Interviewer: What’s the sequence of events from the time someone is arrested to the time that they would get representation throughout their case? What are the main events that occur?
You Most Probably Will Be Released From Jail on Your Own Recognizance
Court: When you’re arrested you may or may not be taken to jail. It does depend on the circumstances. The officer doesn’t have to technically book you into jail. Most of the time they do. But once you go to jail you will usually be released on your own recognizance without bail.
It Is Important to Hire an Attorney As Soon As Possible
Once you get out of jail, the next step is to contact a DUI attorney and discuss everything that happened that night while it’s still fresh in your mind and while you still remember all the events surrounding your arrest. Also, you can get the process moving along for your Driver’s License Division hearing because you only have a 10-day window to request that.
The Police Will Provide You With a Court Date Before the Prosecutor Reviews Your Case
When the police release you, they usually give you a court date. It’s annoying in Utah that they do this because it is a complicated legal matter, but before a court will actually give you a date for an arraignment in a DUI case, the prosecutor actually has to file formal charges.
You Do NOT Have to Attend That Court Date
But before the prosecutor has even seen the file that very night, the police will give you a court date because that’s what they do for violations like traffic tickets. You don’t actually even need to go to that date. It’s not going to be on the court calendar. If you show up, the court won’t know your name and they won’t know why you’re there. You don’t need to be there for any reason.
After Reviewing Your Case, the Prosecutor Decides to Formally Charge You
What happens is the file is then sent to the prosecutor’s office and the prosecutor will review what happened. They’ll review the officer’s police reports and the Breathalyzer test, and then they’ll decide whether to charge you, and then they may formally charge you. Sometimes, that process can take a couple of weeks; sometimes it can take a couple of months or more.
The First Step Will Be Attending to the Administrative Penalties
The first thing you’ll need to face is the administrative penalties with the Driver’s License Division. Then with the criminal side of the case, you might not have anything coming up for maybe a month or two months after you’ve actually been arrested. During that time period, your attorney, if you have one, will be watching to see when the case has been filed and take it from there.
You Will Plead a Guilty or Not Guilty at Your Arraignment or Your Attorney Can File for You
Once the case is filed, it will be set for an arraignment. At an arraignment, you go in and you’re read your charges. Then you will plead either guilty or not guilty. If you have an attorney, they can do that process for you so that you don’t have to go into court an extra time, just by filing a plea for you. What I will do is file a notice of appearance and then a not guilty plea in any DUI case I have as soon as the charges are formally filed.
Then, it will be set for a pretrial conference, which is a time for your attorney to discuss the case with the prosecutor and see if there might be any way to resolve the case with a plea bargain. A lot of cases are resolved at that initial pretrial conference, and if the prosecutor and your attorney can’t come to an agreement, then you move forward from there. You might go to trial after that.
It Is Important Not to Miss the 10-day Window to Restore Your Driving Privileges
Interviewer: Any other mistakes or misconceptions you see that are common in the DUI cases you handle? For instance, do people tend to not know about the 10-day deadline to try to protect their license and they wait too long? Any other mistakes you may see?
Court: The most dangerous one is really missing that 10-day window for the Driver’s License Division hearing because whether or not your license is going to be suspended, it’s really important for your attorney to go to that Drivers License Division hearing because it gives them a chance to get the officer’s side of the story. It also gives him the chance to pin the police down to certain events about the arrest that night and get them on the record.
Those hearings are recorded, they can be transcribed and they can be later used in court proceedings should the officer tries to change his story. It’s really the best and most expeditious way for the attorney to find out how an officer is going to testify and to see if there are any problems with the procedures that the officer followed and to see what kind of a case you have.
That’s the most detrimental mistake people can make: to not timely request that administrative hearing. It’s really important for your attorney to have that information going forward. That way, by the time you get to the pretrial conference, the attorney already knows what the officer is going to say and he’s already got a defense lined up so that he can have some negotiating power with the prosecutor.
Otherwise, you’re just flying blind and hoping that the prosecutor will give you a good offer, not really knowing if there’s a way that you can fight the case.