Written by Avvo Staff

What is the process for DUI?

Each state varies in the way it handles a DUI charge, but the general process is similar. Do not hesitate to consult with a DUI attorney at any stage.

Initial Arrest – A police officer will pull you over with probable cause that you have been drinking. The officer will perform a series of field sobriety tests which include a Nystagmus Test, a Walk and Turn test and a One Leg Stand test. The officer might also ask you for a blood or urine sample. The laws in your state might allow you to refuse the tests or sample collection, but if you are arrested, you will be put in jail.

Bail – You might be allowed to offer money in exchange for your release from jail. This exchange is called posting bail. When you post bail, you agree to come to all court dates as scheduled in order to receive this money back. Sometimes you will be released on your “own recognizance.” This term means that you do not have to post bail, but you promise to return for all of your court appointments.

Arraignment – An arraignment is the first time you will appear in court, a few days after your arrest. For a DUI, your arraignment will occur in a criminal court. A criminal judge will read the charges against you, the defendant. The judge will ask if you have an attorney or if you need a court-appointed attorney. You have the right to defend yourself, but an attorney may be able to help you reduce your charges.

The judge will ask how you plead to your criminal charges, to which you will answer guilty or not guilty. Some states allow for a “no contest” plea. Even if you were released earlier on bail or on your own recognizance, the judge will revisit your terms of release. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced. If you plead not guilty, the judge will also announce future dates for your case such as your preliminary hearing. The outcome of pleading no contest depends on the laws in your state.

Preliminary Hearing – If you plead not guilty, you will go to a preliminary hearing where a judge will decide if the state has enough evidence to take your case to trial. The state's lawyer is the prosecutor, who will call witnesses like your arresting police officer. Your defense lawyer will attempt to prove that the state does not have enough evidence to bring you to trial.

A preliminary hearing often occurs within a few days of your arraignment. It can last an afternoon or a few days depending on how many additional offenses are involved in your case.

Trial – If your case goes to trial, your defense lawyer will try to prove to a jury that you are not guilty of a DUI. A trial has a few phases to it:

  1. The lawyers from both sides choose a jury.

  2. They give their opening statements.

  3. The lawyers call their witnesses and cross-examine them.

  4. The jury hears the lawyers' closing arguments and the judge gives the jury instructions as to how to deliberate, or think about, your case.

  5. The jury deliberates and returns with your verdict.

Due to scheduling issues, your case may not actually go to trial until 6 – 18 months after your preliminary hearing. Your trial may take an afternoon or much longer depending on the evidence, your witnesses, and how many other factors are involved in your case, like an injury or fatality.

How much does a DUI cost?

A first-time DUI can range from about $250 to several thousand dollars. Fines for subsequent offenses can be $10,000 or more. If your BAC is especially high, you could face extra fines associated with an aggravated DUI.

Other costs for a DUI charge include:

  • Attorney fees
  • Alternate transportation fees
  • Bail fee
  • Car impound and tow fees
  • Community service supervision fee
  • Court fines
  • Driver's license revocation and reinstatement fees
  • Ignition interlock device fee
  • Insurance rate increases
  • Jail fees
  • Probation supervision fee
  • Sample collection and testing fee
  • Sentencing fee
  • Substance abuse education fee

What is a DUI lawyer?

A DUI lawyer is a criminal defense lawyer that understands your local court system and laws. A DUI lawyer usually has extra education and certifications that help clients understand the implications of their charge and achieve the best outcome possible.

Do I have to hire a DUI lawyer?

No, but a lawyer may be able to reduce your charges or even help dismiss your case. If you cannot afford to hire your own attorney, you have the right to a public defender provided by the court. A DUI attorney can never guarantee that your charges will be dropped, but they can help you understand the legal process and all possible outcomes of your case. They can also fill out paperwork and perform administrative tasks for you. A consultation with a DUI lawyer can help you how beneficial an attorney may be for your case.

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