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DUI Legal Process in North Dakota

After an officer takes away the driver’s license and issues a temporary license, the driver is entitled to request an administrative hearing regarding the revocation/suspension.  This hearing is limited to issues regarding the issuing of the license.

The first step in the criminal process is the arraignment.  At the arraignment, the court will formally read the misdemeanor/felony charges against the driver.  The driver will then enter into a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).

If the defendant is being charged with a felony, there will be a preliminary examination to determine whether there is probable cause that the defendant committed the crime to continue the trial.  At this hearing, the prosecutor will present witnesses and evidence to support its case.  The defendant can refute the charges with witnesses or evidence of his/her own.  If the court concludes that there is enough evidence to proceed, then the driver must plead guilty or continue onto trial.  In misdemeanor cases, the court will usually not conduct a preliminary hearing and instead the judge will determine whether or not probable cause exists on his/her own.

At trial, the defendant has a choice between a bench trial (in front of only a judge) or a jury trial.   If the defendant chooses a jury trial, then there must be jury selection.  Misdemeanor cases are heard by 6 jurors.  However, for class A misdemeanors, the defendant may request a jury of 12.  All felonies are tried by 12 jurors.  Once the jury is chosen and sworn in, both sides will give opening statements to lay out their cases.  The prosecution will present its witnesses and evidence first, then the defense may present any of its own witnesses or evidence.  Each side may cross-examine their opposing side’s witnesses.  The trial will conclude with closing statements, and then the jury will deliberate.  In order to reach a verdict, the jurors must agree unanimously.

If a defendant is convicted, he may appeal to the next highest court as a matter of right.  On appeal, the appellate court generally will not review the facts but rather will look to see if there was any abuse in discretion or clear errors of the trial court.  The justices will uphold the conviction, reverse it, or remand it for retrial.  If the conviction is upheld, the defendant may try to appeal to the state supreme court.  However, the Supreme Court may choose not to hear the case.

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