The DUI Process


What you need to know before you go to court.

So you were pulled over for a DUI in Arizona and you have a ticket that tells you need to go to court in a few weeks. You’re probably stressed, confused and preoccupied about the fact you have a criminal charge against you. If you are worried about going to court alone, worried about what will happen when you get there, this website is for you.

We believe that you should do as much research as you can to arm yourself with the information that you need. When you speak with a DUI attorney, you will be better prepared to ask the right questions.

DUI BASICS

We will cover the basics of Arizona DUI law. How the court system works, what the penalities are, and some of the defenses an attorney can use to win your case. First, you need to understand that every year thousands of good, law abiding people get charged for DUI. Celebrities, teachers, executives find themselves charged with DUI. It is far more common than you think. Because of this, the court system is almost overrun with DUI cases. Go to the city of Phoenix Court on a Monday morning and look at the line that snakes out the courthouse entry. Go across the street and look at the security line in Superior Court. Any DUI Lawyer will tell you that huge numbers of people face DUI charges every year.

THE FIRST COURT DATE

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Despite what you see on TV, it is very unlikely that the Judge or prosecutor are spending any time whatsoever thinking about your case. The police officer who arrested you has probably arrested hundreds of people just like you. To them, you are a number, that’s it. So don’t worry about the embarrassment of going to court. You will be with hundreds of others who similarly are worried about their own situation. Even if you do not retain a DUI law firm, you can feel confident about going to court. No one will single you out.

Your first court appearance for a misdemeanor DUI is not a trial. It isn’t usually a very important hearing. It is simply a not-guilty arraignment. People worry about telling a judge that they are not guilty because they feel like they might be telling a lie to the court. Don’t worry, the procedure of pleading not guilty at the beginning of a case is a formality.

It doesn’t mean that you are going to take your case to trial. It just means that you want some time to research your options. Felony DUIs also have arraignments, but those cases can be more complex.

Judges can impose release conditions that put you in jail while your case is ongoing. It may be best to call some DUI lawyers before you proceed.  If you plead guilty at the arraignment, you will probably be sentenced the same day. We typically advise people to enter a plea of not-guilty so that the case can be set to a pre-trial conference. At that conference, you will be able to look at police reports, speak with an attorney who can negotiate a better outcome with the prosecutor. There really is no hurry to quickly resolve your case.

FELONY vs MISDEMEANOR DUI

There are many different types of DUI in Arizona. There are misdemeanor DUI charges that vary depending on the type of substance in your system and the amount of alcohol.  People confuse extreme and super extreme DUI with felony aggravated DUI.  While the terms sound similar, the cases are quite different.  In Arizona, a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor when the defendant has one DUI prior within the past seven years, the defendant’s driver’s license was not suspended or restricted, there was no serious injury accident and no child in the car under 15.

The seriousness of the misdemeanor DUI depends on the amount of alcohol in the driver’s system and whether or not the driver has a DUI prior within the past seven years.  The most serious DUI would be a super extreme DUI with a prior.  That offense carries with it a mandated sentence of six months in jail.  However, a DUI with a blood alcohol level less than .10 with no prior historical DUIs carries with it a sentence of 24 hours in jail.

DUI PENALTIES

For a first offense DUI, (Blood alcohol concentration between .08 and .15) and if you have no other DUIs within 7 years, you typically face 1 day in jail, fines of around $2,000 and drug and alcohol classes. A DUI conviction also requires that you install the alcohol interlock device in your car for a period of 6 to 12 months. Most people with this type of DUI lose their license for 30 days, then get a 60 day restricted permit that allows them to drive to work or school. DUI attorneys will tell you that there is quite a bit of difference between courts when it comes to jail time and fines. Please remember that every case is different and you can call one of our DUI lawyers at any time to get more specifics about your case.

