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DUI (OUI) Legal Process in Massachusetts

Arraignment – this is usually the day of your arrest, or if your arrest was after hours, the next business day.  This is where you plead not guilty or guilty to the charges against you.  When you plead not guilty, you will receive a copy of the police report and a date to appear for your pretrial conference.  The police report will provide you with a summary of the evidence the state has against you.

Pretrial conference – where you meet attorney who will present the state’s case against you.  Usually, unless the case is completely one-sided, the state will offer you a deal, like if you plead guilty to reckless driving, we will drop the OUI charges or something like that.  If you want the deal, the process is almost over.  If you don’t, you will also be provided a trial date or motions hearings date (if you wish to make any) here and you may file motions for discovery.  Motions for discovery are used to obtain evidence from the state that you wish to present at trial.  Suppose for example you believe the officer had no cause to stop you.  You could file a motion seeking copies of the police car video recording and an officer’s manual.  If the officer’s conduct was in violation of the manual or the car video showed controlled driving on your part, you would want to present this at a motion to suppress.  Even if you lost the motion, you would want to present the evidence at your trial because it supports your case.

Motions hearings – this is where a judge hears arguments for motions and rules for one side or the other on those motions.  Suppose for example your blood test showed your BAC to be above the legal limit.  This would be damaging to your case and help the state meet its burden of proof.  Suppose also that the blood was taken against your wishes and no applicable exception applied.  You could argue the test results to be suppressed by filing a motion to suppress the test results.  If you succeed in getting key evidence suppressed, you can also file a motion to dismiss.  This is basically asking the judge to dismiss your case because by the law, there is no way for the state to meet its burden of proof.

Trial – you may select either a jury (of 6 in Mass.) or bench trial (no jury and the judge serves both functions).  There are no points for selecting one over the other.  The state is not more gracious should you lose because you chose one over the other.  The easiest way to make up your mind is time.  If you want the whole process to be very quick, you should go with a bench trial.  If you do not mind the longer process, you should ask for a jury trial. 

Sentencing – assuming you lose at trail or plead to some charge, the court tells you what the punishment is for your crime, and most of the time, your sentence begins that day.

Appeal – if you wish to appeal your case, you have that option, but an appeal is not another trial.  An appeal is a higher court looking at your case and determining whether or not the lower court handled it properly.  Once your conviction is handed down, you have 30 days in Mass. to file your notice of appeal.  The process is time consuming, and it can take months or longer for your appeal to be heard.  Additionally, you must prove the previous proceeding was unfair in some way, and the appellate court may only hear the evidence present at the previous trial.  No new evidence comes in.  Because the focus of an appeal is only the previous proceeding, grounds for appeal are typically: unfair jury instructions, incorrect rulings by the judge on evidence admissibility, motions, etc . . ., or that your lawyer or the prosecutor did something to make the proceeding unfair.  The fact that you are innocent is not a ground for an appeal.  The other thing to note is that if you win your appeal, it is not a “not guilty.”  You may simply win a new trial opportunity.

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