DUI Legal Process in Texas
A DUI in a Texas court follows a four step process: Arraignment, Pre-Trial/No Issue Court Dates, the Trial, and the Appeal. The Arraignment is an initial court date where the defendant enters a plea (i.e guilty, not guilty, or no contest). A date will then be set for trial by the judge following the entering of the plea.
The Pre-Trial/No Issue Court Dates are preliminary trial steps in which the motorist’s attorney gains access to the prosecution’s case and evaluate the strength of the claims. Furthermore, any pretrial motions that need to be made, such as a motion to suppress or a motion to dismiss, are made at this stage. Any plea bargains, agreements made between the two parties without the need for a verdict from the court, can also be submitted to the court at this time. All plea bargains must gain the court’s approval before becoming legitimate. Lastly, a “trial call” may occur, this is when the court meets with the parties to determine if both sides are prepared for trial.
The trial itself, consist of a “voir dire” which is a jury selection process designed to help both sides of the case determine that they jury is without bias. After that the two sides give their opening statements, and the prosecution begins the presentation the state’s case. In order to sustain a conviction, the prosecution must prove each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Both sides will attempt to meet or discourage this burden through the use of objections to evidence, testimony and /or procedural misconduct. The defense is then entitled to cross-examination which allows them to examine and display weaknesses in any testimony admitted by the prosecution, as well as admit their own evidence. Finally, the two sides each give closing statements to the jury; who then remove themselves from the court room to deliberate. Once deliberations have finished, the jury will render a verdict.
The final step, the appeal, is at the discretion of the defendant and requires a written brief be submitted to a court of appeals. The defendant must make a claim that a procedural or legal error was made during the course of the trial. If heard, the court will determine whether the ruling was sound (affirmed), whether it was improper (reversed) and whether it merits a new trial given new legal circumstances (reversed and remanded).
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