DUI Stages: From Arrest to the Trial

Everyone loves kicking back and relaxing with friends while having a few drinks, but if you decide to drive while under the influence, your night of fun can quickly turn into one that can leave you with a criminal record.

Learn about all the DUI stages from your initial arrest through the entire process and finally ending with your trial.

DUI 101: The Stages of Being Arrested for a DUI

Why would I get arrested for a DUI?

In the state of California, those over the age of 21 will be charged with a DUI if their blood alcohol content or BAC is .08% or more. Under the age of 21, any BAC level will get you a DUI charge.

You might think that you feel sober enough to drive yourself home or you may only leave a few blocks from the bar, but the only thing that legally matters is your BAC.

A police officer may pull you over if you are driving erratically. Reckless driving or not being able to maintain your lane will lead the officer to suspect you may have been drinking. He or she will administer the breathalyzer test, and if your BAC is over the legal limit, you will be arrested.

A breathalyzer does not have to be administered for you to be arrested for a DUI. The police officer can arrest you due to probable cause as well. Probably cause is the reasonable grounds that an officer has for making an arrest.

In the case of a DUI, probable cause could include

  • A strong smell of alcohol on your breath or in your vehicle.
  • Empty beer or liquor bottles in your floorboards.
  • Your speech is very slurred and your behavior is that of someone who is under the influence.

Many times, an officer will end up making an arrest for a DUI when the initial reason for pulling you over was a simple traffic violation. If you run a red light, have an expired tag, or are driving around with a broken tail light, you might be pulled over for that reason initially. However, once the officer comes to your window and notices that you appear intoxicated, they will usually ask you to take a breathalyzer or maybe even do a field sobriety test.

What is the DUI booking process like?

Once the officer has decided to arrest you for a DUI, he or she will take you to the station for booking. Booking is your processing into the system. The booking officer will collect personal information from you, including:

  • Name and DOB
  • Your physical characteristics
  • Your fingerprints
  • Your photo or “mug shot”

After you are entered into the system, you will be strip searched and all of your personal belongings will be confiscated.

What is a DUI arraignment?

The first time you appear before the judge is your arraignment. The judge will read the charges that have been brought against you, in this case, it will be the DUI. If you don’t already have an attorney, the judge will ask if you need one. You will then be asked how you plea to the charges.

What if you plead guilty for a DUI?

  • The judge will decide your punishment at the arraignment, you will not have to go back to court.

What if you plead NOT guilty for a DUI?

  • The judge will decide on your future court date. You will have to return to the courthouse for both a preliminary hearing and a trial.

It is highly recommended that you hire a quality DUI defense attorney that specializes in DUI hearing if you are pleading not guilty to a DUI.

What happens at the preliminary hearing?

The preliminary hearing is where the judge decides if there is enough evidence to bring a case against you and go to trial. The prosecution will be able to call witnesses, like the arresting officer, and your attorney will be given a chance to cross-examine them. The prosecution may also present other evidence to the judge if it can prove that you were driving while intoxicated.

Your case will either be dismissed or go to a jury trial per the judge’s decision.

What happens at a DUI trial by jury?

If the prosecution was able to convince the judge that there was enough evidence, then you will find yourself in a trial by jury. There are a few different stages the trial will go through:

  1. The jury will be chosen. Potential jurors will be interviewed by the court, and then the prosecution and your attorney will be able to exclude those that they find to be unfit to sit on your jury.
  2. Once the jury has been chosen, the opening statements will begin. The prosecutor will give a brief summary of the proof against you, and your lawyer will propose the defense that the two of you have decided upon.
  3. The witnesses will then start to testify and any evidence will be presented to the jury. Both the prosecutor and your DUI lawyer will be able to ask questions of the witnesses. Both the prosecution and the defense are allowed to call witnesses.
  4. Once all the testimonies have been heard and the evidence examined, it will be time for closing arguments. The prosecutor will try to reiterate the reasons why you are guilty, and your defense attorney will lay out the reasons why you are not.
  5. After the closing arguments, the jury will deliberate. To be convicted, the jury must reach a unanimous decision. If they cannot, the charges will be dismissed.

What are the punishments for a DUI in California?

If you are found to be guilty of the DUI, then the judge will issue a sentence or punishment for your crime. The penalties that you will face will depend on how many DUIs you have on your record.

1st DUI Offense

If it is your first DUI offense, it is considered a misdemeanor DUI, and you could be given the following penalties:

  • Fines: the amount can range from $390 to $1,000. Be aware that you could also be assigned “penalty assessments” which could add up to a few thousand dollars.
  • Jail: The jail time can range from 48 hours up to 6 months. Sometimes judges go easy on 1st offenders, and they are given probation instead of jail time.
  • 6-month License Suspension: It is possible that you will be given a restricted license after 30 days which allows you to get back and forth to work.
  • Probation: 1st offenders usually get probation for at least three years, but it could be up to five years. You may also be required to attend a DUI driving school.

2nd DUI Offense

A second offense is also a misdemeanor DUI, and it incurs the following penalties:

  • Fines: the same as for a 1st offense, ranging from $390 to $1,000. The same “penalty assessments” could apply as well.
  • Jail: 96 hours up to one year will be assigned, but it can sometimes be served as a house arrest or in an alternative work program.
  • 2-Year License Suspension: It is possible that you will be given a restricted license after 90 days which allows you to get back and forth to work.
  • Probation: Probation can be from 3 years to 5 years, and you will be required to attend DUI school that lasts 18-30 months.

3rd DUI Offense

A third offense is also a misdemeanor, and it comes with the following penalties:

  • Fines: the same as for a 1st and 2nd offense, ranging from $390 to $1,000. The same “penalty assessments” will also apply.
  • Jail: 120 days up to one year will be assigned.
  • 3-Year License Suspension: It is possible that you will be given a restricted license after 6 months which allows you to get back and forth to work.
  • Probation: Probation can be from 3 years to 5 years, and you will be required to attend DUI school that lasts 30 months.

Dealing with your DUI arrest will be a long process that could go on for several years once you get your sentencing. If you are faced with DUI charges, it is in your best interest to hire a quality DUI defense attorney.

California DUI Defense

If you or your loved one were arrested and charged with driving under the influence of in California, you may have several options to help defend your innocence. Contact one of our DUI defense attorneys today. Having had successful DUI case outcomes for the majority of those I have represented, our firm has the experience and history of success that will help you to feel confident about your case moving forward.

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Call (888) 250-2865 today to receive a free case evaluation from one of our skilled DUI defense lawyers.