DUI Case Stages

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What is a DUI?

DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence”, which is considered a crime in every state.  DUI charges may be based on two basic situations: driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the maximum limit imposed by the state (usually 0.08%); or, driving while physically impaired by alcohol or drugs, whether the drugs are legal or not. 

DUI offenses usually result in misdemeanor charges, though some DUI offenses are treated like felonies.  Penalties for a DUI violation may include fines, possible jail time, and temporary or permanent suspension of driving privileges.  DUI is also called “Driving While Intoxicated” (DWI) in some states.

What are the different Stages in a DUI Case?

As in all criminal cases, DUI cases are heard according to specific stages.  A typical DUI case begins with arrest and ends with sentencing or appeal.  It may be helpful to understand the basic process involved in a DUI case.  A chronological outline of a DUI case is as follows:

  1. Arrest:  This is where the DUI suspect is apprehended by police.  A person may be stopped and subjected to a field sobriety test to determine blood alcohol content.  Police must have reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop. 
  2. Booking and/or Bail:  After arrest, the suspect may be transferred to a police station, where they will be booked.  If necessary, the suspect may be detained in a holding area, and may be required to pay bail for release.
  3. DUI Arraignment:  Here the defendant is formally read their charges.  They may respond by entering in a plea (such as guilty, not guilty, etc.)  It is at this point that the 6th Amendment right to a trial attorney attaches.
  4. Plea Bargain:  A DUI defendant may sometimes be allowed to receive a lighter sentence in return for pleading guilty.  However, DUI plea bargaining is relatively rare in DUI cases- it is usually associated with more serious DUI charges and with repeat offenses.
  5. Preliminary Hearing:  At this stage the judge makes a basic determination as to whether there is sufficient evidence to conduct a trial.  If there is not enough evidence to support a trial, the case may be dismissed.
  6. Pre-trial Motions:  At this point the lawyers for both parties appear before a judge to make motions regarding evidence, testimony, and other factors.
  7. DUI Trial:  This is the main portion of the DUI process, where facts, evidence, and defenses are weighed before a judge and/or jury.  They will then apply DUI laws to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
  8. DUI Sentencing:  After all the evidence is presented and arguments heard in trial, a judge will determine the appropriate penalties for the defendant.  Sentences may be reduced or limited under certain circumstances
  9. DUI Appeal: If eligible, the DUI defendant may submit a request asking a higher court to review the case for any legal errors.

Even after the trial is formally over, the defendant may still be involved in administrative matters related to the DUI charges.  For example, the defendant may be required to attend mandatory DUI traffic courses or meetings with a probation officer as part of their sentencing.  

Do I need a Lawyer for a DUI Case?

DUI cases can sometimes be complex, especially if the case involved serious injury or property damage.  If you are facing DUI charges, you have the right to request the assistance of a lawyer.  An experienced DUI attorney will be able to assist you at every stage of your case.  Your lawyer can help answer your questions, address your concerns, and represent you in a court of law. 

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Last Modified: 07-29-2013 10:28 AM PDT

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