Can A DUI Case Be Dismissed At Arraignment?
An arraignment refers to the first time you appear before a judge after an arrest. This should happen within the first 72 hours after your arrest. When you are taken before a judge after being arrested, you are referred to as a defendant. As a defendant, it is advisable to get a lawyer before your arraignment. If you cannot afford one, the court you appear before will offer a lawyer for you. An arraignment gives a defendant an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty once charges are read by a prosecutor before a trial date is determined. You can get your case dismissed on an arraignment day and avoid going to trial. Uncover all the details regarding your case before the arraignment day. This should include copies of the arresting officer’s notes, names of witnesses and their contact details, photos and videos from the crime scene, maps or diagrams the prosecution intends to use at your trial, and any written evidence on which the case will be based.
Go through all the information available, and determine if there are some inaccuracies. There are some instances when the prosecution is misinformed because arresting officers may not get all the case details right. If any information contained in the crime reports is not accurate, this can be your basis to request a judge to dismiss your case during an arraignment hearing. Present all the information that you have gathered to your lawyer, and discuss the best way to proceed. The lawyer can file a motion to dismiss on the basis that the prosecution has based its case on false information. Wait for the arraignment day and when the court reads your charges, your lawyer can present the information you gathered regarding your case.
If the information you have is convincing, a judge can rule that the prosecution does not have adequate evidence to bring up charges against you and the case will be dismissed. In some instances, the judge may issue an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. This means that your case can be dismissed within six months from the arraignment day if you avoid arrest during this period. If a defendant gets arrested, the case will be brought up again. Some criminal defendants are better off negotiating with the district attorney early in their case to minimize the consequences. Defendants who believe the case against them is very weak often ask whether it’s possible to negotiate a dismissal before the arraignment.
Unfortunately, this possibility generally exists only for defendants who hire private attorneys prior to arraignment. Defendants who are represented by court-appointed counsel often do not even have counsel appointed until the time of arraignment. And a self-represented defendant should not risk additional legal difficulties by discussing the case with a prosecutor before arraignment (assuming that a prosecutor would agree to meet with the defendant in the first place).
During an arraignment, the charged suspect is called into court by a judge who does the following:
• Inquires whether the defendant has an attorney or needs one appointed
• Reads the charges against the defendant
• Asks how the defendant pleads to the charges
• Determines the bail amount
• Schedules future court dates for further proceedings
• Hands over initial discovery to the defendant (or the defendant’s attorney), which is usually:
1. Copies of police reports;
2. Results of chemical tests; and
3. Results of blood tests.
Every defendant has a right to a speedy trial so courts try to speed up every process. After a DUI arrest, you should be arraigned within a few days and you will be read your charges by a judge and your request for an attorney will be granted. When preparing for your DUI arraignment hearing, you should be prepared whether you want to plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no contest”. If you go to your arraignment unprepared and do not enter a plea, the judge will enter a “not guilty” plea for you on your behalf. If you plead “not guilty” at your DUI arraignment, the judge will set a date for the pretrial hearing. The pretrial hearing usually occurs within 90 days from the date of your DUI arraignment.
If the crime is serious enough and the defendant faces the possibility of jail time if convicted, the individual being arraigned has a constitutional right to an attorney. Police departments and judges everywhere are very aware of this right, and should immediately spring to action when a request for counsel is made by a DUI suspect. Even if the suspect cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney at no cost. A DUI lawyer will be able to make the right strategic decisions regarding time waivers, whether to accept a plea bargain, or a number of other considerations. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to appear on your behalf without you showing up to court.
A common misconception potential client is that a judge will look at their case at the arraignment and just “throw it out” based on their specific situation. This is simply not the case. In fact, the only way a judge can throw out a case (specifically a criminal case, not a civil traffic infraction) is under a few limited circumstances. First, we must understand what happens at an arraignment. The arraignment date is set after an arrest, and it is for the State to announce which charges they are filing. In Utah, rules of criminal procedure “The arraignment shall be conducted in open court or by audiovisual device in the discretion of the court and shall consist of the judge or clerk or prosecuting attorney reading the indictment or information on which the defendant will be tried to the defendant or stating orally to the defendant the substance of the charge or charges and calling on the defendant to plead thereto.” Simply put, at arraignment, the State will read the charges and the defendant will plead guilty or not guilty. The judge certainly won’t look at the evidence to determine if the state has enough to move forward. This was done at first appearance.
In reality, unless there is an evidentiary issue, the judge really won’t look at the facts of your case until the time of trial. You must think of a judge as an umpire in baseball. He or She is only looking to call “balls” and “strikes.” In other words, until the judge is asked to make a ruling on the discovery, or evidentiary issue, he or she won’t have any involvement in your case other than to move it along. Many people have their cases dismissed during the pretrial phase. That dismissal may not necessarily be from a judge; rather it’s a State’s Dismissal.
In Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure, there are four different reasons the judge can throw out a case pretrial.
• The defendant is charged with an offense for which the defendant has been pardoned.
• The defendant is charged with an offense for which the defendant previously has been placed in jeopardy.
• The defendant is charged with an offense for which the defendant previously has been granted immunity.
• There are no material disputed facts and the undisputed facts do not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the defendant. The facts on which the motion is based should be alleged specifically and the motion sworn to.
Specifically, the most common reason for a judge to throw out a case is under subsection. A person who is unrepresented by counsel rarely has the insight to file a motion properly under this rule. So, when someone is suggesting they go to court without a lawyer to see if the judge will throw the case out they are operating under false pretenses. At the arraignment hearing, you will be asked to wait until your name is called. You will be with a number of other defendants awaiting their arraignments or other pretrial hearings. Once you are called in front of the judge, he or she will inform you of a few things:
• Charges: The judge will inform you of the charges being brought against you, and the potential punishments.
