DUI or DWI are abbreviations for the offenses such as “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated.”
A driver may be arrested for DUI or DWI and arraigned before a judge for a plea and after that trial or hearing. During the arraignment, the defendant will be formally presented to Court appearing in person to answer to his charge.
The prosecution will put out questions to the defendant after reading the charge, and he will be expected to respond to the charge by entering a plea.
DUI or DWI and Traffic Tickets
There are legal consequences for drivers found guilty of DUI or DWI, Traffic Ticket, or Driver’s License Suspension. You can learn more from our article on the Legal Options Available To An Offender concerning Traffic Tickets.
Drivers and road users should as a matter of compulsion endeavor to be conversant with penalties, possible defenses, arraignment procedure, plea bargaining, available legal options, and how to prepare for court cases in traffic-related cases.
Court Room Expectations At Arraignment
Generally, the practice and procedure in Courts are homogeneous. However, for DUI and DWI upon arraignment of a defendant, he will be asked to take a plea to the charge. The purpose of the plea is to commence the trial in line with the cardinal principle of fair hearing, which requires that the other side be heard.
A defendant is expected to consider answering the question in affirmative by pleading “nolo contendere” (no contest), guilty or de-affirmative as not guilty. A plea of guilty empowers the court to convict the defendant with further trial or hearing, while a plea of not guilty will authorize the judge to set the matter for hearing and evidence will be called.
A Defendant under arrest may seek the service of a lawyer to apply for bail. A lawyer could also be appointed for Defendant, and the Court may set the amount of bail.
A Defendant may also be released on self-recognizance at arraignment if charged with misdemeanors but have not already posted bail depending on the social status of the Defendant.
At an arraignment, it may be unnecessary to hire an attorney to represent you based on the fact that a Defendant can always change a plea from not guilty to guilty or “nolo contendere” (no contest). Upon engaging the services of a lawyer, after evaluating the case, the attorney may offer advice on what nature of plea suits the facts of the case.
The Defendant may also demand or request for a jury trial; this is applicable in some states. In such jurisdictions or states, a defendant does not necessarily need to apply for a jury trial but will be assumed to have a request for one excepts you expressly waive your right to request for a jury trial. A Defendant is also entitled to drop a demand for a jury trial along the line.
Legal Options Available To Defendants in DUI or DWI
The most critical step a Defendant may take upon incarceration is the bail process. Upon being released from jail on bail, the service of an experienced lawyer in DUI or DWI will be required to evaluate the case according to facts and available evidence appropriately. The lawyer may consider and advice on the following alternatives available which may include:
- A plea of guilty as charged
- A plea bargain to reduce the charge of reckless driving involving alcohol also known as “wet reckless.”
- Request for a jury trial (jury trial is not available in all states)
- Apply for a hearing before a judge, or
Challenging A Charge Of DUI Or DWI or Plea Bargain
The strength or probative value of evidence available to the prosecution usually determines whether or not a charge of DUI should be challenged.
Incontrovertible Evidence of high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or extreme intoxication may require a Defendant to negotiate a plea deal or bargain to avoid going through the process of trial and gaining a conviction for maximum punishment under law whereas, in a plea bargain, there are possibilities of reducing the sentence.
Generally, in every state of America, a Defendant may be convicted of a “per se” DUI for driving with a BAC of .08% or more, irrespective of whether or not the Defendant was substantially affected by alcohol practically drank.
It may be hard to win the prosecution at trial is a driver has a high BAC of approximately .12% or more, a jury will find it difficult to be convinced that a drunk driver is below the legal limit even if an attorney succeeds in casting doubts on the precision of the BAC measurement.
An attorney may argue favorably for a Defendant in a per se DUI charge at trial where the BAC is a little lower or close to .08% or precisely .08% on the dot or slightly above .08%. The contention of your attorney will be to persuade the jury that the Defendant is either below or within the margin of error due to the testing procedure.
An attorney may also succeed in advancing the argument to convince the jury depending on the facts that the Defendant’s BAC was below limit while driving but had risen at the time of the test. This defense is also known as the “rising blood alcohol defense.
The court will also consider evidence of impairment. Proof that a Defendant was driving while affected by consumed drugs or alcohol can also lead to a DUI conviction. The prosecution doesn’t need to have a chemical testing indicating that a Defendant consumed a prohibited quantity of drugs or alcohol in the blood which is known as evidence of a per se DUI, provided there is proof of actual impairment, DUI can be held to be established. This is the second type of DUI; it is based on actual impairment.
Evidence of impairment is usually deduced from dangerous driving, poor field sobriety test (FST) performance, violent reactions or responses, slurred speech, and behavior signifying intoxication.
In some cases, actions considered as evidence of impairment can be invalidated or explained for example a driver can fail to complete an FST accurately due to stress, tiredness or lack of direct coordination.
In other instances, evidence impairment due to behavior signifying intoxication such as a driver swerving all over the freeway and pedestrian way may not be able to refute or explain away the actions.
There different factors that will determine your chances of success in winning a DUI case. It is advisable you seek an audience with an experienced DUI attorney to avoid unnecessary and avoidable risk.
Requesting For A Jury Trial
A Defendant who opts to challenge the charge of DUI during the trial and probably request for a Jury Trial may likely stand a fair chance with a Jury of his/her peers than with a Judge individually deciding the case. This may not necessarily follow in all cases for instance where the Defendant raises a defense that is relatively unusual or with legal technicalities. For example, if the defendant staggered out of a bar and into enters a car and fell asleep but did not drive a judge might be more sympathetic to such defense than a Jury.
Plea Bargain In DUI or DWI And How It Works
Plea bargain also known as “Sentence Bargain” is a judicial process or procedure where the prosecution and the defendant or through the defendant’s attorney enters into a compromise for the defendant to enter a plea of guilty or a no contest plea in exchange for a reduced charge, conviction of fine, sentence or jail term without having to go to trial.
In Plea bargaining, the defendant and attorney will have to assess the facts and available evidence and their probative value in line with some of the issues we have earlier discussed in this article above and draw inferences on whether or not to go for trial.
The decision of the Defendant will grossly depend on the weakness or otherwise strength of the case of the prosecution to determine and obtain a better plea bargain.
The bargaining of a defendant will diminish when the evidence of guilt is compelling. In some cases, prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate or bargain when there are annoying factors like extremely high BAC or injuries.
Get An Attorney
A Defendant may not arrive at an accurate decision whether to plea bargain or proceed with the case to trial without the help of an attorney. The value of hiring an attorney to help resolve legal issues cannot be overemphasized.
It is almost impossible to evaluate facts along with evidence and attach probative value to same without the help of an attorney.
Trial Judges are empowered by law to appoint attorneys for persons who are unable to afford an attorney if the Defendant brings it to the notice of the Court at arraignment. The Judge will almost certainly ask the Defendant to fill out a financial disclosure form and refer same to the public defender’s office. The judge may also appoint a private defense attorney to represent you in most rural areas.
If the Defendant does not qualify for free legal representation due to tight finances, you might hire an attorney for the restricted purposes such as fully explaining the available legal options to the Defendant or work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
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