All the Information You Need on How to Prepare for a DUI Court Hearing
An impending DUI court appearance can be quite a nerve-racking experience. The last thing you want is an unfavorable outcome because you did not adequately prepare for your DUI trial.
Of course, there are a few basics you may be aware of. You may need to post bail, you likely know your court date, and obviously, you know you want to do all you can to thwart the attempts by the prosecuting attorney to ensure there's a DUI conviction in your future.
What you may not realize is the extent to which you need to be prepared and how much your DUI attorney contributes to that. Therefore, the information below is all about how to prepare for a DUI court hearing.
If you find yourself having to fight DUI charges in Fort Worth, TX, consider retaining an experienced DUI attorney from Sparks Law Firm. Your attorney-client relationship protects all your confidential information and you get the legal representation you need to win your case.
Schedule a free case evaluation by calling (817) 381-7846 today!
Period to Prepare for Your DUI Trial
So, how long before your initial court appearance do you think you should start preparing for your DUI case? Well, an experienced lawyer would tell you that the more immediately you start doing so, the better.
A defense attorney stands a much better chance in DUI cases that are characterized by weeks of preparation. Sometimes, even the morning of the trial date has some kind of activity geared purely towards helping you prepare.
This approach makes sense considering there are technically multiple objectives. First, there's dissecting the day of the alleged drunk driving. What was the complete sequence of events that the police officer went through before making the arrest? Do you have prior DUI criminal charges on your record?
Clearly, there's a lot for your lawyer to do, but it's time to provide you with some more information on the proceedings and help you learn how you can help.
Remember Your Rights
Throughout the entire ordeal, never lose track of your constitutional rights. During your arraignment, the judge typically advises you of what these are, but keep them in mind. Just for your information, in Texas, these rights are as follows:
The right to a jury trial
The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses
The right to be represented by an attorney
If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to a court-appointed one
The right to remain silent
The right to a speedy trial
The Different DUI Hearing Types
DUI hearings can take a few different forms depending on the stage you've reached. Unless you choose to plead guilty, expect to be present for several court appearances.
The arraignment is the first court appearance of your DUI case and its main objectives are to ensure you understand what the charges against you are and to hear your plea.
By this point, you would want to have already retained a lawyer, but if not, you still have the chance to do so. In that case, the judge asks if you need an attorney. If yes, you are allowed to hire one or have a court-appointed one such as a public defender take your case. Nevertheless, it is important to consider hiring an experienced one from a DWI law firm in Fort Worth.
Defense attorneys tend to go through the discovery process here, where they request a handover of documentation from the prosecution including any police report or witness information. However, the prosecution can request case documentation from your lawyer as well.
If you plead guilty, your sentencing is done. If not, you proceed to the next phase. The judge also decides if you need to post bail or not.
Additionally, considering that both jury trials and bench trials (handled exclusively by the judge) are offered, you can choose either.
The preliminary hearing is sometimes called a pretrial, and not all states employ it. There must be sufficient evidence that there is probable cause to believe that your DUI charge is sound.
Witnesses may be called by the prosecutor and you are allowed to cross-examine them. Note that pleading guilty is something you can do at any time and if your attorney realizes that a plea bargain may be beneficial, you could be advised to do so. Your trial date is announced here.
The actual DUI court case comes next. If you chose a jury trial, it begins with the selection of members. Both sides of the DUI hearing present opening statements, witnesses, and closing arguments. Jury instructions are then provided, after which they deliberate. You can only be implicated with a unanimous verdict.
The Responsibility of the State Prosecutor
At the arraignment stage of your DUI charge process, the state has no responsibilities. However, subsequent hearings place a burden of proof on the state that must be met or the entire case could be dismissed.
A defense attorney is trained to look for certain inconsistencies and may request a dismissal if the prosecution's case is less than sound. Many DUI trials have ended this way.
During the preliminary hearing, the state must present all the evidence necessary to convince the judge that there is no reasonable doubt that you were indeed caught committing a DUI.
On trial day, the state must then prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the state attorney believes you are guilty and the state's evidence seems sound, if the jury is not convinced unanimously, you cannot be convicted.
Retain the Services of an Experienced DUI Attorney
This one goes without saying for DUI proceedings, but you may not realize the extent to which your DUI defense attorney is mandatory if you want to avoid facing maximum penalties. This is especially true if jail time is a potential punishment.
First, your attorney can consistently advise you of when a guilty plea may be a good idea. You may think that most DUI trials end favorably only because of a not guilty plea that led to a not guilty verdict.
However, the reality is that much of it depends on knowing when it may be time to plead guilty and accept a deal. This is especially true when it's not so easy to exploit holes in the state's evidence and case.
Next, your attorney has an acute understanding of the gray areas that can work to your advantage and is going to explore all of them. This may lead to community service, helping reinstate a license suspended by the state, negotiating lower fines, etc.
Of course, your attorney also helps you make the best decisions before and during your DUI court proceedings.
Nuggets of Advice
While the lawyer helping you fight your DUI charge may clue you in on a couple of these details, it doesn't hurt to see some actionable insights on what you can do to be ready in a way that works in your favor.
It can sound cheesy, but one of the best courses of action you can take ahead of a DUI hearing is to dress for the occasion. Based on the account of the arresting officer, you are likely seen as an irresponsible person who can't stay away from alcohol before operating a motor vehicle.
While it's going to take more than looking responsible to win your case, doing so can go a long way in helping the narrative you are trying to push.
