The prosecutor at this point can offer you a chance for a plea agreement where you can plead guilty at this stage in exchange for a lesser punishment or more lenient sentence. Most of the time, a lesser crime would be reckless driving.
Having the right representation at this hearing is your opportunity to challenge these charges, making pretrial motions to ask the court to take action. Action could be ordering police to produce the personnel file of arresting officers, rejecting illegally obtained evidence, or dismissing the charges if there is evidence of police wrongdoing.
Alternatives to taking a DUI Case to Trial
By taking a plea deal, defendants will save court fees and further attorney costs. Cooperating and listening to your lawyer can help you make the right decision. While most cases don’t proceed to trial, your plea deal will vary depending on the case against you and whether you’re a first-time offender or have a prior record with other arrests. Most first-time offenders are left with a lesser conviction, perhaps a shortened suspended license, the opportunity to avoid installing and paying for a car breathalyzer when your license is restored. The alternatives will vary on your specific case, so contact a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia to go over your case file and the best options for you.
Proceeding to a DUI Trial
For most Pennsylvania DUI cases, there is no right to a jury trial. The reason for this is that DUI is a petty offense and Pennsylvania only guarantees jury trials for serious crimes (although the penalties for a DUI are severe). If you haven’t hurt or killed anyone while drunk driving, the case will be decided by a judge. It will proceed much like other trials, with the prosecution and defendant presenting evidence, calling witnesses, and establishment reasonable doubt. After hearing both sides, the judge will either accept your defense and you’ll be acquitted or won’t accept the defense and you’ll be convicted and sentenced.
When you’ve been charged, get in touch with a defense attorney as quickly as possible to prepare for your arraignment. Obtaining a legal professional will greatly enhance the chance you’ll be able to obtain a better outcome than if you defended yourself. If you need a DUI attorney, contact The Law Offices of Richard J. Fuschino, Jr. today.