Got a DUI? 10 Steps of a DUI Case

hand holding a drink and keys next to a car

When someone is arrested on charges of driving under the influence (DUI), they typically want to know what to expect. Although cases often resolve along the way, prior to completion of all these steps, potential ones are as follows.

1. Arraignment

The Complaint

A Defendant typically is bailed out of jail, with their case set for an initial arraignment into a magistrate court. At that hearing, they are given a criminal complaint – a document that charges them with the crime of driving under the influence (DUI). It contains allegations and is not evidence of guilt. The Defendant can have this document read in open court; but everyone waives that right, since the allegations are the position of the opposite side.

The Plea

The Defendant is given the opportunity to enter a plea. Of course they can plead either “guilty” or “not guilty.” Hopefully before attending this hearing, the Defendant has hired a DUI lawyer to represent them. If they have, the attorney will enter an appearance in the case, along with a plea of not guilty. At that point, the initial arraignment into magistrate court is not necessary. If the Defendant has not yet hired a DUI attorney, they can enter a “not guilty” plea themselves.

2. Driver’s License Suspension

Although not really a step of the criminal DUI case, there is a parallel case to the DUI case, and that is the appeal of the Idaho Department of Transportation’s (DOT) automatic driver’s license suspension. When a person applies for an Idaho driver’s license, they agree not to drive with blood, breath, or urine containing 0.08 percent alcohol. The consequence of doing so is a 90-day automatic administrative driver’s license suspension. The Defendant is given 30 days to drive before the suspension starts. They are given 7 days to appeal that suspension. This immediate threat to one’s right to drive is a key reason accused individuals immediately hire DUI lawyers. Otherwise they may miss important deadlines such as this one. Missing this deadline overlooks a major opportunity to retain one’s driver’s license.

3. Discovery

After a not guilty plea is entered in your case, whether your attorney enters the plea, or you attend the arraignment and enter it yourself, the case is set for a Pretrial Conference and Jury Trial. Before the pretrial conference, a DUI lawyer can get the police reports and examinations from the prosecuting attorney. This is called Discovery.

The attorney will analyze the reports and put together your defense to present to the prosecutor. Sometimes law enforcement does not conduct the standardized field sobriety tests correctly. Sometimes law enforcement doesn’t operate the equipment correctly or follow the procedures for operating the equipment properly. Sloppy work by law enforcement can sometimes lead either to suppressed evidence or at least reasonable doubt. Also, the police sometimes have bad reasons for stopping you, and the DUI attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence.

4. Pretrial Conference

At the pretrial conference, the DUI lawyer and prosecuting attorney attempt to resolve the case. If there were any motions filed, the attorneys might argue them at the pretrial conference, or the judge will set a motion hearing to have them presented. Sometimes a proper motion can be helpful in persuading the prosecutor to accept a better offer from the DUI attorney.

If the prosecutor and your lawyer are able work out a deal, then the case will either be dismissed or amended to a lesser charge, or you will plead to the charge in exchange for a favorable sentence. In the event of a dismissal, your case is over. You will not have to worry about anything else. In the case of pleading to a lesser charge, or the charge itself in exchange for a favorable sentence, then your case will proceed to a sentencing hearing. If the DUI lawyer and the prosecuting attorney are unable to come to an agreement, then your case will proceed to a jury trial.

5. Motion Hearings

If your case proceeds to a jury trial, your DUI lawyer will likely file pretrial motions. Possible motions your attorney might file are motions to suppress evidence, motions to exclude BAC test results, objections to the State’s use of prior bad acts, and many others. The judge often handle motions such as these prior to a jury trial. Knowing the results will often help resolve the case.

Effect Motions Have On Plea Deals

If the Defendant loses the motions, then it will likely lead to the Defendant being offered a worse plea offer than they received prior the motion hearing. If the Defendant wins the motions, then it may result in the State making a better plea offer than they made prior to the hearing. The reason for this is because being successful at a motion hearing means that the successful party now has an advantage at the jury trial.