Never Forego a DUI Defense Attorney
Before, you were told about the importance of your DUI defense attorney and as a recommendation, you never want to forego hiring one. During your arraignment, you are given the option of retaining one, and not having to pay additional court fees may sound appealing but you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don't elect to be represented.
Additionally, a court-appointed attorney is anything but driven by a desire to help you. The only way you get to see the fight you need from your lawyer is by hiring one who has the experience and will to see you walk out with a favorable ending.
Think about it. If the services were comparable, why would one be free?
Speak to the Judge Properly
There are two reasons for this recommendation. First, some judges are incredibly rigid about the title "your honor," and they can get really upset at defendants who don't address them as such.
You never know which one you're getting so you shouldn't take any chances with your case. Additionally, showing respect lends some credence to the thought process that you know how to conduct yourself properly.
Your Lawyer's Advice is Key
Hiring an attorney is one thing but using the service to its greatest extent is another. Some people don't listen to the advice they get because it doesn't sound "nice." However, you should never lose sight of the fact that you're dealing with someone who wants things to end positively as much as you do.
For some people, the only good outcome from a DUI case is not getting punished at all. However, given certain circumstances such as those where there is a history of convictions, this may be an unrealistic expectation.
Tell yourself that your lawyer has your best interest at heart and that you are willing to listen to the recommendations you get.
Additionally, if you openly argue with your lawyer, the court sees you as disrespectful to the legal system, which is never an impression you want to be synonymous with you.
Show off Your Willingness to Turn a New Leaf if You Plead Guilty
If this course of action is selected, it's usually because the prosecution's case is very solid. Therefore, one of the best things to do is show the court the extent to which you are willing to turn things around. Remorse is a big thing in court cases.
One recommendation is to do some research to find alcohol classes can are meant to help you get your life back on track. Alternatively, you may want to consider counseling or voluntary public service hours.
However, you must follow through. If you actually completed the registration process, then it appears genuine.
A Not Guilty Plea
On the flip side of pleading guilty is the not guilty counterpart. In most cases, this is where a defendant starts the arraignment, but based on happenings such as the state's evidence, this can change.
Typically, when the defendant sticks with the initial decision to plead not guilty, it's an indication that the DUI lawyer is confident in the potential for a favorable outcome. On this side of the spectrum, there are some steps you want to take to prepare.
Gather Relevant Evidence
Evidence can take several forms here. For example, the prevailing belief may be that a field sobriety test may be able to help steer the verdict in your favor. If so, then you are going to need to request a video recording preservation from the police department.
This is done via a letter that must come from you. Thankfully, DUI attorneys are quite knowledgeable in this regard and yours can guide you through the process.
Bear in mind that you must make this request within 90 days since the police station destroys all evidence after that time.
If you don't want to do jail time as you wait for your trial after pleading not guilty, you're going to need to pay the prescribed bail amount unless the judge decided not to apply one.
Contacting the bail bondsman is a must so you know what the payment requirement is going to be ahead of the court date.
Note that this aspect of the preparation is incredibly important considering you can't exactly effectively do the rest of it while sitting behind bars. So ensure reaching out to the bail bond agent is a priority
The idea of the police report is to give you an idea of where you stand and what you're going to be contending with. Technically speaking, police reports are meant to be a part of the evidence the state turns over to the defense during the discovery of the arraignment process, but you may want to get a head start and your lawyer likely wants to as well.
Speaking of the lawyer, this is another process that you're going to be expertly guided through. The direction is going to be needed, considering you need to request it from the police department.
Note that some cases may require defense lawyers to file a motion for the report to be released. However, this is usually because of a refusal by the prosecution to turn over the evidence earlier.
When to Plead Guilty
After one or more hearings, your DUI lawyer may advise you that it's a good idea for you to either plead guilty or no contest. If so, it likely has to do with the fact that the prosecution has solid proof and a very strong case against you, though you started at the not guilty stage.
The best course of action to ensure you're prepared is to discuss your available options with the lawyer. The idea is for you to understand how certain case specifics are handled if jail time is a possible punishment, and what your sentence is likely going to look like.
Having this knowledge also represents the ability to negotiate the least harsh penalty possible given the circumstances.
Preparedness for a DUI court proceeding takes place at different stages on different levels, and you need to stay on top of things as much as you can to minimize the likelihood of an unfavorable ending to the legal proceedings.
One of the best ways to ensure you do so is to retain an experienced Fort Worth DUI lawyer. They can help address various concerns and issues surrounding a DUI case, including the understanding of what is a chemical test for DUI or what is 4th-degree DWI. Call Sparks Law Firm at (817) 381-7846 to schedule a free consultation today!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is a Hung Jury a Good Thing?
A hung jury can be a good thing depending on the situation. If nothing else, it means the prosecutor did not succeed in unanimously convincing the panel that you are guilty. It also means the chances of your lawyer getting the case thrown become greater.
Can Your Attorney Negotiate a Lesser Penalty?
Yes, Sometimes, based on factors such as a weak prosecution case, questions surrounding the way the breath test was handled, a lack of prior incidents on your part, etc., your lawyer may be able to convince the court to hand you a lesser sentence than you would've gotten otherwise.
Negotiations happen for lesser things too. For example, if you had your driver's license suspended by the state, a legal professional may opt to negotiate for an occupational license.
Can You Appeal a Guilty Verdict?
If you end up with a guilty verdict, you have the option of filing an appeal. However, the appeal notice must be filed within 30 days of the verdict being handed down. Some lawyers choose to prepare the notice beforehand just in case the verdict turns out to be an unfavorable one.