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The DUI DWI Trial Process



There are several stages to the DWI trial process. Many times a DWI, also known as a DUI, doesn't even make it to the trial portion of the case. Sometimes the accused will strike what is known as a plea agreement with the prosecution, the party in charge of proving your guilt. A plea agreement is when you admit guilt in exchange for a lighter sentence. However, if your DWI case does go to trial, you will want familiarize yourself with the process.

Before Your DWI Trial

Before your trial takes place, there are several other phases that will greatly influence the trial process.

As soon as possible after your arrest, you will want to exercise your constitutional right to an attorney. DWI lawyers can help you understand the charges against you and your drunk driving defense options. A defense is what you use to try to convince the jury that you are not guilty of the DWI charges.

Soon after your arrest, you will have what is known as an arraignment. An arraignment is when your DWI charges are read out loud against you in court. You then will have the opportunity to enter your plea. There are several pleas you may choose from in most states. These are:

  • Guilty: This means you admit to driving while intoxicated.
  • Not guilty: This means you claim you did not commit DWI.
  • No contest: This means you refrain from admitting to DWI, but you also do not dispute the facts of the case. This plea is usually used if you expect a related civil lawsuit to be filed against you.

After the arraignment, you will have a preliminary hearing. At these hearings, the prosecution will present their evidence to the judge, who will then determine whether there is enough to possibly convince a jury of your guilt.

This will be your attorney's first time to see the prosecution's evidence. The evidence may influence your attorney's decision to try to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecution in order to ensure you a lighter sentence. However, in some states, plea agreements for DWI cases are not allowed.

Before trial, your attorney will likely make one last attempt to get your case thrown out through what are known as pre-trial motions. These motions may object to certain evidence, such as bottles and cans found in the vehicle, or certain testing, such as your blood-alcohol testing results.

The DWI Trial

If your DWI case makes it to trial, then it will take the course of most other criminal trials.

The proceedings will begin with jury selection. Once the jury has been established, your attorney and the prosecutor will each deliver an opening statement. This is where the prosecution will provide evidence to prove your guilt and where your attorney will assert your DWI defense.

Next, the prosecution will call witnesses to the stand, and your attorney gets the opportunity to cross-examine each witness.

Once the prosecution has presented its case, your attorney will likely try to file a motion to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence. If this motion is granted, the case will be dismissed. Otherwise, your DUI attorney will call and question your witnesses and the prosecution will cross-examine them.

After both sides have presented all of their witnesses, the attorneys will deliver their closing arguments.

The jury will then deliberate and come back with a decision. If you are found not guilty, that will be the end of your DWI case. If you are found guilty, the judge will deliver his sentence, which may include one or more of the following:

  • A fine
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • A short jail sentence
  • Alcohol or drug counseling
  • A longer jail term, especially for repeat offenders or accidents that result in serious injury or death to another

Your state may also choose to suspend your driver's license.

If you have additional questions about the DWI trial process, you should consult a DWI attorney.