You or someone you know has just been pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or another impairing substance. Perhaps you encountered a sobriety checkpoint, or swerved into another lane; you may have been sober but were speeding, made an illegal turn, or had one of your headlights out. Whatever the reason, a policeman or woman pulled you over, and at some point during your conversation with the officer he or she came to believe you were intoxicated. What happens if, innocent or guilty, you are read your Miranda rights and taken to a police station?
A chemical BAC test will be administered at the station, a hospital, or even a mobile station. You may have already undergone a breathalyzer test, or you may have refused and requested the blood test. For our purposes, your blood alcohol level was found to be above the legal limit or the results have not yet come in. Stay calm and bare in mind that an arrest does not automatically call for incarceration. If for some reason you are booked into jail, expect the officers to search and fingerprint you, ask you some basic questions, and photograph you.
Regardless of whether this is your first DUI arrest or you have a history of DUI arrests or convictions, you will need to obtain a DUI Lawyers in Arizona. For first-timers, a lawyer is essential to understanding the process that follows your initial arrest, as well as to verifying the validity and legality of the arrest and the arresting process. While the police and the court—the prosecutors—look into your background to uncover any previous arrests or convictions, including those that were out of state, you can brief your DUI Lawyers in Arizona on any histories they can and will dig up, the conditions under which you were pulled over, and the arrest and—if relevant—booking processes.
When your history and the conditions of your arrest have been established, you will be charged either with a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI. If a misdemeanor, you should immediately be issued a citation to either a county justice court or a city municipal court with a readily available court date. If a felony—and if you have a record, this is likely—your case will be prosecuted in superior court.
The next steps will depend on your current custody situation. If you were booked into jail, you will—typically within 24 hours—be given a hearing in which the judge will set bail or other conditions of release. While bail is generally granted, the amount may vary and as in all court cases, is meant to ensure you will show up for your next hearing. If you fail to appear for the next hearing, you give up the money and gain a warrant for your arrest. For felony hearings, a preliminary hearing will be held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to move the case on to the Superior Court for an actual trial. Occasionally, the matter of bail will be revisited. This is where your DUI Lawyers in Arizona can make a motion that you be released on your own recognizance During your arraignment, you will be formally informed of all charges, and you may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest (which is generally taken as “guilty”). If you abstain from answering, a plea of “not guilty” will be entered for you by the court; your lawyer will likely advise you to enter a plea of “not guilty.”
A pretrial conference will give your DUI Lawyers in Arizona a chance to negotiate with the prosecutor, during which time the State of Arizona may offer you a deal. After weighing the pros and cons with your attorney, you may accept or decline the deal or attempt to negotiate a better deal, though seldom does a better deal surface.
Your DUI Lawyers in Arizona may bring motions or evidentiary hearings to convince the judge to allow or refuse admissibility of pieces of evidence in open court. Evidence may include sobriety or breathalyzer tests, BAC tests, statements you made to the arresting or other officer, etc. In some instances, witnesses may be allowed to testify at this time.
In Arizona, you the defendant have a right to a trial by jury, and most arrested for DUIs choose this option. Your DUI Lawyers in Arizona will advise you if waiving this right in favor of a bench trial is in your best interest. Assuming you choose a trial by jury, the first step in the trial process will be selecting the jury. Your case is not John Grisham’s Runaway Jury, rife with corruption, but the concept of weeding out the prospective jurors who hold prejudices to one side of the law or the other applies. Both your attorney and the prosecutor may exercise preemptory challenges to remove jurors who appear unable to remain objective.
Once the jury is selected and the trial begins, the prosecutor will begin his or her opening statement, during which he or she will explain how the State plans to prove your guilt. Your own DUI Lawyers in Arizona may immediately follow the prosecutor’s opening statement with the defending opening statement or may choose to defer the opening statement until after the prosecution rests and all evidence and witnesses for the prosecution have been seen and heard.
The prosecution will then admit evidence and question witnesses, especially the arresting officer in your case. For a DUI case, the prosecutor will likely present the State’s case in the order the events occurred. The arresting officer will speak on the indicators that you were impaired, any admissions you made to the officer, the sobriety tests you submitted to—or your refusal to submit to sobriety tests, which does not shine favorably on you—and the reasons a person cannot operate vehicles safely while impaired. Your DUI Lawyers in Arizona may, as the prosecution rests, make a motion to dismiss the charges against you, claiming the prosecution failed to make the case against you. If the motion is denied, it will be your attorney’s turn to present your case.
Your attorney can, if he or she deferred the opening statement, make that statement now. Any evidence to support your innocence will then be admitted, although your attorney may choose to admit no additional evidence if the State has presented a particularly weak case. Your lawyer will advise you either to testify or to opt out of testifying, and will call any expert or otherwise qualified witnesses in your defense.
Once the defense rests, closing statements are made beginning and ending with the prosecution and then the jury begins its deliberations. The verdict is read in open court; if one could not be reached, the case will be declared a mistrial.
While sentencing can occur immediately after the reading of a guilty verdict, a sentencing hearing is typically held after a short—no longer than a month—delay. During the sentencing hearing, the judge takes into consideration any abnormalities in your situation that may call for a sentence that deviates from the standard. Regardless of your sentence, you have the right to appeal, even all the way up to the Supreme Court, if legal issues arise during any part of the trial process.
If you are convicted of a DUI, expect jail time. In Arizona, it is mandatory. First-time offenders must serve a minimum of ten consecutive days in jail and are not eligible for probation or suspension. If you are convicted of an extreme DUI, which will occur if your blood alcohol content was .15 percent or more, expect to serve 30 consecutive days in jail. If you were driving on a suspended license, had a child in the car, or this is your third DUI offense within seven years, your conviction will fall under “aggravated DUI,” expect a more “aggravated” sentence. Everyone convicted of a DUI is required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles, which is used to ensure you cannot even start your vehicle if you are intoxicated. Extreme DUI and Aggravated DUI offenders often find themselves performing community service and under continuous alcohol monitoring.
Those under 21 years old, the legal drinking age, are subject to Arizona’s zero tolerance laws and are automatically granted two years probation and a $1,500 fine, plus and 80 percent surcharge, in addition to the ignition interlock device. Everyone, of every age, may be made to pay fines—in addition to the fees you pay your DUI Lawyers in Arizona—have their license suspended, undergo treatment, serve jail time, and suffer the consequences of having a record in the working world.