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DUI Process in Alabama

The DUI process in Alabama involves an arraignment, a preliminary hearing, and possibly a trial and an appeal as well.  When a person is arrested for DUI in Alabama, the arresting officer has up to 72 hours to inform the accused of the charges against him, or alternatively to bring the defendant before a judge.  This 72-hour requirement can be waived, however, if the police can show an emergency or some sort of unusual consequences such that they need more time to develop a charge.  After a person is arrested and taken to the police station, there is an arraignment where the convict pleads guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges in front of a judge.  It is at this stage that a defendant may request to speak with his attorney.  If he has no lawyer, he has the right to be appointed one by the state.  Then dates will be set for pre-trial hearings.

On arrest, convicts may have to pay bail to be released.  This is based on the suspect’s previous criminal history as well as seriousness of the offense in question and the suspect’s behavior around police.  Often a suspect is released on his “own recognizance”, meaning no bail is paid but rather the suspect merely signs a form promising to appear in court when summoned.  Bail is normally granted in most DUI cases in Alabama, and a defendant with a DUI charge is typically entitled to a preliminary hearing in the state.  During this hearing, the court will analyze if a crime has in fact been committed and whether the convicted person is probably in fact guilty of the crime.  Witnesses and evidence can be offered by the state and then refuted by the defense.  If the court determines the defendant is likely guilty of the charges brought against him, the defendant must plead guilty, or alternatively go to trial by pleading not guilty to the charges.  Most DUI cases in Alabama do not go past the preliminary hearing stage.  In most cases, arraignment is the last exposure in court for the defendant, since many defendants are opposed by strong evidence of driving intoxicated.

However, if a plea is not granted or the sides refuse to compromise there will be a trial.  This will involve both the prosecution and the defense making preliminary opening statements, followed by the prosecution presenting its evidence and witnesses.  The defense has the option of cross-examining the prosecution’s witnesses.  The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The defense may rely on this burden and hope the state is unsuccessful with its charge, or additionally the defense can bring forward its own case and evidence to rebut the evidence offered by the prosecution.  Criminal trials in Alabama require juries unless the defendant specifically requests a bench trial where the judge or a panel of judges decides the outcome at their discretion without the assistance of a jury.  If there is a jury, the members are selected from a larger group of potential jurors based on both the prosecutions and the defenses preferences, as both sides have the ability to exclude potential jurors by using “peremptory challenges”.  After closing arguments are made, the jury will be issued its instructions by the judge and will deliberate until they agree on a verdict.  The verdict reached by the jury must be unanimous, meaning all jurors are in agreement as to the outcome.

If a defendant loses the case and is convicted, he has the option to appeal the charge in Alabama.  If you lose the case (through trial or on appeal), there are several potential penalties, including fines and prison sentences, depending on the nature of the conviction and the defendant’s previous criminal history and behavior.  The defendant will also be subject to some sort of probation or alternatively community service programs to promote public welfare.  Some states will force convicts to install “ignition interlock” devices in their cars to prevent driving above a certain BAC level, though such devises are not used in Alabama.

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