Far too often, people charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs don't take their arrest seriously—especially first-time offenders. They might be so sure they did not drink enough alcohol to be impaired that they think the officer's mistake will be discovered and the charges will be dropped. As a result, they make fatal mistakes when they are pulled over and they fail to call a lawyer until it is too late. At James E. Short, PLC, we believe the more you know about the drunk driving arrest process, the better off you will be if you are pulled over.
You've Been Arrested—Now What?
Whether you were pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving or you were caught up in a DUI checkpoint, you will be taken into custody if the officer decides there is enough evidence that you are over the legal limit for alcohol. The officer might have witnessed you driving erratically, smelled alcohol on your breath, caught you slurring your speech, or seen open containers of alcohol in the car. You might be asked to take a roadside sobriety test, and the result might be the final piece of evidence the officer needs to arrest you. After that, the following will likely happen:
- You will be given a chemical test for alcohol. Once at the police station, you will be given a test to detect the amount of alcohol in your system. This is usually a breath test. The results can be used as evidence against you. If you refuse to take the test, you will face penalties that include losing your driver's license for a year.
- You will be booked. Booking is the process of officially entering your arrest into the judicial system. It involves gathering your personal information and possibly taking your fingerprints and "mug shot." You should be given an opportunity to call an attorney—we highly recommend that you do!
- You will appear before a judge. Once you are booked, you will appear before the magistrate judge on duty, who will hear about the evidence against you from the arresting officer. The judge may decide to release you on your own recognizance or might order that you remain in jail.
- If you are not released, you may need a bond hearing. In order to get released, you will have to post bond (sometimes referred to as "bail"). The amount you will have to post will be determined in the bond hearing. Once you post bond, you will be released.
- You will be arraigned. At an arraignment the formal charges against you are read. You will be informed of your right to an attorney, and you will be given a date for your trial. If you already have an attorney, they will likely be able to attend the arraignment on your behalf.
- Your lawyer will review the discovery and determine if you have any legal defenses. An experienced DUI attorney will review the discovery to see if there are any issues with the traffic stop that may be a legal defense in your case.
- If there is no legal defense in your case, your lawyer will negotiate with the prosecutor. Known as a plea bargain, this is the process of negotiating with the prosecutor to drop some charges, reduce other charges, or ask for a lighter sentence for pleading guilty, or based on your prior record (or lack of one).
- Your case might go to trial. If negotiations with the prosecutor are unsuccessful, your case could go to trial. This is a time-consuming process, but it might be your only chance at staying out of jail or retaining your driver's license. Your defense attorney will build a case based on the specifics of your arrest and prior record. You will be found guilty or not guilty, and the judge will issue a sentence that will likely include a fine, loss of license, installation of an ignition interlock device, and, in some cases, jail time.
This is a general overview of a typical DUI arrest process, but yours could follow a slightly different path. The key is to have an attorney on your team as soon after your arrest as possible.
Trust James Short With Your Virginia Beach DUI
You might have watched a lot of Law & Order, but that does not make you a lawyer. Thinking you can handle a DUI arrest on your own would be a big mistake. When your reputation, livelihood, and freedom are on the line, trust our experienced DUI legal team to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Store our number (757-410-5042) in your cell phone and contact us today to learn more.