Our superior reputation with the courts, the prosecutor’s office, the DMV and future clients is dependant on our vigorous and zealous advocacy in every case we handle including and especially your case. We will be working vigilantly and tirelessly to resolve this matter in the best way possible.
DMV Side of the Case
For you information, in your driving under the influence case, we will be initially contacting the DMV, if you had contacted our office within 10 days of your arrest, to set up an Admin Per Se Hearing to challenge their projected suspension of your driving privilege in the State of California. Almost always, we like to subpoena the arresting officer to this hearing to cross-examine him/her regarding their background, training, experience in DUI cases as well as the specific procedures or lack thereof that were adhered to or not in your individual case. Usually, there is only one DMV hearing but sometimes we may have several depending on the number of witnesses and issues involved in the particular case. Appearance at the DMV hearing is your choice but if you do want to attend we ask that you please notify us and you appear dressed in a professional manner.
Criminal Side of the Case
In terms of the criminal case, your first court appearance is known as your arraignment. This is the hearing wherein the judge advises what charges are filed against you and requests a plea to be entered on your behalf. Our office may decide to continue the arraignment. Depending on the court we may continue your arraignment to allow more time for our investigation and analysis of the facts in your case. If we enter a plea as opposed to continuing the arraignment, we will enter a “not guilty” plea on your behalf. We will then obtain the complaint and police report which we will copy and forward to you within a couple of days for your review. The judge, in concluding the arraignment, will decide whether any conditions should be imposed on you while the case is pending. Usually, in California, first time offenders with no enhancements, accidents and non-lethal blood alcohol levels would not have any conditions other than no drinking and driving. For those more serious cases such as multiple offenders, accident cases, injury cases, the judge could order you to attend alcoholics anonymous meetings, a higher bail, a treatment program, and an ignition interlock on your car. These are some of the possibilities.
We will then schedule a future court appearance known as a pretrial conference. A pretrial conference is a conference prior to trial wherein a number of things are going on including evidence being requested and provided, negotiation of strengths and weakness of the case, scheduling of future court appearances, etc. In between the first and second court appearance, we will be making a discovery request on the law enforcement agencies, crime labs and prosecution offices involved in your case. This discovery request is the method attorneys utilize to obtain the evidence pertaining to your case. This process may take several appearances and a number of months before we secure all the significant items of evidence so that we may be able to give an informed opinion regarding the strength of your case. We will be exploring resolution of your case at these pretrial conferences. In terms of the number of pretrial conferences, there may be as few as a couple or as many as a dozen depending on a variety of factors.
Before trial we may want to file some pretrial motions that may or may not require your attendance to challenge the admissibility of the prosecutors evidence, and a ruling in your favor can result in evidence being excluded from your trial, including evidence of a blood or breath test, the results of some or all of the field sobriety tests, or adverse statements you may have made. Successful pre-trial motions often compel the prosecutor to make an advantageous plea bargain offer, or can result in the dismissal of the charge based on an unconstitutional stop.
Finally, we may even schedule a jury trial date whether or not you desire to go to trial. This additional court date will give us one final chance to resolve the case. If you decide that you want a jury trial in your case, your trial fees will have to be in full five days prior to the jury trial date. Payments for jury trial are not an option. Therefore, start budgeting for trial now. Typically, jury trials with our firm last about four to ten days. The jury trial process is a lengthy one. The first thing we deal with is the motions in limine to exclude/preclude or limit evidence. The next thing we do is start the jury selection or voir dire process. In California, we have twelve person juries and usually one or two alternate jurors as backup. All twelve must agree in order to convict and it will take only one to hang the jury requiring a mistrial. Questions are posed to prospective jurors regarding their bias, prejudices and fitness to stand as a juror in a DUI case. After the jury is selected then both the prosecutor and defense attorney has the option of delivering an opening statement. After the opening statement, the prosecution, since it has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, starts calling their witness against you. Usually, the first witness is the police officer that made the arrest and possible their partner officer. Following the law enforcement officer or officers is usually the person who administer the breath test or who collected the blood test. Following that witness is the state’s forensic toxicologist. This person will be questioned regarding alcohol’s effect on the body, field sobriety tests, objective symptoms, the chemical test and the state rules for chemical testing. After that witness the prosecution rests. After each witness of the prosecution and before their next witness is defense counsel’s opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses the state places against you. Like a skilled surgeon cutting open a patient to expose the problems, our cross-examination of the cop and forensic toxicologist should do no less. Rigorous cross-examination is the only engine for truth in a criminal trial. The people will rest after their last witness and the defense may or may not put on a case. Depending on the state of the case, we may or may not call any witnesses to stand. If we do call any witness it will be the people who were with you that evening, in your car when pulled over, one of the officers not called by the prosecution, a private investigator and our own forensic toxicologist. After we put on our case, the prosecution has an opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses. After that, the prosecution and defense will argue about jury instructions on the law to the judge. Once that has been accomplished both counsel will engage in closing argument. After closing argument, the jury will then be sent to deliberate and attempt to reach a verdict. Sometimes during deliberations, jurors will pose questions to the court and counsel will argue about the appropriate responses. The deliberation process will yield one of two outcomes, a verdict or and inability to reach a decision resulting in a hung trial/mistrial. Depending on how the vote went the prosecutor has the option of re-trying the case at a future date, offering a plea bargain to a reduced charge, or dismissing the case. The court could also dismiss the case should the prosecutor not want depending on the split of the jurors.
Court & DMV Attire
Rarely are clients required to make court appearances until the day we resolve the case so when that does happen please dress appropriately. Please wear a suit, pants with a shirt and jacket, or pants with a shirt to court and professional dress for women. Please do not wear sunglasses, a baseball cap or shorts. When going to court dress and act like you would when applying for a job or attending a funeral.
Please note that after each court appearance a letter will be forwarded to you regarding what occurred at the appearance, when the next appearance is scheduled, copies of any documents relating to your case obtained from the appearance as well as important information which may be needed on your end. In other words, you will be informed throughout this process of all that is going on with your case. If you still have any questions regarding your case that our letters do not address, please do not hesitate to contact our office. My legal assistants can usually answer the basic questions such as confirming court dates, confirming payment due dates, confirming DMV dates, and verifying certain information in the file. If you need to speak with me directly and I am not in the office at the time you call, please leave a detailed message with my staff so that I can return your phone call promptly with a response. For you information, I am usually in court every morning and the best time to reach me directly would be the afternoon.
Remember that you are not to discuss your case with anyone except me, my office staff, and those people I have directed to speak with you. If you have any questions concerning this, please call our office immediately. Furthermore, if you have any documents relating to this arrest, please forward them to our office at once.
In a DUI case with our office, other than reviewing the police report, making your payments, reviewing DMV transcripts, completing the questionnaire, providing documents and witnesses, there may not be a lot for the client to do and that may be a bit frustrating but please be assured that we are working vigorously and diligently on your case so your patience, understanding and consideration will be requested and appreciated.