Orange County DUI Criminal Case
The criminal case for a misdemeanor DUI in Orange County is clear-cut. The steps are arraignment, readiness conferences, motion hearings, and then trial. Below is a summary of what happens at each of these.
The arraignment is your first court appearance for a misdemeanor DUI. At the arraignment, the Orange County District Attorney will give you a document, called a complaint. The complaint tells what criminal charges are facing. At this time, you usually enter a plea of not guilty and a date is set for a readiness conference. (Note: if your arrest was within Anaheim City limits, then the Anaheim City Attorney will give you the complaint.)
After the arraignment and before the readiness conference, your Orange County DUI defense lawyer will meet with the prosecuting attorney to find out what kind of deal they are offering. The options at the readiness conference: set a trial date, set another readiness conference, or accept the prosecution’s plea bargain offer. A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case where the prosecutor offers the defendant the opportunity to plead guilty, usually to a lesser charge or to the original criminal charge with the prosecutor’s recommendation for a sentence that is lighter than the maximum. Usually, at the first readiness conference your DUI lawyer will setup another readiness conference so they have enough time to investigate your case properly. If your DUI lawyer finds it necessary, they can setup several readiness conferences.
A motion is a written or oral application made to a court or judge. The purpose is to obtain a ruling or order directing that something be done in favor of the application. There can be several motions in any criminal trial from either the defense or the prosecution. Your DUI attorney will have as many as necessary for your specific case.
A common type of motion hearing that your Orange County DUI lawyer might use is a motion to suppress evidence. A motion to suppress evidence is an avenue to have evidence excluded from a trial. If the police officer stopped you without probable cause, then you may have the right to have any evidence they gathered excluded from your trial. Your Orange County DUI attorney would present this motion and argue its validity at a hearing and then the judge would decide whether to grant the motion. If this evidence is kept out of the trial, then the prosecutor frequently dismisses the case or offers a good deal. Your DUI attorney will be able to evaluate any offer submitted by the prosecuting attorney and advise you on whether it is a good deal in view of the strength of your case.
Another value of the motion to suppress evidence hearing is that your Orange County DUI attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the law enforcement officer in court. This will give your lawyer the chance to discover the officer’s testimony including a preview of what would happen at trial.
There are a few step your DUI lawyer must take in order the court to hear any your motion. First, your attorney prepares the motion, which is a legal document that includes argument to convince the judge to rule in your favor. Your lawyer makes four copies of the document. Then your attorney goes to the courthouse to give the documents to a court clerk. The clerk sets a date for the motion to be heard in court, in front of a judge. The clerk stamps the documents with the court’s official stamp and gives two copies back to your lawyer. The clerk keeps two copies for the court. Next, your attorney goes to the prosecutor’s office with the two officially court stamped copies. The prosecutor’s office officially stamps one of the copies and returns it to your attorney. They keep the other copy. Your Orange County DUI attorney now has one copy of the motion with confirmation from the court that the motion was filed and a hearing date set. Additionally, the same copy has confirmation from the prosecutor’s office that they were given a copy of the motion.
In Orange County, as well as all of California, when you are charged with a DUI you have the right to a trial in front of a jury of 12 people. The decision whether to go to trial will not be an easy one. You will need to weigh the strength of your case, the plea offer from the prosecutor, and your feelings about taking risk. Along with these factors, you should consider the “trial tax”. Basically, “trial tax” is the price you pay to go to trial. You look at the worst-case scenario in terms of punishment (the sentence you could receive). Many judges in Orange County give harsher sentences to those convicted of DUI after going to trial than to those who plead guilty and did not go to trial. The reasoning behind this is trials use up so much time – the judge’s time, the jury’s time, the prosecutor’s time, the officer’s time to come to court to testify. All of these things make up the “trial tax”.
You could opt for a Bench trial instead of a jury trial. A Bench trial is a trial in front of a judge only, no jury is present or involved. In most cases, you would want to choose a jury trial because most judges are former prosecuting lawyers and therefore lean in favor of the prosecution. However, if the outcome of your trial will be the same whether you have a bench trial or a jury trial, then you may want to choose the bench trial. That way the trial tax will be reduced or eliminated. A situation where you might want to choose a bench trial would be if corpus delicti were a concern. Corpus delicti is Latin meaning “body of crime”. Simply put, the corpus delicti rule states the prosecution cannot use a defendant’s confession at trial without any corroborating evidence. In other words, a defendant cannot be convicted of a crime if the only evidence of guilt is their confession. If a defendant has a corpus delicti issue, then the outcome of the trial will most likely be the same whether the defendant chooses a bench or a jury trial because if the judge keeps the confession out, the defendant will not be convicted, and if the judge lets the confession in, then the defendant will be convicted.
It is easy to understand individuals arrested for DUI are scared and confused. It is a traumatic event in anyone’s life. The need for a qualified DUI criminal defense attorney is numerous and having the right attorney is vital. At Coffey & Coffey we only practice in Orange County and we are extremely familiar with the judges, prosecutors and the criminal system. When you are arrested for a DUI, there are two cases that need attention – the criminal case and the DMV hearing. We can represent you in both. Put our expertise and skills to work for you. If you have been arrested for a DUI in Orange County, call Coffey & Coffey the Orange County DUI specialists today.