When you get arrested for DUI, the police may take your license and give you a temporary 15 day restricted license. If this happens, you need to request a hearing with the MVD before the 15 days expires if you want to challenge the suspension. The MVD is difficult to work with, so we advise anyone with questions about their license to speak with a DUI attorney.

For a second time DUI within 7 years, (as long as your driver’s license was not suspended at the time of your impaired driving), you are facing 30 days and drug and alcohol classes. Interlock device is required and a second offense DUI will suspend your license for one year. However there are two other types of misdemeanor DUI, extreme DUI and Super extreme DUI. Extreme DUI has a legal blood alcohol limit of .15. Super extreme DUI has a blood alcohol limit of .20. Convictions for these DUIs carry with jail sentences ranging from 30 days to six months, depending on your blood alcohol level and any prior convictions.

HOW JAIL WORKS FOR DUI IN ARIZONA

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If you are convicted of a DUI, they don’t haul you off to jail from court. You get an order from the court to self-surrender. You get to pick a date usually within 30 days of your court hearing to start your jail. For most DUIs, people who have sentences of 2 days or longer are eligible for work release.

Work release allows people to be released from jail for 12 hours a day, 5 days per week. Home detention may also be possible depending on the court. If your sentence is longer than 15 days, you may be able to serve the rest of your sentence from home. You have to wear an ankle monitor and follow the same time schedule as work release.  For felony DUIs, jail and work release may not be available. Felony Aggravated DUI is charged when the driver is 1) Impaired to the slightest degree and either has a suspended license at the time of the impaired driving or has two other DUI convictions within 7 years.

There is another form of aggravated DUI for driving impaired with children 15 or younger in the car. If you are charged with aggravated DUI you should probably speak with an attorney before you go to court. Depending on your criminal history, you could be facing substantial time in prison. Fines for DUIs are very hefty, but most courts allow people to make payments. However, some courts are stricter than others. If you have the resources to pay, usually the court will try to make you pay immediately.

HOW DO YOU WIN A DUI CASE?

So that’s that bad news if you are convicted of DUI. However, there are ways to beat DUIs in Arizona. Let’s look at the top six DUI defenses.

  1. A DUI can be thrown out if there was no reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. You would be surprised how many times police officers fail to state in their police reports why a person was pulled over. Without clear evidence of a traffic violation, your case may be thrown out.
  2. A DUI can be thrown out if there is no probable cause to arrest. A police officer may only handcuff someone and take them to the station if it is more likely than not that they committed a crime. If you did not do the field sobriety tests or answer questions about your consumption of alcohol, your case can possibly be thrown out.
  3. Blood has to be taken in a very controlled and specific way. A violation of the rules can lead to the blood being thrown out.
  4. Blood can be retested. If the blood retest is lower or substantially different than the first test, the case can be thrown out.
  5. The police also need to probe that you were driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle. Without witnesses to put you behind the wheel, the case can be thrown out.
  6. Breath testing machines are notoriously inaccurate. Problems with the breath intoxilyzers can lead to a DUI case being thrown out.

We know that being charged with a DUI in Arizona is stressful. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call 602-989-5000. You can speak with former DUI prosecutors who can discuss the specifics of your case. Remember, every case is different, that’s why we offer a free consultation for anyone with questions about a DUI. If you do decide to hire us, we offer affordable fees and payments that fit your budget. We never perform credit checks. So if you have any questions whatsoever, call us at 602-989-5000 now. Please keep in mind that DUI laws are changing, and do no substitute this information for advice from a DUI attorney who can analyze your case. Here are some issues we will consider.

The DUI Traffic Stop in Arizona

A DUI arrest in Arizona begins with the traffic stop. A police officer only needs “reasonable suspicion” of a traffic offense to pull a driver over. Generally, minor traffic violations such as speeding, running a red light, disregarding traffic signs, swerving through lanes, and/or driving with your headlights off are valid grounds for a police officer to perform a traffic stop. You should respectfully submit to an officer’s request to provide your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance during the stop. However, since most evidence later used against you is gathered during the initial traffic stop, Alcock and Associates, P.C. recommends you exercise your right to remain silent and contact one of our DUI defense attorneys before answering a police officer’s questions and before consenting to any field sobriety test.

