Steps Prior to Trial
There are many stages in a DUI criminal case, beginning with the arrest and ending, in some cases, with a trial.
Now, not all cases that are on the trial track actually make it there. In many criminal cases, a deal can be worked out before trial, thus saving both the defense and the prosecution from the cost and involvement of trial. And, deals worked out on the way to trial are often better than those that are hastily arranged at the first court hearing (i.e. the arraignment). Taking your DUI to trial can be risky, however, because it can be expensive. But never underestimate the possibility of a favorable plea bargain. A lot must happen before a case is tried, and it is during this process that defense attorneys tend to do the most for their clients. Let's take a look at DUI pre-trial proceeding and what happens during this time.
Before a case is tried, a few things must happen. For one, both sides (i.e. the defense and the prosecution) gather, exchange, and submit evidence to the case. This evidence will help the judge or the jury make a just decision. Before this evidence is exchanged, it is difficult for a defense attorney to know how to negotiate the best plea bargain possible. Ideally, the defense attorney will have the evidence from the prosecution and be able to identify any and all weaknesses in the case.
Motions and Hearings
During this time, pre-trial motions can be filed and pre-trial hearings can be held. A DUI defense attorney can take advantage of certain facts or circumstances to turn the case in the defendant's favor.
Motion to Suppress. A defense attorney can file a Motion to Suppress certain pieces of evidence that have been unlawfully obtained. Suppressed evidence cannot be admitted to the case at trial and thus cannot be held against you. Many attorneys choose to suppress unlawfully obtained evidence because the less information that can be held against you the weaker the prosecution's argument.
Probable Cause Hearing. An attorney can question the validity of the officer's decision to stop you. An officer must have probable cause to pull you over for any reason. Without probable cause, the stop could be considered unlawful, and any evidence obtained during the stop could be thrown out of the case. Typically, this results in the entire case being dismissed.
Pitchess Motion. An attorney may also choose to request the arresting officer's personnel records. By filing this motion, the defense attorney can obtain records of the personnel files, which could contain information that would discredit the officer's statements, such as a history of complaints or adverse actions taken against the officer.
Pre-trial proceedings can last several weeks to several months, depending on the court's caseload, the complexity of the case, and the availability of witnesses. After the discovery process and any pre-trial motions have been filed and heard, a defense attorney may choose to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution at a pre-trial conference. Usually, at this point, there is enough information on the table for both sides to come to a favorable agreement. If a plea bargain is reached, another hearing will be held. Many DUI cases end at this point. A few continue on to trial if a favorable agreement cannot be reached. DUI cases are usually tried before a jury. Not all cases are suited for trial.
You need to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney about your case before deciding to go to trial. A trial is costly and can significantly prolong the timeline of your case. Many cases can be resolved before reaching trial, however, so speak with an attorney about your options. An attorney can help you understand what options you have in your case and advise you on the best course of action for you, given the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
Do you have questions about DUI trials? California attorney Christopher Martens knows California DUI defense and will work hard to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their DUI charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.