Every DUI case in California generally undergoes the same basic process. Once you have been arrested, it is important to reach out to a DUI attorney promptly and find out what to expect next. This can help you work cohesively with your attorney to form a strong defense.
Each case begins with an arrest. An arrest can occur for many reasons, including:
- An officer pulls you over for a traffic violation
- You were involved in a car accident
- A third party reported you
- An officer believed you exhibited signs of impaired driving
At this stage, you will likely take a breath test or undergo a blood test and spend several hours in jail. Once you are sober and someone has posted your bail or you have been released on recognizance, you can start planning your defense.
During arraignment, you or your attorney will appear before a judge and find out the charges against you. You and your attorney will enter your “not guilty” plea at this time. The court will notify you of the conditions of your bond. For a DUI case, you generally have to agree to:
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Go through random drug and alcohol testing
- Report to a court agency
Other conditions may be set too. The court may impose tougher restrictions on you if you have multiple DUIs behind you, your BAC level was extremely high, or you injured someone or caused a crash while driving under the influence.
Discovery is a crucial step. This is when your legal team starts digging into the specifics of your case. They get access to all of the documents and facts of your case that are available to the prosecutorial team. Your DUI attorney will start finding ways to weaken the other side's case and explore evidence that strengthens your case.
If everything goes according to plan, this step could be the final one in your California DUI case. During the pre-trial conference, your attorney and the prosecutor meet to try to find a way to resolve the case without taking it to court. If negotiations go well, only one conference may be necessary. However, it is likely that your attorney will go through several pre-trial meetings to get you the best deal possible. The goal is to reduce or dismiss your charges.
Trial and sentencing
If the prosecutor and defense attorney are unable to come to an agreement during pre-trial, the case will go to trial. Both sides present their case and the court hands down a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.” During sentencing, the judge will inform you of the punishments decided upon by the court. They will explain which requirements you have to meet. For example, you may have to report to a probation officer or attend an alcohol class.