Our previous blog explained what happens during your first DUI traffic stop and arrest. After being charged with a DUI, you will have to appear in court. Your DUI case will involve several criminal hearings before the trial. The process can be complicated, and you should always seek the help of a Chicago criminal defense attorney. Call Michael O’Meara at O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706.
DUI Arraignment in Court
Your first court proceeding is called an arraignment. At this time, the judge will inform you of the charges against you and ask you how you wish to plead. You can plead guilty, no contest (you do not admit your guilt, but you still get convicted), or not guilty. If you plead guilty or no contest, the judge may either sentence you immediately or schedule a separate sentencing hearing. If you plead not guilty, the judge will schedule your trial.
Leading Up to Your DUI Trial
Between the initial hearing and the trial, your lawyer can file pretrial motions that can greatly enhance your chances of an acquittal. In DUI cases, common pretrial motions include:
- Motion to Suppress – Requesting the removal of any evidence from the case that was obtained in violation of your rights. For example, if the police pulled you over without a valid reason, all of the evidence obtained from that traffic stop may be removed from the case.
- Motion to Dismiss – When the motion to suppress is successful, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to bring your case to trial. In this case, your lawyer may ask the court to dismiss the DUI charges before the trial starts.
If the pretrial motions are not sufficient to obtain the dismissal of your case, your last chance of escaping a conviction will be your trial. In some cases, the prosecutor will seek to negotiate with your lawyer. In exchange for the guarantee of lenient penalties or a lesser charge, the prosecutor may ask you to plead guilty. Depending on the case, this may be your best option.
The Trial is Your Last Chance at Proving Your Innocence
At trial, the prosecutor will need to prove every element of the crime of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that you may be acquitted if your lawyer can show there is a reasonable possibility that you were not intoxicated while you were driving. There are many ways to do this, but often times acquittals result from cases where the arresting officer failed to follow procedures, the suspect had a medical condition, or there were problems with the testing equipment or methods.
If your lawyer’s arguments prevail over those of the prosecutor, the judge or jury will enter a verdict of not guilty in your favor. You will not receive any penalties, and you will not have to pay for court costs. You can apply to have your DUI arrest expunged from your criminal record.
If the judge or jury enters a verdict of guilty, you will face criminal sentencing. At a separate sentencing hearing, the prosecutor and your attorney will present arguments about what sentence you should receive. In most cases, the penalties for a first DUI conviction will consist of probation or court supervision along with fines, community service, alcohol education and treatment, and suspended driving privileges.
A Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
If you’ve been charged with DUI and want to avoid these penalties, you need to act now. Call a Chicago DUI attorney of O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706 today and get a free and confidential consultation about what defense strategies might apply to your case.