Getting charged with DUI can be a quite scary time, especially those who are first-time offenders. The individual charged with a DUI will experience a different process depending on the circumstances surrounding the DUI charge and the amount of previous DUI charges the individual has on record. The process can be simple as a court case and a suspended license or it could include jail time and several dollars in fines.
During and After the Arrest
A law enforcement officer who makes a DUI stop must have reasonable suspicion that a DUI is being committed. In other words, a police officer can have a reasonable belief (or even a hunch) that a crime is afoot in order to make the stop. For example, an unsteady driver can trigger an officer's reasonable suspicion for the purposes of a stop. If a car's tail light is not functioning, the officer has grounds to stop the car for public safety purposes.
However, during the stop, probable cause is required for the officer to charge and arrest the motorist for a DUI. Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion. It requires the officer to have a reasonable basis to believe that a crime has been committed. In this case, probable cause can be a dazed look on the face of the driver and an empty beer bottle on the backseat. Here, the officer is permitted to ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and investigate further. The officer can ask the driver to consent to a field sobriety test, a Breathalyzer test or even a chemical test. After the arrest is made, the vehicle is typically impounded and searched further to make an inventory of the items possessed by the motorist. The charged motorist is booked at the police station and may be kept overnight depending on the individual's level of inebriation.
When a motorist is charged, the individual is cited and given a court date. The first step in the criminal proceeding is called the arraignment. This is where the defendant is brought in front of the court to hear the charges and enter a plea. At the hearing, the charges are read and pleas are made. The arraignment proceeding will require the defendant to make a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea. The guilty plea is usually preceded by an agreement between the state and the defendant on which penalties will apply. Then the case will usually jump to the penalty phase. However, a not guilty plea will move the case forward to a full trial. Instead of a guilty plea, the defendant can choose to plead “no contest,” also known as a nolo contendere plea. This plea is technically not an admission of guilt for commission on the DUI offense, but it will be treated as such for the purposes of sentencing. Here, the defendant is not admitting fault for the crime, but had decided not to contest the charge. In this case, the case would also move to the penalty phase as is the case with a guilty plea.
Court Disposition and Penalty
If there was a non-guilty plea, the judge or jury will issue a final decision as to guilt. A final guilty decision by the court of the court or jury is also known as the conviction. In case of a guilty decision, or in the case where there is a no contest plea, a disposition will be issued. The disposition is the final order of the court in relation to the case. Mississippu has a set penalty structure for DUI offenders. The more severe the charge and the more previous DUI convictions the convicted person already has, the more severe the penalty. First-time DUI offenders face the lightest penalties and even have an opportunity to expunge their records after a set amount of time.
Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI attorney with years of experience defending DUI cases in court. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney. Attorney Ferguson is well-versed in DUI defense strategies and is ready to take on your unique case. Attorney Ferguson understands the importance of putting the charge behind you and ensuring that you are informed of all possible consequences. Call us now for a consultation.
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What to Do if Stopped by Police