ANATOMY OF A DUII CASE
Not everyone who is arrested for DUII is guilty and an arrest does not equate to a conviction. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, you probably have a lot of questions – that’s why you need an attorney. Your legal representation can make or break your case. I understand the stress and uncertainty of facing a criminal charge and want to help you understand your legal situation to give you the best chance of beating your case
Stopped By The Police
The DUII process begins when you are pulled over by a police officer either because he suspects that you are driving under the influence or because he believes you have committed a traffic violation (speeding, etc…). Usually an officer will claim that you appeared under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The officer will likely say that you smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, or had bloodshot eyes. Do not admit to drinking. Invoke your right to having a lawyer present and do not answer any more questions. The officer will probably ask you to do field sobriety tests. Under no circumstance should you consent to performing these tests. The officer will attempt to convince you to do them. You should not. Most people mistakenly agree to perform field sobriety tests and then they are arrested. The officer will use your performance on these tests to justify arresting you, regardless of your performance. The police frequently violate people’s rights during this process.
When a person is taken into police custody, he/she has been officially arrested. The officer must have “probable cause” to arrest you. He should read you your Miranda rights. Your car will be searched and it may be towed. You will be driven to a location where you are faced with the decision whether or not to provide a breath sample. You should ask to speak to a lawyer and you should call a lawyer. Your specific circumstance will determine whether or not you should provide a breath sample. If your rights are violated during any part of the investigation against you then your lawyer may be able to convince a Judge to exclude certain pieces of evidence that would otherwise be used against you.
The officer will make a decision either to have you jailed or to release you. Your information will be collected, you will be searched, and you may be fingerprinted and photographed. If you are jailed then your property will be inventoried and will be held at the jail. If you are jailed then bail will be set and you will have your charges read to you by a Judge within 48 hours of your arrest. In Oregon it will cost you 10% of your bail amount to be released. For instance, if your bail is set at $15,000 it will cost $1,500 for you to “post bail” and be released.
Your arraignment is your first court appearance. It can occur either when you are in or out of jail. Typically a Judge will read you the charges that you are facing, advise you of the maximum penalty that you are facing and ask you what you want to do with your case. It is important that you have consulted with an attorney by the time you appear for this proceeding because the Judge will expect you to make a decision. If you retain an attorney then you can likely avoid this court appearance. If I am your attorney I will give you the option and you can decide whether you want to appear at this court proceeding or not. At the end of this appearance the Judge will give you another court date, typically called a Pre-Trial Conference or a Status Hearing.
Pre-Trial Motions and Hearing
If you decide to litigate your case and if you retain a skilled lawyer then he or she will likely be able to spot issues and defenses in your case that will lead to pre-trial motions. Often these are in the form of a “Motion to Suppress Evidence.” At a Motion to Suppress the defense will ask the Judge to exclude evidence from trial because the evidence was obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights.
I am very experienced in reviewing cases and identifying whether a Motion to Suppress should be filed in your case. I will need to see every piece of discovery (police reports, etc…) to make this determination. I have had tremendous success in filing and arguing these motions. In many of them the evidence that is excluded is important to the prosecutor’s case. For instance, I may be able to suppress any of your statements, your performance on the field sobriety tests, the results of your breath test, or your identification. Without this evidence the prosecutor is sometimes forced to dismiss a case.
Even if your case does not go to trial, your lawyer needs to prepare your case as if it will be going to trial. Trial is the state’s official opportunity to prove that you committed the crime of DUII. They must prove their case to a jury and they must convince the jury of your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Trial generally has five stages to it. They are
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Witness testimony – Cross examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury deliberations
If the jury finds you “not guilty” then your case is over and you will not be convicted of the DUII. If however, the jury finds you “guilty” then you will likely be sentenced by the Judge. At the time that you are sentenced by the Judge you will be convicted of the crime of DUII. Depending on many different factors, the Judge will likely impose a sentence with the following conditions:
- Jail – between two and 180 days of jail
- License suspension – between one year and a lifetime revocation
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- Fine of at least $1,000
- Court fees