THE DUI CRIMINAL PROCESS IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY:
The first stage of the criminal case is known as the arraignment. It is the first opportunity you have to plead not guilty, guilty or no contest to the DUI charge. The judge will decide upon the option of bail and the cost. The following can be handled by a DUI defense attorney:
- Enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf
- Collect the evidence against you
- Briefly discuss the case with the prosecuting agency
- Record exactly the specific terms of any settlement offer
- Set a date for the next appearance or pre-trial conference
For most misdemeanor DUI cases, our Santa Cruz County DUI attorneys can appear on your behalf. Your appearance would be optional. This will help save you time and possible embarrassment from having to appear in person.
A pretrial hearing can be set during the arraignment in misdemeanor Santa Cruz County DUI cases. An attempt may be made to reach a settlement at that time or further pretrial dates may be necessary. Just as in the arraignment, your DUI attorney can appear on your behalf. This means that you will not be burdened with the loss of time from work and your family. When a case is not settled or dismissed, a date for trial will be set.
A preliminary hearing may be set during the arraignment for felony Santa Cruz County DUI cases. Most DUI cases are misdemeanors. But if this is your fourth or more DUI it may be charged as a felony. The case will most likely be charged as a felony if the DUI involved an injury, a death or if children were present.
At this hearing, the prosecuting attorney will present basic evidence about the DUI case. The defense has the opportunity to cross-exam prosecution witnesses. This can help your DUI attorney determine what type of case the prosecution has against you.
If the judge decides there is enough evidence against you to proceed with the felony charges, you will be “held to answer”. You will then have to enter your plea again at a second arraignment, about two weeks later at the trial court.
It is important to understand the time limits in which a case must be brought to trial.
For most misdemeanor cases you have a right to go to trial within 30 days of your arraignment; 45 days if you were not in custody. In felony cases, you have the right to go to trial within 60 days of the second arraignment.
If your case requires additional investigation and research by your DUI attorney before he may request a “continuance”. Therefore, your case may not go to trial for several months. A trial can take from days to weeks to conclude due to several factors. Some factors include the complexity of the DUI case, number of witnesses and experts called upon by the Prosecutor or your DUI defense attorney.
If a jury enters a guilty verdict, the sentencing phase of the trial begins. DUI attorney will attempt to present evidence in your favor and argue for minimum or alternative sentencing. Some of the penalties include jail for up to one year for a misdemeanor or more than one year for a felony. An alternative includes probation instead of jail time.
It is important to retain the services of a Santa Cruz County DUI attorney knowledgeable of alternative sentencing options. In many cases, several alternatives to jail or prison are available for defendants convicted of DUI. These alternatives are also available to defendants about to accept a plea bargain agreement in DUI cases. Some alternative sentencing options to jail:
Alcohol or Drug Rehabilitation
Sober Living Arrangements
Contact our Santa Cruz County DUI Defense Firm to discuss the alternatives available in your case.
Misdemeanor DUI probation consists of either summary or supervised probation. Under summary probation you do not have a probation officer or anyone to report to.
In supervised probations, you are assigned to a probation officer who you must report to on a regular basis. Under supervised probation the probation officer may require drug testing, anger management classes or other drug rehabilitation classes.
While on summary or supervised probation you must obey all the terms of your probation, including not violating any charges. Probation can last from 12 to 60 months.
Although you always have the right to appeal a DUI case or ruling, it is important that you hire an experienced DUI attorney to handle your case from the beginning. When you file an appeal you have to start the entire trial process all over again. Hiring an aggressive and experienced Santa Cruz County DUI attorney will help avoid an appeal.
If you have been convicted or pled guilty or no contest to a criminal charge, an expungement allows you the opportunity to “set aside” the DUI charges and dismiss the case. When an expungement is granted, the DUI conviction will be erased from your criminal record. A person has to meet certain qualifications in order to qualify for an expungement.
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