Motion Will Dismiss Case

Sometimes a motion will be dispositive of the case. What this means is that the Defendant’s success with the motion results in the State having to dismiss the case. For example, if a Defendant files a motion to suppress evidence in a DUI case due to an unlawful stop by the police offer, and the Defendant wins, the court will suppress all the evidence that was obtained as a result of the unlawful stop. The State will then be forced to Dismiss the case because they will have no evidence left to present at a jury trial.

6. Jury Trial

As was mentioned earlier, if the Defendant is unsuccessful in resolving the case prior to a jury trial, then the case will proceed to jury trial. At a jury trial the State will bear the burden of proving the Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Defendant’s DUI attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine all the State’s witnesses, and the Defendant’s DUI attorney will have the right to call any of the Defendant’s own witnesses in her or his defense. The Defendant will maintain the right to remain silent. The judge will instruct the jury that they may not infer from the Defendant’s silence that the Defendant is guilty.

A DUI misdemeanor jury trial usually takes one full day, sometimes two. Very rarely will a DUI misdemeanor jury trial take three days. If the Defendant is acquitted (i.e. found not guilty), he/she walks away from the court and is never obligated to return.

7. Sentencing Hearing

If the Defendant is found guilty of the charges, he or she is sentenced by the court. The court will probably set the case out for a sentencing hearing so that the Defendant can obtain an alcohol evaluation as mandated by Idaho Statute.

If the Defendant has been charged with a first-time misdemeanor DUI, they could get up to six (6) months in jail, a one-thousand ($1,000) fine, or both. Additionally, the Defendant is required to obtain the alcohol evaluation and comply with its recommendations if they are convicted. The Defendant is required to complete a Victim’s Panel, and his/her driver’s license is suspended for 90 to 180 days, 30 days of which are absolute (i.e., no driving privileges whatsoever).

The judge will typically order the Defendant to complete a year of probation. The probation will be ordered either as supervised or unsupervised. Sometimes the judge will withhold judgment in the case while the Defendant completes probation.

8. Probation

Most times a judge will not require a defendant to sit six (6) months in jail. Typically, the court suspends most of the jail. It will only require a small jail sentence at first. The suspended jail time remains “hanging over the head” of the Defendant while she/he is placed on probation.

The purpose of the probationary period is to determine if the Defendant commits, allegedly, any additional crimes. Plus, the court wants to determine if the Defendant will complete certain tasks. In order to successfully complete probation, an individual must finish any jail sentence, pay the applicable fine, complete any court-ordered treatment, complete the Victim’s Panel, and comply with all terms of probation, including the term not to commit new crimes. Anyone placed on unsupervised probation then must report all these things to the court. If placed on supervised probation, a probation officer is assigned to the Defendant, who must remain in regular contact with their probation officer and comply with the officer’s demands. The Defendant must pay a monthly fee to the probation officer in these cases.

9. Petition for Driving Privileges

Following a 30-day absolute driving suspension, a Defendant can petition the court for privileges. A person may be able to drive to work, school, medical appointments, etc. The court will want a detailed description of the individual’s driving needs. It is not necessary to go before the court for this purpose. The Defendant simply sends the petition to the court with all the required documentation. The court generally grants any privileges to which the person qualifies. If a Defendant is caught driving for any other reason beyond what is permitted, she or he is cited for driving without privileges (DWP). DWP is also a misdemeanor.

10. Dismissal of the Withheld Judgment

If the Judge withholds judgment, the Defendant may be able to have the case dismissed after probation. But in order to have the case dismissed, the person must make a motion to the court. The court will grant the motion if the Defendant has not been found guilty of any probation violation. Also, the person must have remained compliant at all times with conditions of probation. The dismissal must be compatible with the public interest. Don’t forget to make this motion – your case will not be dismissed until you do.

If you have been charged with a DUI, call our top-rated DUI attorney today for a same-day consultation!