DUI Legal Process in Mississippi
(1) Arraignment: The DUI arraignment is the first step in the trial process. At the arraignment, the defendant will be read the charges by the judge presiding over the hearing. The judge will then ask the defendant if he has an attorney or if he needs one appointed to him. It is a Constitutional right to have an attorney during criminal proceedings for cases that involve potential jail time. Next the judge will then ask the defendant to enter a plea. If he pleads guilty or no contest, the defendant waives his right to a trial and a sentence will be imposed and this will be the last time he enters the courtroom for this matter. If he pleads not guilty, the judge will announce the court dates for further proceedings. Then the judge will give copies of the police report and the results of any chemical tests to the defendant’s attorney.
(2) Preliminary Hearing: Soon after the arraignment, there will be a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, the judge will determine if there is enough evidence against the defendant for him to stand trial. The prosecution’s case must meet the probable cause legal standard, meaning that both the prosecution and the defense will present arguments and the prosecution may present physical evidence such as police reports, chemical test results and may call witnesses to the stand. The defense may dispute the evidence and cross-examine the witnesses. The preliminary hearing resembles a trial, but it is not a trial. At the preliminary hearing the judge does not determine guilt or innocence, he determines whether the case should go to trial.
(3) Pretrial Motion Hearings: Before the case goes to trial, the defense and the prosecution have the opportunity to make pre-trial motions—arguments to set limits on the trial by keeping out certain evidence, prohibiting certain witnesses from testifying, or dismissing the entire case.
(4) Trial: If the defendant pleads not guilty and the case does not get dismissed at the preliminary hearing or from pretrial motions and the defendant does not accept a plea bargain, then the case will go to trial. The prosecution and the defense will present their evidence and make their arguments before the court. Depending on the type of trial, either the judge or the jury will decide if the defendant is guilty or innocent. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will issue a sentence; if he is found innocent, he will be released.
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