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Facts of a DC DUI Trial

Following a DUI, an individual can expect to face legal consequences, including a court trial. DC DUI trials can be intimidating if you are unfamiliar with the legal system.

Learning the facts of a DC DUI trial can make the process run a little more smoothly. If you have additional questions about DC DUI trials, reach out to a local DUI attorney, who can explain things, and help you with your case.

Where DC DUI Cases Tend to Be Heard

One of the facts of a DC DUI trial that it is important to understand is where cases are heard, and by whom. DUI cases in Washington, DC, begin in a court presided by a magistrate.

DUI cases in Washington, DC, begin in a court presided by a magistrate. A magistrate is not a full associate judge, they are a level below that. From there, the person charged with a DUI, in consultation with their attorney, can choose to stay with the magistrate to handle the matter or they can proceed to an associate judge.

For a first offense, an individual is eligible for a trial by a judge, also known as a bench trial. For a second or third offense or beyond, an individual is eligible for a jury trial if they so choose. Jury trials are held before associate judges.

From the time someone is arrested, DC DUI cases generally take several months to be resolved.

Prosecution of DUIs in DC

Prosecutors in the District of Columbia aggressively prosecute DUI cases which is one of the facts of a DC DUI trial that is important to keep in mind when crafting a defense.

In DC DUI cases, the prosecutor must prove that someone was appreciably impaired by alcohol or other controlled substances, whether the charge is a DUI charge or an operating while impaired charge.

Appealing to Circuit Courts

Washington, DC has no general district court or a circuit court system. If a person is convicted by a magistrate judge, they can appeal the conviction to an associate judge. They do not get an appeal as a right or they do not get a new trial in front of the circuit court. This is a regular appellate process.

Pre-Trial Conference

A pretrial conference is a hearing by the judge to make sure that the parties going to trial are prepared. It is sometimes called a trial readiness hearing and ensures that the required documents and motions have been filed, all discovery was turned over, and everyone is ready for the trial.

Evidence Presented in DC DUI Cases

The evidence presented by the government in DUI cases is evidence from the police that shows the person allegedly driving, how the driver behaved when they were approached by the police, and whether they were able to hand over their driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance in a way that did not exhibit signs of being under the influence of alcohol or other substance.

Evidence can include the performance on a standardized field sobriety test and the score from a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test.

There is also video evidence that is presented, frequently from a body camera worn by police officers and videos from the police station. More DUI cases rely on videos from the body cameras worn by law enforcement officers.

Sentencing in DC DUI Cases

With or without a trial, once a case is resolved, some people choose to go to sentencing immediately in DUI cases. However, a DUI lawyer may want to take more time and provide documents to show that a person took classes and attended traffic alcohol programs, et cetera.

The sentencing takes place during the sentencing hearing. The judge in the case hears from the prosecutor who typically goes first and asks for a particular sentence.

The defense lawyer can make arguments about that or ask for a different sentence. The person convicted of DUI can make remarks as well. The judge then makes a decision about the sentence.

Factors Considered When Determining Sentencing

The judge takes into consideration various factors when determining the sentence. That includes the nature and circumstances of the alleged incident and whether there was an accident. If there was an accident, whether someone was hurt. The reported blood alcohol level is one of the vital facts of a DC DUI trial that a judge will look at. The judge looks at the person’s background, educational background, work history, and stability in the community.

Also considered are whether the person did community service, took the incident to heart and completed traffic alcohol and traffic safety programs and attended a Victim Impact Panel.

Appealing a Case

If the person goes to trial and loses, they can take their case to the DC Court of Appeals and file a formal appeal.

If they had a trial before a magistrate judge, they must first go to an associate judge for their appeal. If their appeal is denied by the associate judge, they can then go to the DC Court of Appeals.

Hiring a Lawyer

The facts of a DC DUI trial may seem confusing, which is why hiring a lawyer is so important. A capable lawyer can walk you through the process of the case and can help you build your defense.

A local attorney will have a familiarity with the court system that can assist in defending you and ensuring that your rights are protected.

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