We’ve all had momentary lapses in judgement or made uncharacteristic mistakes. In most cases, we learn from these mistakes and move on with our lives without any major repercussions. This is not, however, always true, for first time DUI offenders, who may find themselves facing serious charges. Fortunately, those who find themselves in this situation don’t have to go through this ordeal alone. To this end, we’ve listed a few tips to help you get ready for an upcoming DUI hearing or trial. However, what you do next will largely be dictated by the specific circumstances of your case, so if you were recently arrested for or charged with driving under the influence in Tennessee, you should consider speaking with a Knoxville DUI defense attorney who can start working on your case.
An arraignment will be a DUI offender’s first appearance in court and usually occurs within two weeks of his or her arrest, processing, and release (often on bail). At the arraignment, the judge will record whether a defendant has an attorney, or assign one from the public defender’s office. The judge will also explain the exact charges that the defendant is facing, ask that person to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty, and set bail. Arraignments are usually scheduled within two to six weeks after the initial arrest. Those who have hired an attorney don’t have to attend this initial hearing if their lawyer properly filed a waiver of appearance. Instead, the attorney and the court will schedule a new court date, usually between one and two months from the arraignment. At these later “status” court dates, a defendant will usually be offered a plea deal in exchange for not going to trial.
The Preliminary Hearing
What happens next depends on how a person pleads. Someone who accepts a plea deal can begin resolving the case without the need to go to trial. If, however, someone pleads not guilty, he or she will need to attend a preliminary hearing. At this point, the parties will hear the evidence being presented against the defendant and the defense attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. Eventually, the judge will decide whether probable cause for the charge exists and if so, will “bind over” the case, transferring it to the Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury
A Grand Jury is a group of 13 citizens, who have been tasked with determining whether enough probable cause exists for a case to go to trial. Defense attorneys are not permitted to argue at these hearings and defendants aren’t present. Instead, the prosecution will plead its case to the Grand Jury with no input from the defense. If probable cause is deemed sufficient, the jury will present an indictment, or formal charge for the offense. Later, the defendant will be assigned another court date, where he or she will be re-arraigned.
The Criminal Trial
If a case proceeds to criminal court, a defendant will be given another opportunity to resolve the case through a plea arrangement. For those who wish to fight their charges, there will be a number of pretrial motions, where they can see the evidence that will be used against them. At trial, the prosecution and defense will present evidence and make their arguments. A jury will then deliberate and decide if the prosecutor has proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Guilty verdicts are followed by sentencing from the judge, while not guilty rulings will result in a dismissal of the case.
Remember to be On Time
It is important for defendants to be on time for their hearings. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to be there early to ensure that traffic, or something else over which a person has no control, causes him or her to be late. Being late not only leaves the court with a bad first impression of a defendant, but can actually lead to contempt charges and other penalties. Defendants are also encouraged to dress professionally, as though they were attending an interview. While the latter isn’t required, it can go a long way towards proving a defendant’s credibility and willingness to take the proceedings seriously.
Schedule A Free Consultation Today
Being arrested for driving under the influence is frightening. Fortunately, you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to go through this ordeal alone. To learn more about how an experienced Knoxville DUI defense lawyer could help with planning your own defense, please call Barnes Law at (865) 805-5703 today.