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The DUI process begins the moment an individual is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An arrest does not equate a DUI conviction, but a DUI arrest puts a series of events and procedures into motion that may result in severe legal consequences. After police arrest the driver because they believe he/she is intoxicated, they book the driver at a nearby police station. “Booking” is the first step in a DUI case procedure directly following the arrest.
After police officers take the suspect into custody, they typically take the suspect’s personal information, date of birth, address, and physical description. Police will most likely take the motorist’s picture and fingerprints as well. After booking, the suspect may be allowed to post bail. In short, bail allows the suspect to pay a certain amount of money in exchange for his/her release from jail. When the suspect posts bail, he/she agrees to be present at all court proceedings regarding the DUI case in the future.
Most DUI cases are never presented to a jury because the suspect pleads guilty during the arraignment. Arraignment refers to the first stage of courtroom-based proceedings after the arrest. During this time the suspect will submit one of the following please: guilty or not guilty. In many cases, the motorist pleads guilty during arraignment to avoid a trial because he/she may receive a less severe sentence than if he/she pled not guilty but was convicted by a jury.
If the motorist pleads “not guilty,” the case will move into a preliminary hearing. Preliminary hearings are similar to actual trials. During this time, the prosecution presents its evidence against the defendant. After the prosecution reveals evidence against the accused, the defense is given the opportunity to cross examine witnesses and point out weaknesses or flaws in the prosecution’s evidence. The judge will decide whether or not the prosecution has enough convincing evidence to conduct an actual trial. If not, the case is dismissed.
If the suspect does not plead guilty and the judge decides that the prosecution has enough reliable evidence against the defense to conduct a trial, the case will be brought before a jury. Trials consisted of at least six district phases. First, a jury is selected. After a jury has been chosen, each side of the case presents its opening statement, followed by witness testimonies and cross examinations. After the defense and prosecution present their closing arguments, the jury deliberates and reaches a verdict.
When motorists are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may receive a variety of sentences. DUI cases vary in severity. Depending on the level of intoxication and other factors, DUI charges may be felonies or misdemeanors. Typically, if the motorist’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely high (more than .15%), the crime will be charged as a felony. If the driver injures another person while driving under the influence, he/she may receive a more severe sentence. The presence of children it the vehicle may result in more severe sentencing as well.
If the driver is convicted of DUI but believes that significant legal error was made during courtroom proceedings, he/she may appeal the case to a higher court. During an appeal, the defendant becomes the “appellant,” and attempts to demonstrate that substantial errors were made in the courtroom. The appellate court may decide that the appellant should be re-tried or re-sentenced. If the appellate court decides that the case should be re-submitted to a jury, a completely new trial will be conducted to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant.