Posted in Atlanta DUI Lawyer on January 23, 2020
Whoever said “the wheels of justice turn slowly” definitely wasn’t describing the process for cases involving driving under the influence (DUI). Here in Atlanta, things move pretty fast when the charge involves suspected impaired driving – even for a first time DUI charge.
Your first court date will be the day after your arrest. If your charges happened over the weekend, your first court date will be the next business day.
What Should I Expect At My First DUI Court Appearance?
The technical term for your first court appearance is an “arraignment.”
During the hearing, the judge will:
- Read the charges against you
- Advise you of your rights to a trial, your right to the counsel of a lawyer and the right to not incriminate yourself
- Ask how you’d like to plead (guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere), and
- Discuss any conditions about your bail.
There’s not much prep work needed for your first DUI court date.
In fact, if you’ve already hired a DUI attorney to represent you, it’s not always necessary for you to show up at all for the initial appearance. Your attorney can handle things while you take care of other things, like work, school, etc.
What’s the Schedule for Future Court Appearances for My DUI Charge?
During your arraignment, the judge will most likely set the dates for the upcoming court appearances.
- Status Hearing. Typically held about two weeks after your arrest, your DUI defense attorney can handle this appearance on your behalf as well. Of course, you’re welcome to attend but it’s not necessary. The purpose of the hearing is for the prosecutor (the state) to let the judge know about the status of evidence, including test results, police video, incident reports, etc.
- Inquiry Hearing. Usually taking place roughly 30 days following your arrest, this is another “check-in” opportunity for the judge to see how the case is moving along. At this hearing, the judge will make sure your attorney has had enough time to review the evidence against you. This is another hearing your DUI lawyer can handle on your behalf.
- Final Plea. This hearing requires your appearance. If your attorney has been able to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor, the terms of the deal are announced at this point.
If no deal has been reached, your case will be moved over to the Fulton County Court House for further action.
What Happens if There Was No Plea Deal or Reduction in Charges?
The fact that your case is now in the hands of the Fulton County Court House is not a bad thing.
It can literally take months or longer for your case to be processed. We’ll use that time to work on getting your driver’s license back to you so that you can travel as you wish.
Also, there’s a good chance your case will not even be heard. Here in the state of Georgia, there is a two-year statute of limitations for DUI charges. Because of Fulton County’s massive backlog of cases, your charges could be dismissed altogether.
Just recently, nearly 30 cases involving DUI charges were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
How Many DUI Cases Actually Go To Trial in Georgia?
Not a lot. While most are resolved through plea arrangements for lesser charges and lighter penalties, some are dismissed altogether.
In addition to the statute of limitations restrictions, some DUI charges are dropped simply because actually proving you were driving impaired is far harder than you may think.
Common problems faced by the state involving proof of impaired driving include:
- False results from breathalyzer, field sobriety tests and tests for urine and blood
- Police not having probable cause to pull you over
- No reliable evidence that you were driving the vehicle, and
- Police misconduct.
If your attorney proves any of the above conditions, it’s likely the court will dismiss the charges against you.
How Should I Act in Court?
It’s simple: dress nice, be respectful, and only speak when spoken to. We understand that being in a courtroom can be an intimidating experience. We’ll take the time to make sure you’re prepared, so there’s little reason for you to worry.
The Bottom Line
Even if this is your first DUI charge, there’s plenty at stake. For example, if convicted, you could lose your driver’s license for up to a year. Plus, there’s higher insurance rates and a criminal conviction on your record
However, by making the smart move and hiring a skilled DUI attorney right after you’re arrested, it’s very likely you can avoid any conviction, and get on with your life.