DUI DWI Arrests & Trials
For police officers to make DUI arrests, they must establish what is known as probable cause. This means officers must have a reasonable belief you are guilty of drinking and driving before taking you into custody. To establish probable cause, police officers have several tactics they can employ.
Establishing Probable Cause
The first step in the DUI arrest process is the traffic stop. A police officer has several ways to stop you to see whether you have been drinking and driving. These are:
- Pulling you over for a traffic violation
- Pulling you over after observing strange driving behavior
- Stopping you as part of a sobriety checkpoint
The types of driving behavior that might lead a police officer to pull you over include:
- Weaving from side to side
- Driving in two lanes at once
- Driving too slowly
- Hesitating to pass through a green light
Once an officer has stopped you, the officer may then try to further establish probable cause by administering a field sobriety test. A field sobriety test can be either a physical or mental challenge that gauges whether you have been drinking. Typical field sobriety tests include:
- Standing on one leg with your arms to the side
- Walking in a straight line with one foot in front of the other, turning around, and then walking back in the same manner to the starting point
- Following a moving object with your eyes without moving your head
The officer may also administer a breathalyzer test. A breathalyzer is a device that can provide an estimate of a person's blood-alcohol content based on trace amounts of alcohol in their breath. If the blood-alcohol level is.08 percent or above, the police officer can make a DUI arrest.
Once you are placed under DUI arrest, you can exercise certain constitutional rights.
Specifically, you will have the right to remain silent. This means that you do not have to answer any questions from police officers or investigators. It is important that you exercise this right. Failing to do so could result in self-incrimination.
You will also have the right to an attorney. It is important that you contact your DUI attorney so that he or she may be present for questioning.
If you cannot afford a DUI lawyer, you have the right to have one appointed. This type of attorney is known as a public defender.
Within several days of DUI arrests, those who stand accused of drinking and driving will have their arraignments.
At the arraignment, your charges will be read aloud, and then you will enter your plea. Usually, you can enter one of several pleas, including:
- Guilty: This means you confess to drinking and driving.
- Not guilty: This means you claim you did not drink and drive.
- No contest: This means that you do not admit guilt, but you also do not contest the facts of the case. This plea is usually used when there is a corresponding civil trial against you.
The judge may then set bail, which is the amount of money you must provide to be let out of custody while trial is pending.
Sometimes your attorney may be able to strike a deal with the prosecution, the party in charge of proving your guilt. This deal is known as a plea bargain.
Some states do not allow plea bargains for DUI arrests. However, if they come to an agreement, you may be able to plead guilty to the crime and get a reduced sentence. This reduced sentence might entail DUI classes in lieu of jail time.
If you do not admit guilt to the DUI or if no plea bargain is reached, your case will proceed to trial.
At trial, your DWI attorney and the prosecution will both give their opening statements to the court. Each side presents evidence and witnesses, and has the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. At the end of the trial, both parties give their closing arguments, and the jury deliberates.
Upon returning, the jury will issue its verdict. If you are found guilty, you may have to pay a fine, take DUI classes, do community service, or spend time in jail. You will also likely have your license suspended. However, specific penalties will vary from state to state.
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