What to Expect: Court Hearings and the Department of Licensing
The court and DOL processes are entirely separate from one another—what happens in one has no effect on the other—with few exceptions.
DUI COURT PROCESS
First, a few pointers on court decorum:
Casual business attire is fine. Remove your hat, silence your cell phone and don’t talk in the courtroom while court is in session. When it is your turn, let your attorney do the talking. Court hearings are recorded whether you can see the microphone or not.
Step #1: DUI Arraignment
Your court case begins with a mandatory arraignment hearing at which most plead “not-guilty”. You receive notice of this date from the arresting officer, or by mail.
At the hearing, the judge will impose conditions of release while your case is pending. These may include:
- that you have law abiding behavior,
- not consume alcohol or non-prescribed drugs,
- not drive without a valid license and insurance,
- and not refuse a breath or blood test if you are arrested for a similar offense.
If you have prior alcohol-related offenses, you may have to:
- post bond or bail,
- install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- and/or be on electronic detention with alcohol breath testing.
Be mindful of your conditions of release. If you violate them, the court could revoke your release, set bail (or raise your bail) and order that you be taken into custody. At your arraignment, you will be given notice of your next court date, usually a pretrial hearing.
Step #2: Pretrial Hearings
Pretrial hearings are case status conferences. If your case is not too complex, it may resolve at the first pretrial hearing. Otherwise, it may take several pretrial hearings before your case is set for trial or otherwise resolved.
Step #3: Motion Hearings
A motion hearing may or may not occur in your case. If your attorney requests that the court suppress evidence or raises a legal challenge, you may have a motion hearing.
Motion hearings are like miniature trials, often with witnesses. The judge will hear the evidence and arguments from both sides and grant or deny the motion.
Step #4: Readiness Hearings
Confirmation or readiness hearings are set when the parties have been unable to reach an agreed disposition of the case at the pretrial hearing stage. There, the parties must inform the court whether they are ready to proceed to trial, or whether they are not ready due to the unavailability of witnesses or for other reasons—under such situations, the hearing may be “continued” to another date.
Step #5: Trial
If the case is set for trial, there may be a specific date for trial or the court may require you to be “on call” such that your trial could be called at any time and you must make yourself available within a matter of hours. Although this “on call” process can be very stressful, lawyers on either side have little to no control over the situation—it is a function of the court making sure that the defendants with the oldest cases go first. If you go to
Although this “on call” process can be very stressful, lawyers on either side have little to no control over the situation—it is a function of the court making sure that the defendants with the oldest cases go first. If you go to trial and are found not guilty, your case is over.
Step #6: Sentencing Hearings
If you pleaded guilty to the charge or to a reduced charge, or were found guilty at trial, you will have a sentencing hearing.
Sentencing may take place immediately after the trial or plea is entered, or may be set on a different date. The judge will announce your sentence at the hearing. As long as you comply with all the conditions of your sentence, this should be your last court hearing on the case unless you appeal a guilty verdict.
Step #7: Review and Revocations Hearing
If you violate the conditions of your sentence, by not completing the requirements the judge ordered, or by committing another offense, the court will set a review or failure to comply (FTC) hearing.
Your appearance is mandatory at all court hearings. At pretrial hearings, the court may agree to waive your presence if extraordinary circumstances exist. If you fail to appear for a hearing and your presence is not waived, a warrant for your arrest will likely be issued. We can work with most courts and prosecutors to arrange appearance dates that can accommodate your schedule.
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