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DUI Trial Process in Alaska

Arraignment: The first court appearance after your DUI arrest is referred to as the arraignment. At this hearing, you will go before the judge who will read you the charges being brought against you and will ask for you to enter a plea. If you plead guilty, the judge will impose a sentence. If instead you plead not guilty, your case will be set for trial. In certain instances, the judge may impose conditions that you must comply with while your case is pending: these conditions may include prohibition on the consumption of alcohol. The court process for felony DUI cases is different than that for misdemeanor DUI cases in Alaska. If you are charged with a felony DUI charge, you will be charged by a grand jury indictment and your trial case will be held in Superior Court.

Pre-trial hearings: The next step is the pretrial hearing, which occurs after your case has been set for trial. The purpose of the pretrial hearing is to update the judge on the progress of your case. Issues such as discovery and scheduling conflicts may be resolved at this stage. A conference with the prosecution may result in a plea being negotiated. If a plea agreement is reached, it will be formally entered on the record with the court. If plea negotiations are unsuccessful, then the case will go to trial.

Pre-trial motion hearings: If your attorney wishes to have certain issues resolved prior to trial, such as suppression of evidence, he must file a motion with the court. If a motion is filed, a motion hearing will be held and your defense attorney will make his arguments. Witnesses may be called to testify and evidence may be presented. Motions to suppress evidence of chemical testing tend to be the most common motions filed in non-refusal DUI cases. If the judge decides to grant a motion to suppress evidence, any evidence of the chemical test results will not be admissible at trial.

Trial: Most DUI cases do not actually go to trial and are resolved beforehand. However, Alaska’s constitution provides that you have a right to a trial by jury when you face imprisonment if convicted. There are two types of trials for Alaska DUI’s: a bench trial and a jury trial.

Bench trials occur where jury trials are not available (i.e. if there is no possibility of a jail sentence). In bench trials the judge serves both as the jury and judge, determining the facts of the case as well as the issues of law. You may also choose to waive your right to a jury trial and elect a bench trial instead. Bench trials are usually more practical when the case deals with complex issues and scientific evidence that would confuse a jury.

In a jury trial, the judge will decide issues of law and the jury will decide issues of fact. Once both sides have presented their arguments, witness testimony and evidence, the jury will deliberate until they have reached a verdict. Once the decision has been made, the verdict will be read aloud for the record. If the verdict is not guilty, the case will be dismissed and your charges will be dropped. If you are found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence, or a sentence hearing might be held to determine the conditions of your sentencing.

Appeal: If you are found guilty, you may appeal your case to the higher courts for review. An appeal request must be made in a timely order in accordance with the rules of appellate procedure or your right to appeal will be waived.

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