Court for a DUI involves several stages. Although a uniform traffic ticket is issued, it is treated much like any other criminal offense with arraignment, pretrial, motion hearings, and trial being the predominant stages. Depending on the circumstances of your charge, it may be resolved at or before any of these hearings.
Initially, on the DUI ticket issued by the officer there will be a court date which requires your appearance. To contest the DUI, you must generally appear and enter a not guilty plea. However, simply entering a not guilty plea can have legal implications and waive certain defenses. This is one of many reasons why your case should be reviewed by an attorney before going to court.
Your first appearance in court is also the best time to appeal the Administrative License Suspension (ALS). Although recent changes in the law permit this appeal within a certain time period after your initial appearance.
After your initial appearance, your attorney will request discovery from the prosecutor in preparation for the next hearing, which will be a pretrial. Discovery materials are the police reports, test results, video of the arrest, and other information. It is from this information, and your account, that the attorney will be able to best analyze the charge for possible trial issues and suppression motions.
The pretrial is an opportunity to discuss the DUI charge with the prosecutor. At this hearing, discussions are had as to discovery matters, pending or forthcoming motions, and possible plea bargains.
From the pretrial, there are a couple of avenues the case may take. After negotiation with the prosecutor, you may accept the prosecutor’s plea offer, which may be a different charge or reduction in penalties. You may also wish to proceed to trial and/or suppression motion hearings. At trial, the prosecutor would present the case to a jury or the judge for decision. Suppression motion issues are presented to a judge.
If you plead to a DUI, or are found guilty of a DUI, you then face sentencing where the judge determines the penalty .