• Right to an Attorney: The judge will then tell you that you have a right to an attorney. If you have selected one, he or she should be present with you and inform the judge of their representation at this time. If you do not have enough money or are under certain circumstances that prevent you from obtaining a lawyer, the court can appoint a lawyer for you to represent you in court.
After the arraignment, depending on the judge, if you were held in jail you may be released or there may be a bail amount set for your release. Before a trial can begin, you and your attorney will want to begin preparing. The pre-trial period can be up to about 45 days, or sometimes 30 days if you are being held in jail for a misdemeanor. During this time period, you will have to bolster a solid defense for your trial. You may change your plea to guilty at any time, and your attorney can continue negotiating pleas with the prosecutor as well. If the case is going to go to trial, there are a few things that can be done to prepare for trial.
Discovery is the exchange of information relevant to the case between the prosecution and the defense. Each side will be able to see what evidence is being gathered and what method of defense will be employed. In some cases, this may be the only way for a defendant to review the information included on the actual police report the prosecution is using. While it may seem like bad news that your attorney has to reveal what defense strategy will be used, discovery is actually vital to putting up a good defense against the prosecution. At times, overzealous and unwarranted police action can result in evidence being obtained against you that is not relevant to the case, that is obtained illegally, or that should not have been obtained in the first place. When this happens, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress the evidence that was obtained in this manner. Often times, this motion can be written and sent to the court. However, at times your lawyer and the prosecution may need to have a suppression hearing in front of the judge to determine the next proper course of action. The judge makes the final ruling in these hearings. If your lawyer is successful in suppressing evidence, you may see different charges, or the prosecution may not be able to hold a case.
A motion for dismissal is a tactic your lawyer can employ to get the court to dismiss the charges completely. This is often used when a suppression motion removes key evidence, or when the pre-trial proceedings have been delayed, effectively delaying the trial. On top of this, the prosecutor may choose to dismiss charges based upon further plea bargaining or examination of the case. Once dismissed, you are free to go and move straight on to the expungement process. During this time period, your attorney can also continue to plea bargain with the prosecutor. In certain circumstances, you may be looking at reduced charges if an agreement is reached, if so, a guilty or no contest plea may put things in your favor. Remember that a trial can be a long, grueling, and expensive process for you, for the courts, and prosecutors. The prosecution may want to avoid letting a trial take place and can possibly settle for lower, or dismissed, charges if the situation continues.
Felony crimes often result in the detention of the defendant. After a plea is entered you will either be released or you will have to post bail. The judge will set your bail amount based upon the crime, any danger you may pose to the community, and the overall risk of you leaving the state. If you must be detained, and do not post bail, law enforcement will bring you to and from the hearing. Felony charges carry much more serious consequences than any misdemeanor charges. They have the ability to affect your life for years to come. Because of this is, it is advisable to obtain an experienced defense attorney if you are facing any felony charges. At the preliminary hearing, you are not on trial for your crime.
The prosecutor is charged with the burden of adequately demonstrating there is probable cause you could have committed the crime. This means, that instead of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor will be trying to prove that there is a reasonable possibility that a crime was committed and you are the one responsible. The prosecutor is also responsible for showing probable cause for any prior convictions they wish to factor in, any enhancements or aggravating circumstances to the crime, and any other relevant items that could affect your charges. Similarly, the judge must ascertain whether or not there is valid reason to move forward to a trial. The judge can either move forward with the trial, or if the prosecutor cannot prove sufficient probable cause, can dismiss the entire case altogether. The judge can also reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor charge if he or she deems it necessary. Your lawyer can also make a motion for the dismissal of the charges against you due to invalidity. This is possible after the preliminary hearing, or after suppression motion is approved. If the judge approves, some or all of your charges can be dropped or changed. The Pitches motion calls into question the conduct of the officer who performed your arrest. If the arrest was done with malice, and the officer has a history of brutal actions or misconduct, you may see the charges leveled against you rendered as invalid. This is a common motion for people who are victims of racial profiling, predatory policing, excessive force, evidence planting and entrapment.
A motion typically calls for a hearing between the judge and the officer in question. After the hearing, any relevant files will be released to the prosecution and your attorney.
A Serna motion is used to suggest a dismissal of charges based upon a violation of your right to speedy trial. If you spend a considerable amount of time between your arrest and your arraignment or trial your lawyer may want to argue that the delay was unconstitutional. This motion can also be used if the prosecutor deliberately delayed your case and especially if the effects of the delay were to the detriment of your defense. While these motions are going on, it is also possible for plea bargaining to continue. The prosecutor may offer reduced sentencing and charges if any of your attorney’s motions are successful. Before the trial can even begin, the defense, the prosecution, and the judge must gather to select a jury to hold the trial with.
Jury selection is a long process that involves both sides and the judge asking questions and making motions to either keep or remove potential jurors based on their perceived ability to make impartial and fair decisions. The process of jury selection is known as “voir dire”. During voir dire attorneys from both sides can reject jurors by issuing what is called a “challenge,” challenges come in two forms:
• For Cause: A challenge for cause is the motion to remove a juror based on a reason provided by the attorney. The judge makes the decision as to whether this cause is valid.
• Peremptory: A peremptory challenge is the motion to remove a juror without valid reason, or with no reason given. Each side only has a limited number of these to use.
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