The DUI process for most is usually quite daunting. You have probably never been in trouble before, you probably were put off guard by the traffic stop and arrest in the first place, and you are probably pretty embarrassed by the whole thing. Despite those feelings, however, you still have to take care of the problem. And that means navigating your way through the criminal justice system.
If you hired a good DUI attorney (which you should do as soon as possible) then hopefully they have at least described to you the general process that goes along with a DUI charge. I'll to that here too, but I'll also give you an idea of what happens behind the scenes, and what your DUI lawyer should be doing for you while you are going about your daily activities. I know that it can feel like your lawyer is not doing much for you, particularly if you just see them at court dates and it looks like not much is going on, but usually they are working hard for you behind the scenes to get you the best exit possible.
The pretrial comes after the arignment, which I've described in an earlier post. To summarize, the arignment is your first appearance before the judge, is the time when the prosecutor has to specifically tell you what you've been charged with, and is the time when you enter your plea to the charges (at arraignment this should always be not guilty). As I stated in the previous article, my advice to you would be to hire a DUI attorney before your arignment, as issues can arise that require the need of counsel. Once the arignment is done, the court schedules your pretrial hearing, usually about a month down the road.
The pretrial hearing is the second procedural step in the criminal justice process. It, for the most part, is a time to come before the court to let them know how your case is progressing. And some things should have happened between the DUI arraignment and the DUI pretrial hearing. First, your DUI attorney should have asked for, and received, discovery on your case. Discovery typically consists of the police reports, the breathalyzer test reports, the breathalyzer test imposed consent forms, and anything else that was gathered at the time of your arrest. This information is important because it will give your attorney an idea of the case the state has against you, as well as any weaknesses in the evidence.
Second, based on what the discovery shows, your attorney should have a chance to speak with the prosecutor about your case to see what the state is offering. If the case is strong against you, the offer is often not great. If the case is weaker, the offer is usually better. And when the offer is received your DUI lawyer should have a chance to point out what they see as the weaknesses in your case, as well as let the prosecutor know how some penalties may specifically greatly affect you.
There are times, however, for whatever reason, that the prosecutor and your lawyer have not been able to speak or the discovery has not yet been given, so a continuity is needed. And often a continuity is granted to give your attorney more time to investigate and negotiate with the claimant so that you can get the best deal possible.
If no agreement can be reached and the case is expected to move forward, the court will utilize the pretrial conference to set the remaining schedule for the case. This includes the motors hearing and trial. At the pretrial hearing the parties will also let the court know if they will be filing and motors and when they expect to have them filed by. After this point negotiations may continue, but they often rest on the results of the movements that are filed.
As you may expect, at the DUI pretrial hearing you will not have much to do. Your attorney will do all of the talking, and you just have to show up to show the court that you are still in the area and taking the case seriously. Oh, and if an agreement is reached, it is often at the pretrial hearing that the case is resolved (we'll talk more about that process later). So, do not stress too much about the pretrial hearing. As the defensive, you do not have much of a role in this part of the process.