How a DUI Case Makes Its Way Through the Atlanta Court System
When a person is charged with driving under the influence in Atlanta, they are understandably overwhelmed, especially if they’ve never been charged with a crime. It’s often the things we don’t know or understand that cause us the most anxiety. Being accused of DUI is certainly cause for worry, but you may be able to calm your nerves a bit when you know what to expect.
If you have been charged with DUI in Atlanta or the surrounding area, the process of going to court will take a route that is fairly typical. Your path may vary slightly due to the unique circumstances of your stop and arrest, but here is what you can reasonably expect to happen.
1. Being Charged
The first thing that will happen is that you will be arrested and charged with the crime. You will be taken into custody and asked to provide certain pieces of information, such as your name and birthdate. You may also be asked other questions about this incident; do your best to not answer anything beyond simple identifying questions. You have a right to silence.
You will probably be provided with a bond and offered the opportunity to secure your release from custody. If you are reading this article, this may have already happened to you.
Your arraignment is the first opportunity you will have to enter a plea. You may choose to plead guilty or not guilty. At this point, you will be asked whether or not you can afford an attorney or require that the court appoint one to you. If you tell the court that you cannot afford an attorney, you may be required to complete paperwork detailing your income and expenses. Before your arraignment, give us a call for a free consultation about your case.
3. Motion Hearing
A motion hearing is not the same as your trial. If you plead not guilty at your arraignment, this will be the first step in the trial process. Some people call the motion hearing the “trial before the trial.” Evidence may be introduced in order for a judge to determine if there was enough probable cause for your arrest.
You may not have a motion hearing if your attorney advised you to accept a plea agreement with the state. If you did not already enter into a plea agreement, it may still happen. Your attorney can work out a deal with the court on your behalf at almost any time during the process. Many courts encourage these deals as a way to ease the burden on an already-clogged system.
If the judge determines that there is enough evidence against you to proceed and you have not entered into a plea agreement, the next step in the process will be your actual trial. Your trial may be held before a judge or a jury.
During your trial, the state will produce evidence to prove that you committed the crime you are accused of. In this case, that crime is driving under the influence. The prosecution may present physical evidence such as video footage, pictures or the results of a chemical test you submitted to. The prosecution may also call witnesses in order to prove their case, including the police officer that stopped you.
Your attorney may also present evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. Your attorney may decide to question you or determine that it is in your best interest to not testify. Your attorney may call expert witnesses to refute the evidence presented by the prosecution. None of this will be a surprise to you because you and your attorney will have already discussed your trial strategy.
If you are found guilty of driving under the influence and don’t have grounds for or don’t file an appeal, you will be sentenced. While sentencing is at the discretion of the judge, they must follow certain guidelines set forth by law.
In Georgia, you may be sentenced to:
- Up to a year in jail for a first offense, fines up to $1,000 and a one-year license suspension
- Up to a year in jail for a second offense within 10 years, fines up to $1,000 and a 3-year license suspension
- Up to a year in jail for a third offense within 10 years, fines up to $5,000 and 5-year license revocation
- Up to 5 years in prison for a fourth offense within 10 years, fines up to $5,000 and 5-year license revocation
If you are found guilty in court and believe that there has been some mistake in the law, you can appeal your case with a higher court. It is important to note that you can’t appeal simply because you don’t like the decision. In order for a higher court to hear your case, you must be able to show that you believe there to have been some type of legal error.
Speak to an Atlanta DUI Attorney Today
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in DeKalb County, having an experienced DUI defense attorney by your side is in your best interest. Reach out to our team and schedule a case evaluation. We will review the details of your stop and arrest and tell you how we can best assist you.