When you’re arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol then you are headed down a long road of legal involvement. The first step in a very long process is scheduling of the Preliminary Hearing at the district justice level. This procedure is to allow the district justice to make a decision that will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with your case. It is not very often that they don’t continue, just in extremely rare cases. Most times your lawyer will advise you to pass the preliminary hearing altogether. Sometimes this is a way for your lawyer to find out just how much evidence is stacked against you.
After this comes your arraignment. An arraignment is for your own good. The purpose is to protect you and make sure you know what you are being charged with. In court, the charges against you are read aloud and you are asked whether or not you understand them. Here you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Again your attorney will advise you to waive this procedure but there are circumstances where it may be to your benefit to go through with it. This should be discussed with your legal council.
For those who are first time offenders, they may be mandated to fulfill certain requirements. Some options that you have are to pay your fine, attend safe driving school, alcohol awareness class, or take part in community service. In some cases, you can take these options instead of being officially charged with the DUI. If you complete these requirements the charges go away, if you don’t then you are right back where you started. Only a few are lucky enough to have this happen and most people spend a lot of time tied up in the courts. However, choosing these options only clears away the court part - the charges are still on your record.
Now comes the trial, if you are not eligible for the above programs. If you believe you are not guilty then you can request a trial by jury. To do this you should have a good relationship with your lawyer because you are in for a lot of legal events that you may not understand and the legalities of a jury trial are many. Witnesses are called as well as experts to contribute for or against your case so the partnership with your attorney is crucial. Your lawyer should be available to explain the process to you and what is expected when you go into the courtroom. He/she needs to have a well-developed strategy and be capable of carrying it out effectively.
At the end of the case, you will find out whether the jury finds you guilty or innocent and then you have to prepare for sentencing. The sentencing court is the final step of the situation you find yourself in. If there are any circumstances that should be known by the judge that weren’t revealed during the trial, then now is the time to reveal them. It may give you a lighter sentence if you have mitigating circumstances and may go better in your favor. If you are found guilty then you and your lawyer have to try to get the best possible sentence you can. Your lawyer will offer the courts anything that they may require to lighten your sentence.
However, if you are a repeat offender, then there is not much that will help you. Circumstances sometimes have a big effect on the courts when passing down a sentence. Depending on how many times you have been convicted, you could make your sentence a lot easier to live with. If it is not too serious, sometimes your license will be suspended with provisions to use your vehicle to go back and forth to work.
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