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How Does a DUI Trial Work?

Posted on June 9, 2021 in DUI

If you get arrested for driving under the influence, otherwise known as DUI, it is important to understand what legal processes are to come. The more you know about how a DUI trial works in Arizona, the more peace of mind you can have about your future. If you have never before been to court, the legal process can be intimidating. Hiring a Tempe DUI lawyer can make things easier for you and your family during this stressful time.

Arraignment Hearing

The arraignment hearing is typically the first time you will have to make a court appearance in a DUI case. This hearing takes place soon after your arrest. During an arraignment, you will hear the official charges being brought against you. The courts will also appoint a public defender if you have chosen not to hire your own defense attorney. This is also the hearing where the judge will discuss bail and the conditions for your release from jail.

Plea Hearing

Depending on your jurisdiction, you will enter your plea either at your arraignment hearing or a separate plea hearing. A plea hearing gives you the chance to enter your plea: guilty, not guilty or no contest. Your attorney can advise you on what plea to enter based on the unique circumstances of your case. Your attorney can also help you with plea bargaining before your plea hearing if desired.

Pretrial Hearings

Other pretrial hearings may take place during the discovery phase of your lawsuit. The discovery phase is where both parties involved have the chance to exchange information and learn what the other side knows. During this time, you or your lawyer may have to attend a preliminary hearing to establish probable cause, or other pretrial hearings to discuss motions that have been submitted.

Jury Selection

If your DUI case does not end with a plea deal, it will go to trial. The first step of a DUI trial is selecting 12 people who will serve as the jury. Both attorneys will have the chance to ask prospective jurors questions until they have narrowed down a satisfactory panel. It is a jury’s job to listen to the facts of a case and decide if the prosecution has fulfilled the burden of proof or not.

Opening Statements

When the court date arrives, the trial will begin with both sides giving their opening statements. An opening statement gives both parties the opportunity to explain what they believe the evidence they plan on providing during the trial will demonstrate.

Presentation of Evidence and Testimony

After opening statements, both sides present evidence and testimony from witnesses and experts to support their arguments. During a DUI case, for example, the prosecution may submit evidence such as Breathalyzer test results and police camera footage of your arrest. In response, your attorney can submit evidence and interview witnesses to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case.

Closing Arguments

A DUI trial ends with both sides giving their closing arguments. Essentially, these are summaries of what each party presented during the trial and how the evidence supports or does not support a DUI conviction.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict

The jury will receive its instructions from a judge and enter into deliberations. The jury must decide if the prosecution succeeded in proving the defendant guilty of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the case will move to a sentencing hearing, where a judge will read the defendant’s punishment. If not, the defendant will be acquitted or found not guilty. All 12 jurors must agree on the verdict. Otherwise, it will be a hung jury and there may be a new trial.


The final phase of a DUI trial in Arizona is an appeal of the jury’s verdict, in some cases. Either side may appeal the jury’s decision with a valid reason, such as a clerical error or jury misconduct. An appeal asks a higher court to review the previous court’s decision and determine whether or not it should stand.

A DUI defense attorney can help you with all of the phases of a trial from start to finish, including attending many hearings and court dates on your behalf.

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