DUI Trial – Court Appearances and Legal Steps
If you are fighting drunk driving charges, this is how your case will proceed. (see below for the steps in a plea).
- Arrest – The first step in your encounter with our criminal justice system (unless you are summonsed). You are pulled over, arrested, booked, fingerprinted, offered the chance to incriminate yourself via a breath test machine, and processed. It is not an enjoyable process, I really do sympathize with you. But you survived, and are reading this to figure out what’s next….
- Arraignment – The arraignment is your first court appearance. Typically the first business day after your arrest. You must appear before the court and plead not guilty. However, with the right attorney at your side, you can use the arraignment as an opportunity to deal with your case that day.If you don’t have an attorney, this appearance can be largely a formality, and if you have not decided what to do yet, you can evaluate your options before the next court date. It does get you a chance to get a copy of your police report. You will then pick a date to appear at a pre-trial.
Court Action: Set pretrial date.
Attorney Action: If Client Pleading Guilty: Expedite process. Explain all steps to Client. Try to settle case immediately to get client hardship license ASAP. Motion to dismiss minor or civil offense in exchange for Continuance without a Finding plea.
If Fighting the case: Review police report. Plan defense strategy. Inform client of events to come.
- Pre-trial – The pre-trial (pretrial conference, pretrial hearing) is where we first sit down with the prosecution and talk about the case. They will offer you a deal which we can accept or reject, and then prepare the case for trial by providing discovery of the evidence against you.
Court Action: Set motion or trial date.
Attorney Action: File motions for discovery (police training manual, police videotape evidence). File motion to suppress. After court, go to the scene of the arrest and review the events with the client. Videotape and photograph the scene.
- Motion Hearing – At a Motion to Suppress hearing, I will get the police officer on record as to exactly what happened during the stop, when he or she formed the opinion that your were impaired for use at trial, and make certain your rights were not violated in the process.
Court Action: Set trial date.
Attorney Action: Argue for Dismissal on Motion to Suppress Issues. Get motion hearing transcript tape and other materials prepared for trial.
- Trial – At the trial, your case will be heard before either a judge or a jury.
Court Action: Jury Selection, Trial, Verdict.
Attorney Action: Opening Statement, Cross Examination, Closing Statement, Sentencing Argument.
- Sentencing – If we lose the case, we fact sentencing, which is almost always immediately after the trial. I will help you through the steps, make arrangements with probation, and explain the entire process to you so you’ll understand what you’ll need to do.
Court Action: Probation, Paperwork.
Attorney Action: Consultation throughout process, arrangements for hardship license.
- Show Cause Hearing – If you are brought to court via a summons instead of arrested, you will have to appear at a show cause hearing, or clerk magistrate’s hearing.
- Dangerousness Hearing – Usually only applies in cases with multiple prior offenses and/or a serious accident involved. It is a hearing to determine if the defendant is dangerous, and should be held without bail in jail for the duration of the trial.
- Election and Compliance Date – An extra appearance date so the court can determine that all discovery of evidence has been dealt with. This is sometimes necessary if there are extensive medical records or breath test records to be presented. I usually try to wrap this up in a motion date to save time, but sometimes an extra date is necessary.
- Trial Assignment Date – Exactly as it says, simply an extra court appearance to pick a trial date. This may be necessary if your trial date is in a different court than your preliminary court dates. For example, Stoughton District Court cases are tried in Dedham, and Natick District Court cases are moved to Framingham for trial. And for some reason, the Boston Municipal District Court (BMC) often feels this is necessary, where other courts are willing to assign trial dates at pretrials, motion hearings, or even without a court date, negotiated between the clerks office and the attorneys.
- Appeals: Require a separate attorney in a separate court, and can be tough to win.
Drunk Driving Plea – Legal Steps
If you plead guilty, the process is certainly simpler and quicker.
- Arrest – See above.
- Arraignment – Same as above, except in many cases if I am present at the arraignment, I can expedite the entire process and work out a favorable deal on the spot, and skip the pre-trial. This saves you the effort of another court date, and will get you back on the road with a hardship license much quicker. If you have definitely decided you want to plead guilty to your OUI, it makes sense to do it right away and get your life back together.
- Pre-trial – As above, the pre-trial conference is the meeting with the DA where we negotiate a deal to plead guilty or Continuance without a Finding CWOF). Then we go before a judge in a pre-trial hearing, and the process is formally completed.
- Registry Hearing – I will go with you to the Mass RMV hearing to help you get your hardship license. I offer this as an extra service for no extra fee. Many people are confused by the registry hearing process. It can be confusing, and you have to get the paperwork just right. I know all the registry hearings officers, and if I am there, things tend to go smoothly. The registry hearing date is a week or more after your plea is finalized. It takes the paperwork a week or so to be processed, so we can’t do it any quicker.
Call attorney Russell Matson if you’ve been arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts and have questions about the legal process. Call 24 hours a day at (781) 380-7730, and we will be happy to consult on your case, with no further obligation.
DUI Arrest? I can help! Call now.