Being charged with a DUI can be an overwhelming and scary experience. Your mind is likely racing with questions about what happens next and how your life will be impacted.
Will I lose my license? Do I need a lawyer? What’s the process for fighting the charges?
This article will walk you through what to expect at each step of the DUI court process in Sacramento. We aim to provide helpful information so you feel empowered to navigate this difficult situation.
The DUI Court Process in Sacramento
Arraignment and Bail
The arraignment hearing is your first appearance before a judge after being charged with a DUI. At the hearing, you will be formally notified of the charges against you and asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
The judge will also discuss bail or release on your own recognizance. Many first-time DUIs allow for bail or release without posting cash upfront. However, the judge may impose certain conditions like surrendering your passport or abstaining from alcohol use before trial.
This hearing sets the judicial process in motion. Having an experienced DUI attorney with you at arraignment can be extremely beneficial.
In the weeks and months leading up to your trial date, your attorney will appear in court on your behalf for various pre-trial hearings. This may include hearings to suppress certain evidence, like the results of field sobriety or breathalyzer tests.
Other pre-trial hearings focus on negotiating with the prosecutor to potentially reach a plea deal or diversion program. Approximately 90% of DUIs never go to trial but are resolved through plea bargains. Having legal counsel explore options with the DA can be favorable.
If no plea agreement is reached, your case will proceed to trial before a judge or jury. The prosecution bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence.
The trial starts with jury selection, then moves to opening statements from both sides. The prosecution calls their witnesses first, typically the arresting officer, followed by any experts, like toxicologists.
You will have the opportunity to testify in your own defense if you wish, and your attorney can also call witnesses to support your innocence. After closing arguments, the jury will deliberate and return the verdict.
If found guilty, the judge will impose sentencing during a separate hearing. Penalties for a first-time misdemeanor DUI in California include fines up to $1,000, between 48 hours to 6 months in jail, and suspension of your license for 6-10 months.
The judge has discretion in sentencing. Your attorney will present mitigating circumstances and request alternative sentencing options like work release or weekend jail.
5 Tips for Navigating a DUI Case in Sacramento Courts
1. Retain an Experienced DUI Lawyer
Having a knowledgeable attorney represent you can make all the difference in your DUI case. DUI laws are complex, and an adept Sacramento DUI lawyer knows how to examine the evidence, challenge improper procedures, and mount an aggressive defense.
They also know how to negotiate effectively with judges and prosecutors to potentially get charges reduced or dismissed. Their expertise can prove invaluable.
2. Weighing a Plea Bargain Versus Trial
Many DUI cases get resolved through plea deals rather than going to trial. While this avoids the uncertainty of trial, it also means pleading guilty to the charges.
In some instances, fighting the charges by taking it trial makes sense. For example, if there are issues with the traffic stop or breathalyzer testing. An attorney can advise if the facts warrant rejecting a plea offer.
3. Highlighting Mitigating Factors
If found guilty, highlighting mitigating circumstances can help reduce the sentencing penalties. For example, if there was a plausible medical reason for poor field sobriety test performance or certain medication interactions with alcohol.
Veteran DUI attorneys know how to present these factors to the judge in the most favorable light possible. This can result in more lenient DUI sentencing.
4. Working with the DMV on Your License
In addition to the criminal court process, you’ll also have to contend with the suspension of a potential driver’s license by the DMV. They can suspend your license even before your criminal case is resolved.
Having an attorney represent you before the DMV can help prevent this through filing paperwork and requesting a hearing. If your license is suspended, a defense attorney helps drivers obtain restricted licenses so they can still legally drive to work or school.
5. Enrolling in DUI Classes and Treatment
For first-time offenders, DUI education classes are often required as part of sentencing. These focus on the risks of drunk driving and make you aware of treatment options.
For those with alcohol abuse issues, the court may order alcohol counseling or treatment programs as part of DUI sentencing.
Get Started on Your DUI Defense Strategy Today
Being arrested for DUI can make you feel helpless. But you have rights and options. The first step is contacting an experienced DUI attorney who can objectively examine the prosecution’s case against you and discuss the best legal strategy moving forward.
The Nieves Law Firm in Sacramento, CA, has successfully represented countless clients facing DUI charges. Visit them online at https://thenieveslawfirm.com/ to request a confidential case evaluation. Their knowledgeable legal team will carefully review your case details and advise you on how to achieve the best possible outcome under the circumstances.