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Timeline of an Arizona DUI Case

Posted on July 5, 2023 in DUI

If you get arrested for allegedly driving under the influence (DUI) in Arizona, you may wonder how long the criminal justice process will take. You may be anxious to get your life back and move forward from the incident. It can take a few months to multiple years to resolve an Arizona DUI case. The length of time it takes depends on the circumstances. The best way to get an accurate idea of your timeline is by consulting with a DUI defense lawyer about your specific case.

The Traffic Stop

A law enforcement officer will stop you if you are suspected of violating a traffic law, such as running a red light or speeding. The officer must have probable cause to conduct the stop. Suspicion of driving under the influence is not a valid reason to pull you over; you must have broken a traffic rule to warrant the stop.

During the traffic stop, the police officer will look for potential signs of impairment, such as an odor of alcohol on your breath, slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. If intoxication is suspected, the officer will ask if you have been drinking. Do not answer this question. The officer may then request a breathalyzer blood alcohol test.

Refusing a breathalyzer test will automatically result in the suspension of your driver’s license for one year under Arizona law. The officer may also ask you to step out of the vehicle and complete a field sobriety test. Politely refuse to complete this test, as it is not legally required of you.

DUI Arrest

If the officer’s investigation provides probable cause to make an arrest, you will be placed in handcuffs and read your Miranda rights. This includes the right to remain silent, which you should use to protect yourself. Do not answer any questions the officer asks about where you have been tonight, whether you have been drinking, etc. Instead, remain silent and say that you wish to speak to an attorney. 

You have a right to have an attorney present during police interviews and interrogations. Once you have been brought to the local precinct and booked, meaning your mugshots and fingerprints have been taken, you will be allowed to make one phone call. Use it to either call Rosenstein Law Group directly at (480) 470-8962 to speak to a DUI defense attorney or call a loved one and have them contact an attorney for you. Note that the police can listen in on a phone call to a family member or friend, but cannot legally listen in on a call to a lawyer.

The Arraignment

You will be required to spend at least one night in the county jail after being arrested for a DUI in Arizona. You will then be given a court date where you must return and enter a plea. Most DUIs in Arizona are classified as misdemeanors, in which case the prosecutor will file a complaint directly with the court. However, your case may go through a grand jury indictment if there is enough evidence to bring an aggravated felony DUI charge against you. A grand jury consists of nine citizens that will listen to the facts of the case and determine whether you should stand trial. 

The arraignment will be your first appearance in court for a misdemeanor DUI. If you are in custody, the arraignment legally must take place within 10 days after the prosecutor has filed the complaint or indictment. If you are not held in custody, it must take place within 30 days. Contact a criminal defense attorney prior to your arraignment, as he or she will give you counsel as to what plea to submit: guilty, not guilty or no contest. If you plead guilty, the court will immediately sentence you. If you plead not guilty or no contest, your lawyer has the chance to negotiate on your behalf.

Plea Negotiations and Pretrial Procedures

Pleading not guilty or no contest does not mean your DUI case will go to trial. During pretrial procedures and conferences, your lawyer may ask the court to dismiss the case based on arguments such as insufficient evidence or an unrealizable breathalyzer test. Your lawyer can also negotiate with the prosecution to try to achieve a satisfactory plea deal.  

A plea deal – also known as a plea agreement or plea bargain – could lead to reduced charges, such as a first-offense misdemeanor DUI being reduced to a “conforming reckless” driving charge. It may also result in diminished penalties, such as drug or alcohol counseling rather than going to jail. Plea negotiations can take a few weeks or months. If your lawyer believes it is in your best interest to take your DUI case to trial, however, it will proceed to court.

DUI Jury Trial

A DUI court date will be arranged as soon as possible if pretrial negotiations cannot reach a resolution. How long you will have to wait for your trial depends on how busy the courthouse is in your county and the complexity of the case. It may take several months up to a year or longer for your DUI trial. Note that your case can still be resolved at any time with a plea deal or pretrial motion to dismiss up until the first day of your trial.

A trial starts with the discovery phase, which can take several weeks or months. Discovery allows both sides of the case to investigate the matter, request information from the other side and obtain all evidence connected to the case. When the court date arrives, your defense attorney will work to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case against you. This may be done using defense arguments such as an illegal traffic stop, inaccurate test results or insufficient evidence.

The prosecution must prove that you are guilty of driving under the influence beyond a reasonable doubt. Anything short of this burden of proof will result in acquittal, meaning a not-guilty verdict. If you are found guilty of DUI at trial, you will attend a sentencing hearing at a later date, where you will be read the sentence. This may include jail time, a fine and driver’s license suspension. 

The entire DUI process in Arizona can take anywhere from a few months to multiple years, depending on the case. Work with a DUI defense attorney from Rosenstein Law Group to expedite the legal process and protect your rights as much as possible.

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