If you have been arrested for DUI, you or your DUI attorney must appear on the court date listed on your citation or Promise to Appear. If you fail to appear or retain a DUI lawyer to appear for you, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest and you will be charged with the additional offense of Failure to Appear.
This first court appearance is called an arraignment. Typically, a DUI is not “punished” or even resolved at the arraignment. In fact, in most cases, your DUI lawyer will enter a plea of “not guilty” at the arraignment. Contrary to what many people thing, this is not a declaration of your innocence. It is merely an assertion of your right to not plead guilty until your DUI attorney has seen all the evidence against you and determined that your Constitutional rights have not been violated. Judges expect DUI lawyers to enter a not guilty plea at this stage of the proceedings.
At the arraignment, the court presents the defendant’s DUI lawyer with the official Complaint, which lists the charges and enhancements in the case. A defendant has not been charged with anything until the District Attorney files a Complaint in court. If the defendant did not post bail when released from jail, the court will determine whether the defendant must now post bail while the case is being litigated. The defendant’s DUI lawyer will present argument to the court to persuade the judge to allow their client to remain out of custody on their “own recognizance”, without bail.
The arraignment is usually the first opportunity for the DUI defense attorney to get a copy of the police report, the forensic alcohol report, and other important documents. Also, the DUI attorney should submit a “discovery request” for more evidence, including the audio/video recording of the arrest and the calibration logs for any breath or blood test. Finally, at the arraignment, the DA, judge, and the defendant’s DUI attorney will agree on future dates for the exchange of evidence and for negotiations to settle the case without a trial.
A pretrial conference is a court appearance where your DUI lawyer meets with the DA prosecuting the case. The two lawyers discuss the evidence, any possible defenses or weaknesses in the case, and whether the DA can prove every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is a weakness, a skilled DUI attorney will recognize it and use it to leverage a favorable outcome. If the case against the defendant is strong, then a good DUI lawyer will present their client in the most favorable light possible and negotiate a no-jail alternative. Often, when your DUI lawyer asks for leniency or understanding, it must be from a judge. These meetings are held in the Judges office and are called “chambers conferences”. Typically, the DA will always ask for the harshest sentence in a chambers conference and it is up to your DUI lawyer to convince a judge to see the client as a person deserving of compassion.
If neither the judge nor the DA make an offer to settle the case that is acceptable to the defendant, then the case is set for trial. The DA can present their evidence to twelve ordinary citizens. Your DUI attorney has an equal opportunity to show the jury the deficiencies of the case. In order to convict you, all twelve jurors must find that the DA proved each element of the charge by evidence beyond any reasonable doubt. This can be a tall mountain to climb.
Free Consultation With A DUI Attorney
At The Law Office of EJ Stopyro, we offer a free and confidential no-obligation telephonic consultation. Call us today at (949) 278-6353. Mr. Stopyro will be happy to evaluate your case right over the phone and help you explore your options.