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Breakdown of a DUI part three: The legal process

After you've been arrested for a DUI and have posted bail, you're likely wondering what comes next. No doubt, the courtroom procedure involved in DUI cases is often the most confusing part of the entire process.

With that said, in our third installment in the Breakdown of a DUI series, we're going to take a look at the courtroom procedure in DUI cases and attempt to shine a light on this step in the DUI process.



The first time you appear in court for a DUI will be for your arraignment. It is at this point that you will be required to enter a plea for the charges that have been brought against you of either "guilty", "not guilty", or "no contest". If you are working with a DUI lawyer, they will advise you on what plea you should enter. It also during the arraignment procedure that your lawyer will be given copies of police reports and other relevant documents. At the end of the arraignment, the judge will announce the dates of future courtroom proceedings in the case. Typically, arraignments take place just a few days after your initial arrest.

Preliminary hearing

The second step in the courtroom procedure for DUI cases is the preliminary hearing. At this phase, the judge will listen to the evidence put forth by both the prosecution and the defense and determine if there is enough evidence to go forward with a trial. You can think of preliminary hearings as being a "trial before the trial", with the judge deciding if there is probable cause to proceed rather than deciding if the defendant is innocent or guilty.

Negotiating a plea agreement or trial

The prosecutor will seek a conviction, including an arranged agreement to plead guilty. Depending upon the circumstances of the arrest and evidence, it may be in your best interest to accept a plea agreement, often with reduced penalties. Your defense attorney should have experience to advise you appropriately.

The trial is the most well-known phase of the courtroom procedure for a DUI case, and it's broken down into several steps. Except in the cases where the trial is heard only by a judge, the first step in the trial process is jury selection. At this point, both the prosecution and defense will question a pool of jurors to ensure that they will be able to deliver an unbiased verdict in the case. After a jury has been chosen, the prosecution and defense will give their opening statements, followed by witness testimony and cross-examination, which is then followed by the closing arguments of both the prosecution and the defense. At this point, the jury will be given instructions on the legal standard they should use to decide whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. Afterward, they will then convene and deliver their verdict. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge will then announce the punishment they are sentencing to the defendant.


If you are found guilty in trial, you may wish to appeal your case to a higher court. This typically only happens if the defense feels that there were errors in how the case was handled. If the defense files for an appeal, the higher court will look at their case and decide whether or not to grant them the appeal based on the evidence they submit.

Will my courtroom procedure follow this pattern?

The truth is that most DUI cases never actually go to trial. If you plead guilty during your arraignment, the process will end there. Even if you don't plead guilty, the defense and the prosecution may agree on a plea bargain before the preliminary hearing, though this is rare in DUI cases.

Regardless of whether your courtroom procedure starts and ends at your arraignment or makes it all the way to the court of appeals, it is vital that you have a talented DUI lawyer to represent you and help you through the process. In the next article in our Breakdown of a DUI series, we'll talk more about why it is so important to fight DUI charges. For now, if you would like to speak with one of our expert DUI lawyers about your case, we urge you to contact us today.

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