Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common crime in the United States. DUI statistics are both stunning and alarming at the same time.
Did you know that an American dies every 2 hours due to an alcohol-related accident? Accidents involving alcohol cost Americans nearly $40 billion in damages each year. Lastly, there are roughly 112 million alcohol-related incidents each year.
For this reason, state and local police operate DUI checkpoints across the country. Everyone sees the increased police presence on major holidays like New Year’s Eve.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about the DUI court process. Explore DUI-related topics like the trial process or the pretrial hearing.
What Is Louisiana’s DUI Law?
Before walking through the DUI court process, it is important to understand the law in Louisiana. For starters, the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08 percent. Anything at this level or greater is considered a criminal offense.
You can also be arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance or a combination of alcohol and legally obtainable drugs. In addition to vehicles, the law in Louisiana also covers boats and aircraft.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI?
DUI penalties vary depending on how many times you have been arrested. The penalties increase in severity for second and third DUI offenses.
If you are charged with a DUI, the typical penalties are fines or jail time. In some instances, the judge will order installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) inside the vehicle.
A third DUI offense is considered a felony in the state of Louisiana. You are looking at up to $2000 fines and up to 5 years in jail time.
For first and second offenses, the penalties are slightly more lenient. For example, fines range from $300 to $1000. Jail time, on the other hand, ranges from 10 days to 6 months.
The judge does have some flexibility with sentencing. One option is to give DUI offenders house arrest or probation instead of jail time.
In addition, those charged with a DUI risk losing their license. For a first offense, license suspension lasts 90 days with the potential for a hardship license after 30 days. Duration of license suspension grows with each subsequent offense. A second offense, for instance, earns a full-year suspension.
The above suspension dates apply for BAC ranging from 0.08 to 0.2 percent If your BAC is greater than .2 percent, license suspension can run from 2 to 4 years. There are additional penalties for underage drinkers and refusing to take a DUI test.
What Is the First Step in the DUI Court Process?
The first step of the DUI court process is called an arraignment. Here, you will appear before a judge who will read off the charges against you.
The legal process also requires you to enter a plea at the arraignment. Your plea determines the next step in the DUI court process.
If you enter a no contest or guilty plea, the next step is sentencing. A not guilty plea, however, moves the case towards a trial where the judge reviews evidence collected and the circumstances behind the charges.
It is highly recommended to consult with a DUI attorney before entering an arraignment plea. Failing to utilize the expertise of an attorney could lead to more severe penalties than necessary.
At the arraignment, the judge will also advise you of your legal rights. Another topic of discussion is bail and release conditions.
What Is Discovery?
Discovery occurs between the arraignment and the preliminary hearing. The primary responsibility falls to the prosecutor during discovery.
The state or local prosecutor provides your attorney with all available evidence. In terms of a DUI, this likely includes a BAC test, police videos, or an arrest report. Your attorney reviews the discovery information so that he or she is prepared in court.
What Is a Preliminary Hearing?
A preliminary hearing is the next step in the DUI court process. This occurs for defendants that have entered a not guilty plea at the arraignment.
In this step, the state or local government’s prosecutor seeks to establish probable cause. In the state of Louisiana, this is a constitutional right afforded to defendants. The prosecutor needs to convince the judge that there was probable cause to believe that you committed a crime.
Several things may occur during the preliminary hearing. For example, the prosecutor may call witnesses to the stand. Your attorney will be given an opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses.
What Is the Next Step After the Preliminary Hearing?
If the prosecutor successfully establishes probable cause, your case goes to trial. The trial process starts off with the selection of a jury.
When the trial begins, each side makes an opening statement. Then, the evidence is presented to the court from both the prosecutor and the defendant. Evidence is crucial to establishing innocence or reasonable doubt to the jury.
Finally, both sides make their closing arguments and the case enters jury deliberations. This is where the jury decides your guilt or innocence.
What Is the Final Step?
The final step in the DUI court process is the sentencing hearing. If the jury determines you are guilty, the process moves to this step.
The judge hands down a sentence. Depending on your circumstances, your sentence could include jail time, fines, or a suspended license. In other cases, the judge may settle on probation, community service, or rehab.
What Are Some Tips?
The majority of DUI cases are resolved during plea bargaining. If you decide to fight the charges, a strong slate of evidence is necessary.
First, understand exactly why you were pulled over. You should respectfully ask the police officer if you were disobeying traffic laws.
As soon as possible, you should document your recollection of the incident. Try to record as much information as possible including what the officer told you. Finally, take care to retain any physical evidence or exchange contact information with any witnesses.
A DUI is a serious offense in the state of Louisiana. You are looking at hefty fines and potential jail time if found guilty of a DUI.
The best course of action is to hire a DUI attorney to guide you. If you need help navigating the DUI court process, please contact us to schedule an appointment today.