The Arrest

An arrest can occur for either a felony or a misdemeanor traffic offense. For a felony crime, police must have “probable cause” to make an arrest. Probable cause requires that an officer have objective, reliable information that the person has committed this offense. The standard for arrest for a misdemeanor crime is reasonable suspicion. This is a lower standard which involves the subjectivity of the arresting officer. A misdemeanor arrest can be made if the officer believes there is a warrant or if a crime occurred in the presence of the arresting officer. It is important for a motorist to remember what the arresting officer did and said during the course of the arrest. For example, an officer’s failure to read Miranda rights may be grounds to dismiss the case or stop the prosecutor from introducing certain evidence. Our DUI defense attorneys are often able to use an arresting officer’s failure to comply with all of the standard forms of conduct to the client’s advantage.

The Booking

Following a DUI arrest, a motorist will be booked at the jail, or at a transitional facility, and will usually be released shortly afterwards. It is not typical to go to jail following a DUI arrest. The term “booked” represents the procedure of having an officer formally input your biographical and personal information into the police database. Additionally, the booking may involve a lawful search conducted by police with or without consent of the motorist, getting fingerprinted, and getting a photograph taken. If someone you know has been arrested for DUI and has not been released, you can acquire booking information by calling the jail where that person is being detained. You will need information such as the inmate’s booking number, his/her date of birth, and full name. The jail should release information on the charges, any future court dates, the arresting agency, and the bail amount.

Charges Following Arrest

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Following your booking and release from detention, the police will likely have gathered all the information necessary to submit the charges to the prosecuting agency. If you consented to a chemical blood test, they may have to wait for days, weeks, or even months for a lab to process and return the blood alcohol concentration results before submitting your charges.

Your charges will be filed once law enforcement has gathered all the relevant information they need to support a case against you. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor DUI, the officer will give you a citation (usually a pink slip of paper) with a court date on it. You will be required to appear in a county justice court or a city municipal court on the date on the back of your ticket.

Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to make sure that you attend court.  If the letter from the court gets lost in the mail, the court will probably issue a warrant.  If you have been arrested for a crime, it’s good advice to continuously check the court to make sure no court dates have popped up.

DUI COURT PROCEEDINGS

Every case is unique, one of our DUI attorneys can carefully go over all of the details of your case to help you understand what happened and what is going to happen. A typical misdemeanor DUI timeline includes the following:

The Arraignment

This is the date found on your citation or ticket, it requires that you first appear before a judge following a DUI arrest. This is the time where you are formally charged and your bail (if any) is set. If you were charged with a misdemeanor DUI and have hired a DUI defense lawyer, you would typically not need to attend this hearing. By pleading “not guilty,” you preserve the right to a jury trial, the right to attack any legal violations during the investigation or arrest, the right to confront the arresting officer, and the right to negotiate a plea. If you plead “guilty,” you waive those rights. Pleading not guilty at this hearing will not hurt your case and is always recommended.

The Preliminary Hearing

This is the next step in your Arizona DUI case. The judge will decide whether there is enough “probable cause” to support the DUI. At the preliminary hearing, bail can be adjusted or imposed if it has not been determined at this point.

The Pretrial conference

This is an opportunity for your attorney to get documents from the prosecutor, file pretrial motions, negotiate for a plea agreement, and potentially enter a plea. If you do not enter a guilty plea, and your case is not dismissed by the prosecutor, the court will eventually set the matter for trial, which may be advantageous if the plea bargain or “deal” offered by prosecution is less than desirable.

Trial management conference

Not long before the DUI trial, the judge will schedule a final management conference to discuss pretrial motions and to ensure that the parties are ready to proceed to trial.

