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DUI Legal Process in West Virginia

After being pulled over, if the driver shows any signs of slurred speech, smell of alcohol, or lack of orientation, then the officer may suspect DUI. According to his judgment, the officer will conduct a few tests, and arrest him for a DUI. Then the police officer must inform the driver of the charges that are made against him and bring the defendant before a judge or magistrate. This must be done within 48 hours of the arrest, but there may be exceptions depending on extraordinary circumstances. If it is the driver’s first or second conviction of a DUI, it will be a misdemeanor offense, which will be tried in magistrate courts. If it is his third time, or there are other factors that may be involved which would lead to his charges being a felony, then the case will go to circuit courts. Unlike magistrate court, where the case proceeds directly to trial, the defendant in a circuit court will have a preliminary hearing.

Any driver who cannot afford an attorney may have one appointed for him. When the defendant appears in court, the judge will first tell the defendant about the charges facing him or her and the punishments that are possible for a conviction. If the driver hasn’t already been released, the court will consider whether to release him on bail before the trial. Bail is likely in West Virginia DUI cases, and the court may enforce other obligations to the driver such as bonds, promises to appear on certain dates, etc.

In circuit court, the court will next conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether the defendant is probably guilty of that crime. At the proceeding, the party for the state will present evidence to try to prove that the driver was guilty of drunk driving, while the driver will try to challenge or refute the evidence. If the court decides that the defendant is guilty of the crime, then the driver-defendant will have to plead guilty or go to actual trial. Then, a formal arraignment will be held. In the arraignment, the official record of the charges against the defendant will be read aloud and entered into the official record, along with the driver-defendant’s lea. The driver must plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges. If the driver does not plead guilty, then the case will go to trial.

The DUI defendant has the right to a jury trial in both magistrate and circuit courts, but must request it in writing within 20 days of the first appearance in magistrate court. Magistrate courts use juries of 6, while circuit courts use juries of 12. Trial begins with the jury selection and the defendant may participate in the process of selecting them. Once the jury is selected and sworn, there will be an opening statement by both sides with the prosecution beginning. The State will present its witnesses and evidence, and the defense may challenge the State’s case by cross-examining State witnesses. The defense may put on a case of its own or may rely on the burden on the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the case was tried in a magistrate court, the defendant has a right to appeal to the circuit court within 20 days.

Administratively, when a driver is convicted of a DUI in West Virginia, his driver’s license is suspended and revoked. The driver may challenge the suspension or revocation of his license by requesting an administrative hearing within 30 days from the date of his arrest. If he fails to make his request within the 30 days, he will not be granted a hearing and the officer’s revocation of his driver’s license will stand.

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