An arrest for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol sets in motion a series of court hearings designed for prosecutors to bring offenders to justice and for the alleged offenders to contest the charge(s) against them. If you have been arrested for a DUI, it is important that you are present to defend yourself at every Virginia DUI hearing. Unfortunately, this process can be lengthy, legally technical and complicated. It would be to your advantage to have a DUI attorney representing you in each step of the process. If you want a legal team that has dedicated itself entirely to cases involving driving under the influence (DUI), driving while impaired (DWI) and traffic offenses, contact The Wilson Law Firm.
We ensure that our clients receive the due process of law to which they are entitled in every legal proceeding. Our attorneys are knowledgeable of Virginia’s DUI/DWI and traffic laws and work within this legal framework to find resolution for cases that are in the best interests for our clients.
Arraignment on the Charge against You
The first Virginia DUI hearing scheduled in your case is called an arraignment At this time, a judge will read the formal charges that the prosecution filed against you. You will also be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charge. Having a DWI attorney with you during your arraignment is critical because he or she will make sure that you do not say anything that would incriminate you. If you plead guilty, the judge may ask you further questions about the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest, then sentence you on the charge or schedule a sentence hearing. If you plead not guilty, the court will schedule a pretrial, which is your next hearing.
Pretrials: Where the Real Work Begins
A pretrial conference determines whether you will reach a plea agreement with the prosecution or go to trial on your DUI charge. Expect to have increased contact with your lawyer in this phase of your case. Your legal advocate will be busy working to resolve your case in several ways that can include:
- Negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecuting attorney: This agreement may require you to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for you to fulfill certain requirements in addition to the statutory penalties associated with your DUI charge.
- Scheduling an evidentiary hearing to prevent certain evidence that is not favorable to you from being admitted into any future proceedings: In this hearing, your attorney may call in expert witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- Challenging the results of sobriety tests administered by police officers prior to your arrest: These results are the foundation of the prosecution’s case against you.
- Contesting any civil rights violations committed by the police before, during or after your arrest, as well as errors made by the prosecution
By this time, the prosecution may offer you a plea agreement. However, if the prosecutor does not offer a plea deal and you do not want to plead guilty to the charge, the judge will set a date for you to take your case to trial.
Do You Want a Judge or a Jury?
Criminal defendants may have a jury trial or a bench trial. In a jury trial, seven individuals are chosen as jurors to hear the facts of a case and render a decision, or verdict, based on those facts. Jurors only determine questions of fact; a judge makes rulings on questions regarding the law. In a bench trial, a judge is both the judge and the jury. The judge hears the facts of a case, then renders a verdict and also determines issues of law. In both types of trials, the prosecuting attorney must prove all aspects of the DWI charge that was filed against you. To do this, expect the prosecutor to summon the police officer who arrested you to provide testimony about your arrest, as well as other expert witnesses whose testimony will benefit the prosecution’s case. You will also be able to present character witnesses or expert witnesses to testify on your behalf. The judge or the jury will find you either not guilty or guilty. If you disagree with the verdict, you are allowed to appeal the outcome.
We Will Help With Your Appeal
Your DUI attorney will explain the appeals process to you and prepare all of the legal documents required for the appeal. If your appeal is unsuccessful—meaning that the verdict against you will not be changed—another Virginia DWI hearing will be scheduled for sentencing on your original DUI charge.
While no one can predict the outcome of a DUI case, it is imperative that you are legally prepared to defend yourself throughout the process. Having a skilled legal professional from The Wilson Law Firm at your side means you will not have to face this frustrating and confusing time alone. Before attending a DUI hearing in Virginia, contact The Wilson Law Firm for a free legal consultation regarding your case.