If you have been charged with a DUI for the first time, you might be feeling overwhelmed. You probably are worried about what will happen, and what effect a DUI will have on your future.
A DUI can impact your life both personally and professionally, so it's important to understand the legal process you're facing.
For example, you are innocent until proven guilty of the criminal charges against you, but your license will be automatically suspended 46 days after your arrest.
That's why it's a good idea to speak with a DUI attorney as soon as possible.
If you are facing DUI charges, it's important to know the court process. Learn everything you need to know about your first DUI court date and what to expect.
DUI Charges and the Effect on your Driver’s License
After you are charged with a DUI, you will receive a court date for your first appearance. You should also receive notice that the Secretary of State has suspended your driver’s license.
The suspension begins 46 days after your arrest. So, it's a good idea to have an experienced DUI attorney by your side at this initial court appearance.
The attorney will let the court know they are your representative and will ask for discovery, which is the evidence against you. Hiring an attorney promptly will allow them to file a petition against the suspension of your license.
The sooner your attorney does this, the better. Waiting too long to file this petition increases the odds for a suspended license.
If the attorney cannot get the suspension revoked, you could be eligible to drive after the first 30 days of suspension if you use a Breath Alcohol Interlock Device (BAIID) in your car.
You have to blow into this device to start your car, and again while you are driving. It has its drawbacks, and can result in false readings, but for many it's better than not driving at all.
DUI Court Date and What to Expect
If you face DUI charges, the police officer listed on the tickets you received sets the court date. Police officers have "key date" schedules when they appear in court.
Your court appearance will likely be set on the officer's key date or another assigned date. Each case is different, but you may have to appear in court multiple times.
The suspension of your driver's license is the first consequence of a DUI arrest, and this is the first thing your attorney will fight. After this, your attorney will begin addressing the criminal charges.
In a DUI trial, a prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but fighting a suspension is civil in nature. Your lawyer will fight the suspension, and your guilt or innocence isn't the deciding factor.
Evaluating the Evidence
Your attorney will evaluate any evidence against you. Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, your attorney may want to bring other motions before the court.
If the police lacked probable cause for stopping you, your attorney could petition the court to have the case thrown out. Your attorney will advise you about whether or not you have a winnable case.
You and your attorney will discuss if a plea bargain is a good option for you. You also might have to have an alcohol evaluation. The results of the evaluation could influence your sentencing.
If you choose to take a plea bargain, your attorney will take the case before a judge .
Length of Court Proceeding
Unfortunately, DUI court proceedings take a while. Your attorney usually can't get your case resolved at the first court appearance. Your case will go before the court approximately once a month until it's resolved. The length of time your case will take depends on the circumstances of the case.
Plea agreements may take less time than contesting the charges, but if you have a strong case, your attorney may advise you to fight the charges.
Jail Time for a First DUI Offense
A first-time DUI is a Class A Misdemeanor. A first offense is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
However, there's a limited chance of jail time for a first DUI offense. If you choose to take a plea deal, you may have to take alcohol education classes, pay a fine, and/or perform community service.
If your case goes to trial and you lose, your penalties may be more severe. If your attorney wins your case, you are free from any penalty.
Choosing a DUI Attorney
After a DUI charge, you will probably receive postcards from attorneys offering their services. While some of these attorneys may be reputable, you should be careful when choosing one to represent you.
A quality DUI attorney will review all the facts of your case for possible defenses, prepare you for an alcohol evaluation, and fight your driver’s license suspension. If a plea bargain is in your best interest, a good attorney will try to negotiate a more favorable deal for you.
You want an experienced, reputable attorney who has previous experience trying DUI cases. Don't hesitate to ask an attorney about their experience.
It's important for you to feel comfortable with the attorney you choose. You want someone who will explain the charges against you, the possible outcomes, and the best avenue for defense.
If you are facing DUI charges, it's a scary situation. You are understandably concerned with your DUI court date and what to expect.
A suspended or revoked driver’s license can interrupt your daily life and inconvenience your friends and family as well. If you do have your driver’s license suspended or revoked because of a DUI or any other offense, contact us today for a Free Consultation!