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DWI Processing Stages
If police believe they have reasonable suspicion that a violation or crime has occurred, they will likely pull you over. After further investigation, the police may believe they have probable cause for an arrest. At that point, you will likely be arrested. When you’re arrested, you should contact a lawyer to advise you of your rights. If arrested, it’s highly recommended that you obtain a lawyer as they can be critical to protecting your rights.
Arraignment will be your first encounter wth a Judge following your arrest. The Judge reads the charges you are facing and you have an opportunity to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” In nearly every case a plea of “not guilty” should be entered at this stage. We recommend having an attorney present with you at each court proceeding; including arraignment. The Judge may seem like a reasonable person, but their job is to remain fair and impartial. A defense attorney’s job is to zealously advocate for you and act with your best interests in mind. If the court has a chemical test result alleging your BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) to be 0.08% or higher, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended pending your prosecution. If it is alleged that you refused to take a chemical test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended pending a future hearing. This is an administrative hearing through the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). An Administrative Law Judge will determine whether your license should be returned to you or not.
After the arraignment, the prosecutor should provide your defense attorney with “discovery materials.” Discovery materials include the evidence and allegations in your case. Some of this evidence may include police reports, witness statements, videos, photos, etc. Following the discovery stage, your attorney should have a much clearer picture of the prosecution’s case. The attorney should be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses as well. Your defense attorney will need to carefully analyze this information and will then frequently file motions challenging the allegations as well as preserving your rights. Often times, pre-trial hearings are conducted attempting to suppress evidence the prosecutor seeks to use against you at trial.
Plea Bargaining is a process where an attempt is made with the Prosecutor to negotiate a compromise to have your charges and penalty reduced by pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Under some circumstances, this may be a realistic and beneficial option for you. In other cases, this particular strategy may not serve your best interest or may not even be an option. Your attorney should help you understand when a plea bargain may be in your best interest. An experienced attorney should be able to negotiate the greatest possible reduction in charges for you and/or limit the severity of potential consequences.
If your case has not been resolved by this point, your case will likely proceed to trial. At trial, your defense attorney will present your defense in front of a Judge and/or jury. If you decide to go to trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proving you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” During your trial, your defense lawyer will prepare the strongest possible arguments on your behalf. If the government cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt then you will be found “not guilty.” If it can prove its case, then you will be found “guilty.”
If you are convicted or accept a plea bargain, the judge may sentence you to:
- Pay fines
- A short jail stay
- A long jail term depending the severity of the charge you have been convicted or plead to;
- Probation or a suspended sentence, with restrictions on where you can go and what you can do (like being barred from drinking);
- Community service, working with local nonprofit community organization
- Install an “ignition interlock” device on your vehicle which prevents you from operating your vehicle if your blood alcohol content is over a certain level, typically .02
- Other sentences at the discretion of the judge within certain guidelines
You may lose your driver’s license or have it suspended for a certain period of time. In certain circumstances, you may obtain a conditional license with restrictions on when and where you can drive.
Please be advised that this case outline is only intended for educational purposes and to give a general overview of a DWI or DWAI-Drugs case. Each case is different and your experience may vary greatly from this outline. This is intended for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship has not been established and it is not intended to be legal advice.
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