Legal Process in a Nutshell
I want to provide you some information about drunk driving cases, including the legal process and what should be done to defend your rights. The course of a drunk driving litigation process from arraignment, to discovery, to pretrial, to suppression hearing, to trial and then sentencing. I will explain to you in plain English what happens at these stages.
This is your first appearance at court where you enter one of three pleas: not guilty, guilty or no contest. If you plead no contest, you will be found guilty by the court. There is really only one smart alternative at this stage of the proceeding, plead not guilty. There are many defenses that may be available and you or your attorney will not know what they are until discovery is completed. In a drunk driving case, the arraignment may also be an opportunity to appeal the Administrative License Suspension which will be explained later.
If you have a criminal defense attorney, he should immediately engage in discovery. Discovery provides valuable information in the way of police reports, videos, breathalyzer records, and other information relevant to your arrest.
There can be several pretrials in the course of a drunk driving case. At the pretrial your attorney and the prosecutor discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Many times, your attorney will be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charge to either reckless operation or physical control.
Motion to Suppress
It is not uncommon during the course of a drunk driving case to find that your constitutional rights have been violated or that the law enforcement officers did something improper. If this is the case, your attorney should file a motion to suppress the evidence, or in other words to have the court determine that it cannot be used at trial.
This event needs no explanation since almost everybody watches television.
Change of Plea
If your attorney and the prosecutor work a deal that you believe is fair, the court will often arrange a hearing on the change of plea to a lesser charge.
After the change of plea, the courts will often separately schedule a sentencing date. Many courts will ask that the Defendant interview with the probation department for a pre-sentence investigation. Your attorney should be familiar with the probation department and have a strategy for the pre-sentence investigation.