In California, DUIs have multiple levels of severity that can be charged, but all are criminal offenses. Whether your offense is considered a misdemeanor or a felony, a DUI charge can lead you to a jury trial. A jury trial means putting your fate in the hands of 12 members of the public.
If that proposition is scary, you may want to seek legal counsel. With the help of an experienced DUI lawyer, you may be able to avoid the uncertainty that comes with a jury trial. Call us today at (310) 953-8417 to schedule a free appointment with a leading DUI lawyer who can examine the unique facts of your case and help you understand what options are available for you.
The Process Leading to a Jury Trial
Your first appearance in court won’t be for a jury trial. Instead, within 48 hours of your arrest, you’ll be brought in front of a judge to declare your initial plea. You’ll either plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest to charges. If you opt to plead not guilty, the judge will end the arraignment by setting a date for your trial.
The judicial process moves quickly for DUI charges. Typically, your trial will be set to begin 45 days from the date of your arrest. It can be scheduled to begin within 30 days of your arrest if you are kept in prison in the interim.
If your trial is scheduled to begin 45 days from your arrest, you’ll have another process that you’ll have to resolve prior to the trial. After you’ve been arrested, the DMV will begin its administrative process to suspend your license.
You will receive notice that you have 10 days to request a hearing with the DMV about your DUI charge. If you fail to respond, or don’t request the hearing, the administrative suspension of your license will go into effect. The DMV’s suspension will remain in place even if you win at trial or otherwise have the charges against you dropped.
The hearing with the DMV could be considered a practice run for your trial. If you have a DUI lawyer representing you for your criminal charges, he or she may also appear on your behalf for the DMV’s hearing. Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, you will have a better idea of the potential outcomes of a trial and what weaknesses exist in the prosecution’s case.
A DUI Jury Trial
A jury trial for a DUI charge will be run in the same way as any other criminal trial. The lawyers for both sides will settle on 12 members of the public to represent the jury.
The prosecution must be able to prove to the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the DUI happened in the way they allege. Your defense, ideally led by a skilled DUI attorney, will attempt to show the weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence. If the jury is not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, they will be instructed to vote not guilty on the charges.
Both the Prosecution and Defense Likely Want to Avoid a Trial
Early on after your arrest, you can expect the prosecution will approach you about pleading guilty. They will offer you a deal that they will say is generous and will speed up the process. Taking a plea deal will speed up the process, but the first offer a prosecutor brings you is not likely to be more generous than you’d get at a trial.
When you hire a DUI lawyer, he or she will be ready to represent you at trial. However, no matter how strong your case is, your lawyer will also likely be on the lookout for a favorable plea deal for you.
This is because jury trials are unpredictable. Even experienced attorneys can’t always predict how a jury will vote. No matter how strong your defense is, some juries will be more sympathetic to the prosecution.
Getting a Fair Plea Deal
While the prosecution’s first offer isn’t likely to be better than what you’d get at a jury trial, you can get a fair deal. When you hire a DUI lawyer, he or she will examine the evidence for flaws and alternative explanations. The stronger your defense, the better sort of plea deal you can get.
Depending on the evidence and how well your lawyer handles your case, a fairer plea deal might include:
- The minimum possible penalties for the charges
- A reduction of charges (i.e., moving from a DUI to a “wet” reckless driving charge)
- Dismissal of the charges
Throughout the process leading up to your trial, your DUI attorney will be in touch with the prosecution. He or she will negotiate on your behalf and will let you know of any offers you receive. Your lawyer will also let you know if you can expect a better outcome, but the choice will always be up to you.
Get a DUI Lawyer on Your Side Today!
Once you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you’ll have to make many decisions quickly. Getting a DUI lawyer on your side sooner is much better than waiting. After all, you could lose your license if you don’t act quickly enough.
Dial (310) 953-8417 to speak with one of our representatives or enter your information on the sidebar of this site. We will connect you with a highly knowledgeable DUI lawyer who can evaluate your case for free.