DUIs, even if it is your first offense, are very serious. You will have to appear in court, whether to take a plea bargain or fight for your innocence. Even though you may face a misdemeanor, it is crucial to understand what happens in court and how the outcome might affect the rest of your life.
Ideally, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling Colorado DUIs. An attorney will walk you through the process, what you can expect, and fight to help you avoid the long-term consequences of a DUI conviction on your record.
The Process of DUI Court Cases
You have a few stages that you complete as part of your DUI case going from your initial hearing to your sentencing – if convicted.
Stage 1 of a DUI Case: The Arraignment
The first time you appear in front of a judge is not to fight for your innocence, but instead, to enter your plea. First, the judge reads the charges to you in full; then you will say “guilty” or “not guilty.”
You want an attorney there for your first appearance, and your lawyer will ask the court to enter a plea of not guilty. The court also advises you of your Constitutional rights, including the right to an attorney, right to a state-funded attorney if you cannot afford one, the right to not incriminate yourself, the right to a speedy trial, and the right to a jury trial.
You might have a bail post at your arraignment if you were not already released. Usually, first-time offenders do not have bail. But if this is your second or subsequent offense, most likely the judge will issue a bail amount, and you must pay it or remain in jail until your official hearing.
Arraignment is where you can receive documents about your case, known as discovery. The prosecutor must share evidence they intend to use against you. You will receive a copy of the police report and any witness statements already collected.
At the arraignment, sometimes shortly after, your attorney is also served with a request for discovery where the prosecution asks for evidence that your attorney has.
Stage 2 of a DUI Case: Pretrial Conference
During the pretrial conference stage, your attorney and the prosecutor may file any motions they see fit for the case.
Some motions that your attorney might file include:
- Motion to recuse the judge – If your attorney feels that the judge has shown obvious bias, they may request that the judge recuse (remove) themselves and be replaced with a more non-biased judge.
- Motion to dismiss due to lack of evidence – The evidence your attorney gets in discovery may be enough to request dismissal for lack of evidence, especially if the prosecution’s case is too weak or there are questions regarding the chain of custody.
- Motion to suppress evidence – Your attorney might also file a motion to suppress evidence that was collected without a warrant and claim it was an illegal search and seizure.
During stage two, your attorney may talk with the prosecution to see if there is any chance for a plea bargain. You may be allowed to plea to a lesser charge, especially if your attorney can have some of the evidence excluded.
Stage 3 of a DUI Case: Your Trial
Now you will go to a jury or bench trial, depending on the severity of your DUI charge. Both sides present their case, and the prosecution holds the burden of proving that you are guilty of a DUI beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each side may present their evidence and have experts testify on their behalf. Usually, the prosecution will use the officer who arrested you, the technician that tested and confirmed a high BAC for your blood, and any other experts necessary.
Most misdemeanor DUI trials last anywhere from five days up to two weeks – depending on how many experts and motions are filed by each side.
What If I’m Found Guilty?
If you are found guilty, then you go onto the fourth stage. Sometimes, the fourth stage is still part of your third stage. If found guilty, the judge may sentence you at trial and not wait for a separate date. If there are multiple facts to consider, the judge may decide he or she wants a sentencing trial where they can go over those facts and conclude on what they feel is a fair punishment.
Do You Really Need an Attorney for Every Stage?
While you could go to arraignment and enter a plea yourself, the sooner you get an attorney involved in your DUI case, the better the outcome might be. Bringing in an attorney just before your pretrial conference means they have little time to do their investigation, and they may not have enough time to file the proper motions.
To get the best possible outcome, you need a lawyer involved quickly. Therefore, you should contact a local DUI attorney the moment you are arrested (and long before you appear for arraignment in 24 to 48 hours).
Need a DUI Defense? Contact a Local DUI Attorney Today
If you or a loved one was arrested for a DUI in Colorado, now is the time to contact an attorney. Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein can assist you with your DUI defense case. He has helped countless clients with first offenses and subsequent ones, and he knows what it takes to help clear his clients’ name.
No one should deal with the long-term consequences of a DUI: a permanent criminal record, driver’s license suspension, jail time, and fines. Mark S. Rubinstein has been a member of the Colorado Bar Association since 1993, and he has been representing clients with DUIs for alcohol and marijuana. To get the best possible chance at trial, contact Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. today.
You can schedule a free case evaluation now at 970-704-0888 or request more information online by completing the online contact form.