Trial

This is the final step in the Arizona DUI process. A DUI trial typically lasts about three days. As a defendant in Arizona, you have the absolute right to a jury trial. However, you can waive this right and have the trial in front of the judge. This is called a bench trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you with the decision to proceed with a jury trial or a bench trial.

The first step of a jury trial is to select a jury. A defendant is supposed to be tried in front of a “jury of peers” so any potential jury pool should include representation from a broad range of the social spectrum. During jury selection, the judge and lawyers can ask potential jurors questions to reveal potential biases, preconceived notions, and/or prejudices. Selecting the right jurors is crucial to a favorable outcome in a DUI case, and the attorneys at Alcock and Associates, P.C. are capable and qualified in this area.

After the Jury has been selected, the State will proceed with opening statements. The opening statement is not evidence. Instead, this is an opportunity for the prosecuting attorney to inform the jury about what they will hear throughout the trial. After the State’s opening statement, the defense attorney can choose to make an opening statement or choose to reserve the opening statement for later on in the trial.

After opening statements, the prosecuting attorney will put forward all of the evidence that they have to prove their case. Evidence can be in the form of officer testimony, civilian witness testimony, expert testimony, and the presentation of physical evidence (pictures, graphs, charts, etc)

After the State has rested, or finished their case, defense then has the option of providing a case to the jury. It is common for a defense attorney not to provide a case and then argue insufficiency of evidence. This argument explains to the jury that the State must prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. Then, the defense carefully points out that the evidence provided to the jury by the prosecutor is insufficient to support a guilty verdict. On the other hand, a defense attorney could also present a case to the jury. Just like the State’s case, a defense attorney can provide witnesses and crucial evidence to the jury.

Jury Deliberation

After the prosecutor and the defense attorney have finished providing all of the evidence to the jury, the jurors must then deliberate to reach a verdict. There is no way to measure how long a jury will deliberate on any given case. A jury may deliberate for minutes or days. Once the jury has reached a unanimous verdict, the judge’s clerk will read the verdict in open court. If the verdict is not guilty, all bonds will be exonerated and the accused will have been acquitted of the charges. If the jury says that they can not reach a unanimous decision, the court will declare a mistrial and set a new trial date. If the verdict is guilty, defense will proceed to sentencing.

Sentencing

A sentence is generally issued immediately after a defendant either enters a misdemeanor plea agreement or is convicted at trial for a misdemeanor. A sentencing for a felony conviction will usually take place approximately 30 days after the conviction or guilty plea. Remember the trial judge is at liberty to consider a broad range of factors which may lead to a harsher sentence than the minimum standard. At the same time, judges are at liberty to consider positive factors such as community standing, first time offender status, community support, family support, etc… which may diminish the severity of a sentence. At Alcock and Associates, P.C., our attorneys will do everything in their power to ensure that all favorable factors which may lead to a lighter sentence are presented to a trial judge before the decision is issued.

Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) Process

In a DUI case, there will be an MVD hearing completely separate from your criminal case. The MVD hearing concerns suspension of your license, which in turn can affect practically every aspect of your life, from earning your livelihood to getting yourself and your family members around town.

M.V.D. suspensions and hearings will vary depending on your actions leading up to and during your DUI stop/arrest, as well as your prior driving history. Normally you have the right to an M.V.D. hearing following suspension of your license. Often, however, you are required to request the hearing within fifteen days following your DUI arrest. Failure to request a hearing within this time frame could result in the loss of your right to an MVD hearing and automatic suspension of your license.

Please call our team of DUI attorneys at any time to learn more about the system and what the DUI law firm of Alcock and Associates can do for you. Our free consultation DUI attorney hotline is 602-989-5000. Thank you. Nick Alcock, Attorney at law, Alcock and Associates Law Firm, 2 N. Central, 26th Floor, Phoenix, Az 85004