In a large number of cases, DUI charges are handled in a pseudo-administrative realm. The charged individual is cited and given a court date. At the hearing, the charges are read and pleas are made. For first offenders without any aggravating circumstances, the charge is classified as a misdemeanor and carries up to 48 hours in jail, a license suspension and a mandatory alcohol education course. First offenders also have the opportunity to non-adjudicate their case, which has the effect of erasing the charge after all the requirements are complied with. However, the more serious the offense, the more criminal procedures are applied to the process.
Guilty and Not Guilty Pleas
For DUI offenses that are aggravated or include incidents of injury to another party can rise to the level of a felony. Similarly, offenders who have more than two DUI offenses are treated as felons for the purposes of penalties and court processing. In Mississippi, the arraignment for felony criminals takes place at the circuit court level. At a formal arraignment, the court will read the criminal charges and decide on the bail that will be set given the severity and the circumstances of the case. The charged individual can bypass the reading of the charges and simply make a guilty plea. The court will further make the determination as to whether there is enough cause to accept the conviction. However, if the not guilty plea is made, then the court case will advance to a full trial.
No Contest Pleas
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. In effect, in the case of a no contest plea, the defendant is not admitting fault for the crime. Instead, the defendant is informing the court that they will not defend the charge against them. A no contest plea is made in cases in which there may be a subsequent civil claim for damages that arose from the criminal act (e.g., where the criminal DUI act resulted in the serious injury of a victim). In such cases, defendants will use the no contest strategy to lessen their chances of losing in a civil suit.
The Issuance of Bail
After the plea is taken, the court will set the bail amount for the case. This amount is dependent on various factors including the severity of the alleged act and how much of a flight risk the defendant is. However, in other circumstances, the judge will deny bail altogether if the crime is too serious to release the defendant. In the case of DUI, defendants with multiple offenses are held when the likelihood of recidivism is thought to be too injurious to the public. Likewise, defendants with other serious crimes on their record should anticipate higher bail amounts or no bail at all.
Let Us Help with Your DUI Case
If you believe you are facing a felony DUI charge, please call us now. Attorney James Robert Ferguson is a seasoned DUI attorney with experience fighting felony DUI charges and is well-versed in the arraignment processes. Contact us to determine your rights in the matter. We will provide a unique approach to help you with your case.