DUI Legal Process in Virginia
Arraignment – Arraignment is the first time in this process that one will make an appearance before the court. During arraignment the judge will read the charges against the defendant and the defendant will enter a plea. If a plea of not guilty is entered the process will proceed to sentencing. If a plea of not guilty is entered a date will be set for trial.
Pretrial Hearings – During pre-trial conferences both attorneys will inform the judge of the progression of the case. If there are any issues with discovery or scheduling conflicts the date for the case may also be postponed at this time as well. Also during pretrial hearings the prosecution may offer a plea bargain; if so, the defendant’s attorney will go over the plea bargain and discuss both the benefits and consequences of the agreement. If the defendant decides to accept the agreement the case will end here. If, however the defendant does not want to accept the agreement offered then the case will be set for trial at the agreed upon date, whether the same as set at arraignment or the postponed date discussed at the hearing.
Motion Hearings – Motion or evidentiary hearings are requested by the defense when there is an issue with the admissibility of evidence. During these hearings both attorneys will go before the court and the judge will rule on the issues. The types of issues brought into these hearings are the admissibility of evidence, testimony of witnesses, challenges to arrest or stop, and motions pertaining to the discovery process. At these hearings both attorneys will have a chance to question witnesses, present evidence and other testimony will be presented. At the close of the hearing the judge will determine what is and is not admissible. When one’s defense attorney is challenging whether the chemical test was in administered in substantial compliance with the relevant statutes the prosecution has the burden to prove that the test was administered in compliance. If the prosecution cannot prove that the statutes were substantially complied with regarding the chemical test then the test will not be admissible as evidence at trial. If the prosecution prevails at the motion hearing they may offer another please agreement; if so, once again one’s defense attorney will discuss the agreement’s positives and negatives. If the plea agreement is denied or none was offered the case will go to trial.
Trial – There are two types of DUI trials in the state of Virginia: a jury trial and a bench trial. At a jury trial there are seven jurors who will decide any issues of fact in the case. Any issue of law will be decided by the judge. In a bench trial the judges makes both issues of law and fact. The defendant has the right to choose between a bench trial and jury trial and the defendant’s attorney should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both especially in cases with very complex issues of fact which may confuse the jury. During the trial both sides will call witnesses and cross examine the other side’s witnesses. The prosecution again has the burden of proof, which means they must prove each and every element of DUI at trial. If they do not meet this burden and the defendant is found not guilty the charges will be dropped and case will be dismissed. If the prosecution meets the burden and the defendant is found guilty the defendant will then be sentenced. If the defendant is not happy with the outcome of the case they may appeal.
Appeal – An appeal must be done within a certain amount of time and a defendant considering appealing the judgment of a DUI case should consult with an attorney.
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