Q: What court appearances are associated with the DUI / OVI court process?
A : There are five main stages of court appearances associated with DUI / OVI cases. These stages are: 1) the arraignment; 2) the pretrial hearing; 3) the motion hearing; 4) the trial; and 5) the sentencing hearing.
Q: What is an arraignment?
A : When a driver is charged with DUI / OVI, he or she is issued a traffic citation (ticket) and a court summons with the date and time of the first court appearance (the arraignment). The arraignment usually occurs within five business days following the arrest. At the arraignment, an individual will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. With a guilty plea, the individual will have a DUI / OVI conviction permanently on his or her record. If the individual pleads not guilty, he or she has the opportunity to appeal the Administrative License Suspension and see the prosecution’s evidence in the case. If a not guilty plea is entered, the case will next be scheduled for a pretrial hearing.
Q: What happens at the pretrial hearing for a DUI / OVI?
A: The pretrial hearing is a meeting between the defense lawyer and prosecuting attorney to discuss the case. At the pretrial hearing, the prosecutor will likely make an offer to resolve the case without going to trial (a plea bargain). Each case is different, as are plea bargain offers from prosecuting attorneys. Offers can range from a sentence recommendation for a guilty plea, amending the DUI / OVI charge to a lesser charge, or even dismissing the DUI / OVI charge altogether. If a plea bargain is accepted, the judge imposes a sentence (unless the entire case is dismissed), and the case is finished. If a plea bargain is not offered or accepted, and if there have been motions filed, the case is scheduled for a motion hearing.
Q: What is a motion hearing?
A: The motion hearing in a DUI / OVI case occurs when the defense attorney or prosecuting attorney asks the court for a ruling on evidence. At the motion hearing, the defense attorney can make arguments to the judge that certain evidence should or should not be suppressed (thrown out). These arguments usually have to do with search and seizure, field sobriety tests, and/or chemical tests issues, and can make a significant difference in the result of the case. After hearing arguments from both attorneys and listening to witness testimony, the judge then makes a decision about the admissibility of the evidence. During the motion hearing stage, there is usually still a chance to reach a plea bargain agreement. If no agreement is reached, the case is scheduled for trial.
Q: What happens at the trial stage of a DUI / OVI case?
A: At a trial, both the defense and prosecuting attorneys have a chance to present their case to a judge or a jury. It is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Both attorneys will make opening statements, question and cross examine witnesses, and make closing arguments. After both sides are heard, a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict is read aloud in court. If the verdict if “not guilty”, the defendant is discharged and the case is closed. If the verdict is “guilty”, the case is scheduled for a sentencing hearing.
Q: What happens at the sentencing hearing?
A: The sentencing hearing is when the judge imposes a sentence on the defendant. During the sentence hearing, the judge hears from the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the defendant. Judges have much discretion in sentencing, and there is a wide range of penalties for DUI / OVI cases. Punishment can include license suspension, probation, and/or a jail sentence ranging from three days to six months. It is beneficial to have an attorney speak on behalf of the defendant during the sentencing hearing, to effectively explain why the judge should exercise leniency.
Our practice is focused on DUI / OVI defense, we have experience with the DUI / OVI court process, and we represent clients that are contesting DUI / OVI charges in Columbus and central Ohio. For more information about us, please see the firm overview. You can also see what clients say and review our past case results . We limit the number of cases we accept so we can provide outstanding service to our clients. If you would like to discuss how we can help with your DUI / OVI, EMAIL US or call us at 614-717-1177 to arrange a free consultation.