When a person is arrested for driving under the influence for the first time, he/she has no knowledge about what happens next.
Given below are some steps of the DUI journey that you have to go through if you are pulled over:
After a police officer pulls you over
Police officer gives a stop sign for minor or major traffic violation like for speeding, making a turn without using an indicator, forgetting to turn on the headlights etc. After that he will ask you to show your driver’s license or vehicle registration. Then he will run your license to ensure whether it is valid or not.
The police officer is hoping that he will not only charge and arrest you for a minor traffic violation but also for any serious crime like DUI. Don’t give answers to any of his questions such as from where you are coming, whether you have been drinking. If he suspects you have been drinking, he will ask you to perform field sobriety tests or to give your breath for BAC testing. Don’t perform the field sobriety test and decline to give a breath sample because the portable machines are unreliable and can give incorrect results.
The officer may arrest you on suspicion of DUI but it is difficult for him to build a case against you in court without the field sobriety test or breath test results.
Remain calm and cooperative when the officer handcuffs you and takes you to the station.
At the station
The officer may take you to a local hospital first for BAC testing. Your driver’s license will be suspended for a year if you refuse both breath and blood test.
After reaching the station, you have a certain amount of time in which you can contact your lawyer and it is good to decline to answer any questions without the presence of a DUI attorney.
Informal Arraignment Hearing & Preliminary Hearing
You may be booked at the station for a night and you may be taken to a county court to see the judge next morning.
Depending on the severity of your case, the judge will decide whether to keep you in custody or grant you bail.
After you are released, the judge will give you a court date for the Preliminary Hearing between 10 and 20 days. At this time you or your lawyer will be asked to enter a plea.
In that case if you are not granted bail, you will remain booked and your preliminary hearing will be set within ten days.
Pretrial conference & criminal trial
Pretrial conference will be between the prosecuting attorney, your attorney and the judge to determine what facts of the case will be allowed into evidence and what will be not. This conference takes place almost 1 month before the formal arraignment hearing.
If your attorney is unable to work out a plea-deal with the prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office then there is a chance of winning at criminal trial. A criminal trial will be held to determine your guilt or innocence of the charges filed against you. The jury will inform the judge of your decision after which the judge will decide to sentence you.
Fulfilling Court Obligations
You have to pay the fine and penalties ordered by court within the set period of time otherwise you will be arrested. To get your driver’s license reinstated, you will have to satisfy certain administrative obligations with the DMV.
Clear conviction from record
After satisfying the court by paying off all fines, ask your lawyer to request that your conviction be removed from your criminal record. The arrest will stay on your record but the conviction will be removed.
Carl Spector is a former New Jersey Municipal Prosecutor and a former New York City Prosecutor. He now serves as a criminal defense attorney in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.