An Overview of the Legal Process in DUI Cases
The legal system has a certain course of action that is invariably followed in DUI cases. This process can be confusing and complex for individuals facing a DUI charge. The process involving your driver's license suspension is addressed at an ALS hearing (After your attorney submits a "30 Day Letter"), and not through the State Court. Justice is swift in DUI cases and you must act quickly if you hope to fight the charge. Getting a timely start on your defense is your ultimate concern. A Forsyth County DUI lawyer can assist you and guide you through the process. An attorney from the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson will support you and provide the legal counsel that is so critical in such cases. The process proceeds as follows:
The Stop and Arrest
A driver can be suspected of DUI for a variety of reasons: swerving, failing to maintain your lane, speeding, recklessness, car accident, and wide turns all can alert law enforcement they may have a DUI driver on the road. They will pull you over at this point to determine the situation. You are required to provide your driver's license, registration, and insurance as well as your name and address but you are actually not required by law to answer other questions (such as “have you been drinking?”). If you are asked to perform field sobriety tests, you are not legally required to do so and can refuse. However, you are required by law to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test such as breath or blood tests, if asked by law enforcement but they must read your implied consent rights prior to the testing. If you register at .08% or higher you will be arrested. In some cases the arrest takes place prior to the testing and if you are exhibiting signs of intoxication, you could be arrested at any BAC level (even below .08). This is called "DUI Less Safe." DUI Less Safe carries all of the same penalties and consequences as any other DUI.
Alternatively, you may have been stopped at a road-side DUI checkpoint. In this case, no poor driving has been observed. The police have to establish probable cause to arrest you. Such probable cause is usually the result of field sobriety tests that you do not have to take.
Booking at the Station
Booking is the process in which you are photographed, fingerprinted, and in many cases the BAC test (blood or breath) is done at the station. You will likely be put into a “holding cell.” When the booking process is complete, you may have to post bail or you may be released on your own recognizance. Upon release, you should contact Attorney Richard Lawson in order to protect your rights. Do not answer questions at the police station or after your arrest (other than providing your identification) without getting legal representation to protect your rights. The citation you receive will have your first court date indicated on it. You court date may also be listed on your bonding paperwork.
You are formally charged at the arraignment, which is a court hearing. You make your plea. An attorney from the firm will assist you with determining how to proceed and can speak for you at the hearing. If you plead guilty at this hearing, you will be sentenced and your license will be suspended. If you plead not guilty, you must file your motions to suppress at or before the arraignment. These motions form the basis of your defense. It is vital to have obtained an attorney before arraignment so you do not waive your right to file the motions in your case. Finally, at arraignment, your trial date will be set as well as the date for your motions hearing.
Preliminary Motion Hearing
There may be a pretrial hearing to present evidence that could result in a change in the charge against you. This could include challenges to the evidence when errors were made in the arrest process. It may also include challenging the BAC evidence if the testing was incorrectly administered. In some cases during the hearing the prosecutor may drop the charge or reduce it to a lesser charge such as Reckless Driving. Everything depends upon the actions of your defense attorney and what he presents on your behalf.
A motion is a legal challenge to the evidence against you. The purpose of a motion is to try to prevent the admission of evidence against you at your trial. The motions in your case form the basis of your defense and must be filed at or before the arraignment (the first court date). Motions are designed to make sure that a person's rights are not violated from an unlawful arrest and they are designed to prevent an unlawful seizure of evidence during an arrest. Because motions form the basis of your defense, it is imperative that you hire an attorney from the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson prior to your arraignment.
The trial can be a “bench trial” in which the judge acts as both judge and jury, or a jury trial. DUI trials in Georgia have 6 person juries. When the evidence is highly technical, the attorney will advise a bench trial. If the basis of the defense is more factual or emotional, the attorney will advise a jury trial. The decision between a bench or jury trial will be determined based on a variety of factors, including the judge involved.
It is well-known that some judges have a tendency to convict and it may serve the client to have a jury trial in such a case. It is important to hire an attorney who knows the judge and the prosecutor so that the right decisions can be made in the case.
At trial, the defense lawyer will be cross-examining law enforcement and other witnesses and presenting defense evidence on your behalf. The purpose of the defense is to raise strong reasonable doubt about your case. If reasonable doubt is established, you will be found "not guilty."
If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced by the judge. If you are found not guilty, you will be free to go. A not guilty verdict is always the goal of the defense lawyer. There may be extreme odds in some cases but surprisingly, with hard work and resources to back up the defense lawyer, more cases are found not guilty than most people realize.
If you are facing a DUI charge of any type in Cumming or other areas of Forsyth County, it is strongly advised that you contact a Forsyth County DUI Lawyer from the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson as soon as possible after your arrest.