It is not uncommon for individuals who have been arrested for DUI to delay consulting an attorney. While you have the option to make the initial court appearances alone and hire an attorney later, it may make finding legal counsel difficult. Attorneys require time to prepare your case to represent you properly. The longer you delay, the less time the attorney has to prepare your defense. In addition, there are proceedings that take place early in the process that the attorney is not involved in, which puts the defense at a disadvantage. By postponing the decision to obtain legal counsel, you miss opportunities for early negotiations that can have a significant impact on your case.
Representation at Arraignment
The first step in the legal proceedings following your arrest is the arraignment. This usually takes place a few days after the arrest. During the arraignment, you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. If you have no legal representation at that time, the judge will ask if you plan to hire legal counsel. Should you wish to obtain an attorney or if you already have one that is not present; the arraignment will be continued at a later date. In most cases, you will have already been released. The judge will usually continue the bail that was initially set. The dates for any future proceedings are also announced at this time.
Most people who are arrested for DUI have never been in a courtroom and have little understanding of how the process works. In some cases, the arraignment may be the only time you appear in court. It is critical to have legal advice on how to enter your plea. Additionally, negotiations do take place during the arraignment and having a qualified attorney may present the opportunity to have the charges reduced or dropped. Decisions that you make without the advice of an attorney can seriously affect the outcome of your case.
The Preliminary Hearing
If you have plead not guilty at the arraignment and exercised your right to a trial, the next step is a preliminary hearing. At this time, all of the evidence is examined, and the judge will determine if it is sufficient to charge you with a crime. During these proceedings, the defense attorney may act to:
- Establish cause to dismiss the charges
- Cross examine witnesses
- Enter into negotiations with the prosecution
- Establish a strategy for the defense
- The Importance of Consulting an Attorney Early
Although you can appear in court alone and choose to hire an attorney later, obtaining legal representation early in the process will provide the best outcome for your case. It is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel soon after being arrested and before formal charges are filed. An expert attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed before they are actually filed. Negotiations that may result in a reduction or dismissal of charges are more likely to occur during the early stages of your case. Moreover, inexperienced individuals who have been accused of a crime may inadvertently provide information that could hurt their case. An attorney acts as a legal representative and is proficient at communication with discretion. A DUI is a serious offense, and the earlier you seek the advice of an attorney, the better.
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