If you were recently arrested and charged with driving under the influence for the first time in Tennessee, you are undoubtedly concerned about your legal situation. If you are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system, you may become frustrated just trying to navigate it. Not knowing what will happen next can be almost as scary as the initial arrest. While it is always best to consult with an attorney about your unique situation, a Murfreesboro DUI lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what typically happens in a DUI case.
What You Need to Know If You Are Stopped
A common theme in DUI investigations involves a law enforcement officer conducting a traffic stop, either because the driver appears impaired or because the driver committed a minor traffic violation, such as a tail light out or failing to signal a turn. The officer the proceeds to investigate the motorist if the officer believes that the driver is driving under the influence. The driver will eventually be asked to perform “field sobriety tests.” If you find yourself at this point, you need to know that you are not required to perform these tests. In fact, the results of these tests are completely subjective and are not admissible at trial. Nevertheless, the results can be used to provide the probable cause needed to arrest you and take you into custody. At the station or jail, you will be asked to perform a chemical test (usually a breath test) to check for the presence of alcohol in your system. The results of that test are admissible at trial. You can refuse the chemical test; however, you will face additional and distinct negative consequences for your refusal.
After you have been officially processed into the jail, the terms of your release will be set. If you are a first-time offender who is charged with a misdemeanor DUI, you may be released on your own recognizance (OR) which requires only your promise to appear for all court appearances. If there are aggravating circumstances, such as an injury accident or a criminal history, you may have to pay a bond in order to be released. Your initial court date, referred to as an “arraignment” or an “initial hearing” will also typically be set at the time of your release. If your bond amount is too high, your criminal defense attorney may try and get the amount reduced during your first court appearance.
“Discovery” is the legal term used to refer to the sharing of information relevant to a case. In a criminal case, the prosecution must “discover” to the defense the evidence that the state plans to use at trial to convict the defendant. In a DUI prosecution, that may include things such as the officer’s report, witness statements, the results of the chemical test, and any statements the defendant made.
Negotiating a Plea Agreement
Although they are not obligated to do so, the prosecuting attorney will typically offer you a guilty plea agreement at some point early on in the process in an effort to resolve the case without exerting significant time and resources. Whether or not you want to resolve your case through a plea agreement is something you should only decide after consulting with your attorney. If you are interested, your attorney will negotiate with the prosecuting attorney to get you the most favorable terms possible in the agreement. Keep in mind that if you do accept a guilty plea you must admit your guilt and it will result in a conviction on your permanent record.
Taking Your Case to Trial
If your case is not resolved via guilty plea agreement, your case will eventually proceed to trial. You may have a trial by jury or waive that right and allow a judge to decide the outcome of the trial. At the trial, the prosecution must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. If the state fails, you will be acquitted, and the case is over. If the state is successful, you will be convicted of DUI at which point the judge may immediately hand down a sentence or may set the matter for a sentencing hearing.
Contact a Murfreesboro DUI Lawyer
If you were recently arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), consult with an experienced Murfreesboro DUI lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.