After being pulled over for suspicion of a DUI, the person suspected of the DUI can reach a state of panic and wonder: “What is going to happen to me?” Unless a person is a regular in the criminal justice system, he or she is not likely to know what to expect when it comes to the criminal process.
Following the Arrest
After the person has been arrested, following being read their constitutional rights, the suspect will be brought to the police station where he or she will undergo a breath test. Sometimes, if the person is not capable of providing a breath test, he or she may receive a blood test.
It is possible the individual will be kept overnight and released upon certain circumstances or conditions. Sometimes, the person may be booked into jail. Alternatively, the person may be booked and released but told to return for an arraignment.
Following the arrest, if the person gave a breath test, he or she will be given a ticket showing the results. If the suspect took a blood test, it may take a couple weeks to a couple of months before those results will be processed and sent to the individual by the Washington State Toxicology Lab.
The arresting officer will be collecting additional evidence to support the case after the arrest. Criminal charges can happen immediately or within a few days following the arrest, sometimes even months.
If the officer’s report shows that enough evidence is there to charge the suspect with an official DUI charge, a complaint is filed with the court. Then the court will send the suspect a summons to appear in court, which is essentially a notice of the court date.
The first hearing following an arrest is called the arraignment. If the suspect is in police custody following the arrest, he or she will be brought before a judge or magistrate within 24 hours of his or her arrest and being brought into police custody. If the person is released after the arrest, a summons with the arraignment will be given at a later date.
During the arraignment hearing, the court gives the conditions of the suspect’s release. These conditions normally include following the law, a prohibition of alcohol or non-prescription drug consumption and a promise to appear at all future dates before the court.
Depending on the offense, the judge may also order the suspect to install an ignition interlock device on any car he or she drives, or to be restricted to electronic home monitoring. The judge may also determine bail.
Many factors play into setting these conditions, including the BAC level of the results, whether that person has a prior history of DUI, or whether anyone was hurt or killed in an accident connected to the DUI. The arraignment is also when the defendant will enter the official plea of not guilty or guilty, after he or she indicates whether the nature of the charges is understood.
Sometime after the arraignment, a pre-trial conference will be set. This court date is for negotiations between the prosecution and defense.
Attorneys will work out any questions regarding evidence, witness availability or schedule conflicts. But most importantly, during these pre-trial conferences, attorneys will try to work out an agreement or settlement. Plea deals or offers are normally discussed at this time.
However, if negotiations are not successful, the judge will set the date for trial during the pre-trial hearing.
If no plea agreement is reached, a hearing or trial will be held. Normally, the arresting officer is required to attend and will testify.
The defendant’s attorney will have the chance to cross-examine the officer and any other prosecution witnesses. The defense attorney will also have the chance to present the case against the DUI charges. The defense will have a chance to fight the evidence submitted, trying to poke holes in the results of any blood alcohol results.
After all evidence is presented, both sides will be able to give a final closing legal argument to support their position.
The defendant will have the option of choosing between a trial by jury or a bench trial, which means the judge is the individual making the decision. The defense attorney will be able to advise what is best depending on the circumstances. Many times, it is best to do a bench trial rather than have six jurors make the decision. Ultimately it depends on the case’s specific facts.
At the end of the trial, the jury or the judge will make the decision on whether the defendant is guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.
If the defendant is convicted of the DUI charge, or even if he or she accepts a plea for a reduced charge, the next step is sentencing by the judge. The defendant will have the constitutional right to address the court if he or she believes, after advice from the defense attorney, that it will positively affect the Judge’s decision on sentencing.