Most people rarely drink and drive deliberately. It usually happens without prior thought. Many drivers think that they can still safely drive, even if their BAC is .08 or over, but the law in Florida does not agree. An arrest can take place without warning and many of those confronted do not know what to do, or what their entitlements are.
Once arrested and DUI has been confirmed, then a minimum of 8 hours has to be spent in a police cell. Before a release can take place, you must post a bond or “Release on Own Recognizance” (ROR). The bond is completed by providing your own money at the jail (as a money order or in cash). This amount is returned as long when you attend all court appearances when required.
If you cannot raise this amount, then you can use a bail bondsman. This is a little cheaper to begin with as you only have to pay 10% to the bail bondsman, who will then pay the full amount on your behalf. A guarantor may be required if using this method. An ROR can be granted by the Judge as long as he or she feels sure that you will not miss any court appearances. There is no bond attached to an ROR
If you fail to attend a court appearance, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
First Court Appearance
No time is wasted with the first appearance as it takes place within 24 hours of arrest. You must attend this hearing if you have been kept in jail. At this hearing the Judge will read out your charges, check the affidavit (signed statement) which will determine if you have been justifiably charged, tell you that you may have an attorney, and finally decide on the terms of your release, whether through a bond or ROR.
When placed under arrest for DUI, or any other criminal charge related to traffic, you will have been issued with a court hearing date. This is referred to as an arraignment. You must appear at this hearing where you will enter a plea and report to the Court regarding your use of an attorney. If you do not have enough money for an attorney, the Court will take on the job of appointing a Public Defender while at the arraignment. If you do not have an attorney, or your appointed one has failed to appear and file a plea of “Not Guilty” on your behalf, you must go to this hearing.
The judge at the arraignment reads out your charges and you may be asked to enter a plea. You have three options:
- Not Guilty
- No Contest.
It is not a good idea to plead “No Contest” or “Guilty” at an arraignment. You have a right to a trial, so you should take that option.
Notice of Appearance
Your DUI attorney will file for you a “Notice of Appearance”. This document lets the Judge, Prosecutor and the Clerk’s office know that you have an attorney to represent you. A Not Guilty written plea will be filed by your attorney. This gives you the right to a trial if the case cannot be settled beforehand.
A “Demand for Discovery” will be filed by your attorney as well. This means the Prosecutor must give your Attorney certain information, including Police reports, any available evidence and witnesses.
The Discovery Process
The Prosecutor has to respond to your attorney’s “Demand for Discovery”. Your attorney will evaluate the information and, if allowed to do so, will timetable a deposition of the witnesses provided by the prosecution. This means witnesses must take a sworn testimony at the court reporter’s office in the presence of the prosecutor and your attorney. Your attorney will view any video or audio tapes provided by the prosecutor.
As you have the right to remain silent, the prosecutor can’t demand a deposition from you, but the prosecutor may wish for a deposition from your witnesses.
The pretrial hearing will occur a few weeks after the arraignment. This hearing allows the Judge to decide if the case can be settled. Your presence is normally requested at the pretrial hearing.
If you decide to settle your case by altering your plea at the pretrial hearing, a sentence will then be imposed by the Judge.
If you decide to have a trial, then preparation will be required. Your attorney will review all evidence and testimonies. Most criminal charges will be settled by jury. When this happens, the Judge will decide on the law side and the jury will determine if you are guilty or innocent.
The dates for pretrial motions and the trial will be decided by the judge.
At this hearing, the presiding judge will decide whether the prosecution has enough convincing evidence to allow a jury to return a verdict.
This involves settling with the prosecution. This method is discouraged in cases of DUI and, in some states, is not even permitted. This is because legislators think DUI is so serious that it is inappropriate plea bargain.
Your attorney can sometimes reach a settlement with the prosecution to reduce a charge to a lesser one. There might be a possibility of reaching a compromise by pleading guilty to a DUI charge in the hope that the prosecutor will recommend a lesser sentence than if the case was heard at a trial.