If you or a loved one have been arrested for DUI, the process of navigating the required various court appearances can seem a little daunting, but there is one very important thing you should keep in mind: your lawyer can handle almost all of these appearances on your behalf. There are a handful of hearings that must occur before you and your lawyer can accept a plea deal offered by the prosecution or chose to take the case to trial, but the good news is that you are only required to come to the very last of these hearings (known as the Final Plea). What can you expect if you have been arrested for DUI? Pre-Trial appearances include:
1. The Arraignment
If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you're probably already aware of the fact that your initial court appearance is happening very soon. You are required to make an initial appearances in Municipal Court at 8:00 am the next date the courthouse is open following your arrest. As the court isn't open Friday - Sunday, most arraignments occur Monday at 8:00 am.
The purpose of an arraignment is to schedule the upcoming court dates for your DUI case and for the court to know that you are aware of and understand the charges against you. If you have retained the services of an attorney, you do not need to attend the arraignment. Your attorney can handle this on your behalf (though if you want to attend the arraignment with your attorney, you are welcome to do so). If you have not obtained the services of an attorney, the judge will require that you come back within one to three weeks with a lawyer. This could delay all of the future court appearances related to you DUI, so it is highly advisable that you hire an attorney as soon as you can.
If you are facing an 8:00 am arraignment, please contact my office. You won't need to worry about a thing; an experienced DUI defense will handle this for you.
2. The Status Hearing
Within two weeks of your arrest date, you will have a Status Hearing. This is a chance for the presiding judge to review the process of your case thus far. This includes making sure that the prosecution has obtained all evidence gathered by the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest, such as any reports made by the officers, video footage (if it exists) of the arrest, and the results of breath, urine and/or blood tests. Just like an arraignment, your attorney can handle a status hearing for you. You are not required to attend (but of course you may, if you would like to).
3. The Inquiry Hearing
Within one month of your arrest date, you will have an Inquiry Hearing. This is another chance for the judge to make sure everything is on track with your case. The judge will question both sides to determine if everyone has had a chance to view all evidence gathered in the case and that they each have everything they need to move forward. Again, you are not required to attend the Inquiry Hearing (though you may if you wish).
4. Final Plea
Within two months of your arrest, you will have your Final Plea. At this appearance, you will announce whether you have decided to accept a plea agreement as offered by the prosecution, or if you would like to take your case to trial. You are required to attend the Final Plea so that the judge may have an opportunity to speak directly with you.
If you and your attorney have come to an arrangement with the prosecution and accept a plea deal, you will enter the terms of this deal into the court record. If you have not been able to come to an agreement, you may waive your right to a jury trial and have your case heard by a judge in the Atlanta Municipal Court, or you may go forth with a jury trial. If you chose to do so, your case will be transferred to the State Court of Fulton County.
If you or some you care about is facing DUI charges, please don't worry about these court appearances. I can handle the arraignment, status and inquiry hearings on your behalf without the need for rearranging work and/or child care schedules. Contact my office as soon as possible and we can handle your arraignment even if it is at 8:00 am tomorrow morning.