The DUI Process
THE STEPS FOLLOWING A DUI ARREST
The penalties for DUI in Arizona are among the harshest in the country. Aside from a suspension or revocation of your drivers license, people convicted of DUI face mandatory jail time, huge fines and counseling classes. Additionally, installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle will be required for at least one year. Prosecutors throughout Arizona are aggressive. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI, you should immediately consult with an experienced attorney who regularly practices DUI defense.
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The Process After You Have Been Arrested:
A majority of people arrested for DUI in Arizona have never been in trouble with the law. After they are processed and released, they usually have an assortment of paperwork in their hands and confusion about what happens next. Here is a general description of what people may expect during the time a DUI charge is pending against them.
Drivers License Issues:
Chances are police have confiscated your drivers license and served you with an Admin per Se or Implied Consent Suspension. People who are arrested for DUI and submit to a blood or breath test face a ninety day suspension of their drivers license if the results are above .08. Alternatively, your license can be suspended for one year if you refused to take a test requested by arresting officers. In either scenario, you only have a limited number of days to request a hearing with the Motor vehicle Division to challenge the suspension. If you fail to request a hearing in a timely manner, your license will be automatically suspended and you are prohibited from driving until it can be re-instated.
Once a proper request for hearing is filed with the Motor Vehicle Division, you may continue to drive as normal. An Administrative Hearing will be scheduled within six to eight weeks of your request. At the Hearing, officers will be called to testify about your driving behavior, the DUI investigation, your arrest and the procedure and results of the blood or breath test which was administered to you. You are permitted to question the officers. You can also call witnesses and testify yourself in order to try and prevent the suspension. If your license is suspended following this hearing, you may apply for a restricted license after the first 30 days. A restricted license will allow you to drive to work and school.
Vehicle Impound Issues:
If you have been arrested for an Extreme DUI, Super Extreme DUI, 2nd Offense DUI or Aggravated DUI, the police may issue an order which requires that your vehicle remain impounded for thirty days. If the results are above .150, police may use the results of your intoxilyzer test or preliminary breathalyzer test administered to you at the scene or police station as the basis for the 30 day impound. Unfortunately, you will be responsible for the towing and storage fees.
You are entitled to a hearing concerning the thirty day impound. You should be aware however that the burden of proof is very low and that your vehicle can remain impounded upon a showing of your intoxilyzer or preliminary breath tests results. You can secure a release of the vehicle by:
presenting proof that it is titled and registered in another person's name
- having your spouse pick up the vehicle
- arguing that the results of your breath test are below .150
You will need to provide proof of insurance and registration to obtain a release of the vehicle.
The Court Process:
Following an arrest for DUI, you will be issued a citation or summons which advises you of the charges that have been filed, when to appear in court and what court you are required to appear in. In Arizona, you will be required to appear in a city or municipal court such as Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, etc., a Justice Court if you were arrested on a county road or state highway or Superior Court if you have been charged with felony or Aggravated DUI.
Below is a brief summary of the various types of court appearances which are common in DUI cases.
Arraignment - This is your first court appearance. Here, you will be asked to enter a plea. If you intend to just accept the consequences of the DUI charge, you will enter a plea of "guilty." Obviously, this is not recommended as DUI convictions carry extremely harsh consequences and can also affect future employment opportunities. Alternatively, if you decide to fight the DUI charges or want a chance to weigh your options, you should enter a "not guilty" plea. If an attorney is representing you, your attorney can usually appear for you and enter a "not guilty" plea on your behalf. At the arraignment, an attorney will also make a formal request for copies of the police report, blood test results and other relevant information.
Pre-Trial Conference - This hearing is an opportunity for you or your attorney to discuss your case with the prosecutor. At the pre-trial conference, plea offers may be negotiated. Also, there may be discussions about outstanding issues related to your DUI case such as additional information which is required to evaluate your case, interviews which may be necessary and the potential for your case to proceed to trial or be resolved by a plea agreement. In most DUI cases, there are several pre-trial conferences before a case is resolved.
Evidentiary Hearing - Evidentiary Hearings will be scheduled when a request is made to dismiss a case or suppress evidence based on a legal issue. This often involves a violation of a person's Miranda Rights, the right to speak with a lawyer or the failure by police to follow proper procedure when administering field tests, breath, blood or urine tests. At an evidentiary hearing, a judge must determine whether the conduct by police or a crime laboratory was lawful or followed established procedure. If a judge determines your rights were violated or a breath or blood test is not reliable, important evidence can be suppressed and the DUI charges can be dismissed.
Jury Trial - If a DUI charge is not resolved by way of dismissal or plea agreement, the court will schedule a trial. In Arizona, people charged with DUI are entitled to trial by jury. Here, a jury made up of members of the community will be selected, arguments by each side will occur and evidence presented. Usually evidence will consist of testimony by law enforcement officers, criminalists who are responsible for testing your blood or maintaining breathalyzer machines and civilian witnesses who may have observed parts or all of the incident. You can also testify and present witnesses to rebut any evidence which is presented by the prosecutor. At the end of the trial, the jury will deliberate in a private room and determine whether you are guilty. The standard to find someone guilty of DUI or any criminal charge is "beyond a reasonable doubt." If you are found guilty, a judge will sentence you according to the law.
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