Are you wondering about the process of a misdemeanor DUI case? Have you consulted with an experienced Glendale DUI attorney about the different stages of a DUI case?
Most DUI or DWI clients have little to no experience with the criminal justice system. As a result, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the process of a misdemeanor DUI case. The DUI process in Arizona is governed by the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. Most misdemeanor DUI cases are handled in justice courts and municipal courts. Although the process may vary slightly from court to court, you can expect the following stages in a DUI case.
The first stage of the DUI process is the arrest. A DUI arrest typically begins with a traffic stop for a minor violation such as speeding, swerving, running a light, driving without headlights, etc. Alternatively, a DUI arrest may occur at a field sobriety checkpoint, after an accident, or after your vehicle breaks down. Upon stopping the vehicle the officer may ask you to perform certain field sobriety tests, a breath test and or a blood test. If the officer believes there is probable cause that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be arrested for DUI.
Usually your first appearance in court is the arraignment. The citation issued to you at the time of arrest contains the date, time, and location of the arraignment. At the arraignment the judge will advise you of the charges, allow you to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest), and set the conditions for your release. If you hire an attorney he or she can normally waive the arraignment so you do not have to attend.
The purpose of the pretrial conference is to meet with the prosecutor to discuss the legal and factual details of the case, resolve any discovery issues, and attempt to negotiate a plea deal. A plea offer is an offer made by the prosecutor to the defendant to accept a lesser penalty in exchange for a guilty plea. There are several pretrial conferences in a DUI case. Your appearance at any pretrial conferences can often be waived if you have counsel.
Sometimes there are issues of law that must be resolved by the judge. A common example in a DUI case is a defendant’s Motion to Suppress Evidence. The judge will set a hearing for both parties to present their arguments and will make a ruling that both parties must abide by during trial.
If you are unwilling to accept the plea offered by the prosecution your case will be set for trial. In Arizona, you are entitled to a trial by jury of six people or a trial by judge. If you select a trial by jury, the judge makes decisions regarding legal issues while the jury makes decisions regarding factual issues. Alternatively, if you elect to have a judge hear your case the judge will decide both the legal and factual issues. In order to be convicted DUI a judge or a unanimous jury must agree that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you accept a guilty plea or are found guilty of DUI at trial, the court will normally have a sentencing hearing on the same as the finding of guilt. At the sentencing hearing the judge will consider mitigating factors offered by the defense and recommendations in determining your sentence.