If you've been arrested for Driving under the Influence in California you will be prosecuted in the Superior Court for the county in which you were arrested. You can be charged with either felony or misdemeanor Driving Under the Influence depending on the facts in your case. Most first time DUIs are prosecuted as misdemeanors (unless someone was injured or killed.)
If you've had one or two prior convictions for Driving Under the Influence within the past 10 years your case will likely still be charged as a misdemeanor, but you will face stiffer penalties, more jail time, and a longer drivers license suspension.
If you're being charged with a misdemeanor charge of Driving Under the Influence you will be given a Court date. Your California DUI Defense Trial Attorney can appear on your behalf at most of the proceedings in a misdemeanor case. This can be helpful as Court hearings often are scheduled at inconvenient times and can take hours.
I'll give a short outline of the steps to a misdemeanor DUI case. Remember, you should get a lawyer who will do these appearances on your behalf so that you can keep up with your busy schedule!
In many cases a criminal defendant will be offered a plea-bargain at some stage of the criminal proceedings. Often criminal defense cases are resolved before going all the way to jury trial. In fact many attorneys that take criminal defense cases NEVER even go to jury trial!
FIRST COURT APPEARANCE - THE ARRAIGNMENT
Your first Court appearance is called an "Arraignment." At your arraignment your Attorney will get a copy of the misdemeanor criminal complaint being filed against you. Your attorney will enter a plea of not guilty and will either schedule aPretrial Conference with the Court or will schedule a pretrial motion.
I can file several pretrial motions with the Court depending on the facts of your case. Pretrial motions must be made based on statutory or constitutional authority. I always personally review the evidence in each of my cases and try to determine whether any pretrial motions might be applicable. There are a variety of motions that can be brought before trial, and it's necessary for an experienced attorney to review the facts of your case before determining which, if any, of these motions might be helpful in your particular case. Depending on the facts of your case, it might be possible to supress illegally obtained evidence in your case, request that criminal charges be dismissed, request that felony charges be reduced to misdemeanors, quash a search warrant with insufficient probable cause, and more.
At the pretrial confernece your attorney can file pretrial motions if he hasn't already done so. Otherwise your attorney will set a date for a Jury Trial or a Court Trial. In many cases the Prosecutor will offer a plea-bargain at the Pretrial Conference. It's important to have a skilled trial attorney to represent you. Often Prosecutors prey on attorneys who don't have trial experience, or are afraid to go to trial. Its not uncommon for a criminal defense attorney who'se afraid of going to trial to simply advise their clients to plead guilty at the pretrial conference. If you DO make the decision to accept a plea-bargain it should be on the merits of the deal, not because your attorney is afraid to go to trial.
TRIAL READINESS CONFERENCE
At the Trial Readiness Conference your attorney will either "confirm" the trial date, or attempt to have the trial date vacated. Usually the Court will only vacate a trial date with good cause.
TRIAL ASSIGNMENT CALENDAR
After your trial is confirmed you will go to a Trial Assignment Calendar. At this court date the Court will assign a judge and courtroom for a jury trial (or Court trial.)
Your attorney can file certain motions right before or during the jury trial. A common motion is a motion in limine which requests the Court rule on the admissibility of certain evidence before trial.
This is the final stage of your case. If you haven't accepted a plea-bargain, the DA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the charged offense.