If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, you may immediately be thinking (and worrying) about having a trial in court. However, there are many proceedings in the courthouse that you must deal with before your trial even takes place. This can seem burdensome to most people, who generally aren't able to take time off on weekday to deal with court appearances. A major upside of hiring an experienced DUI attorney is the fact that if you do so, you don't have to handle these numerous court appearances: your attorney will handle them on your behalf.
The arraignment will be your first court appearance before a judge. In Atlanta, your arraignment will typically happen very quickly (with 24 hours - 3 days of your arrest). If you have been arrested on a Thursday or at any point over the weekend, your arraignment will be scheduled for first thing Monday morning. An arraignment has nothing to do with whether or not you are guilty or not guilty of DUI. No merits of your case will be discussed, and you do not need to worry about making any critical decisions related to the case at this time. The main goal to be accomplished during an arraignment is to set the schedule for all future appearances related to your DUI charge.
Due to the fact that the primary purpose of an arraignment, your attorney can appear without you. Hiring an attorney prior to your arraignment can be of great benefit to you. In addition to the fact that you don't have to be concerned with missing work or other family obligations to deal with your court appearance, if you show up at the arraignment without legal counsel, the court will ask you to report back with an attorney in 1-3 weeks. The practical effect of this is that it will take longer to schedule your court appearances, making the total process of getting your DUI resolved.
No matter what day or time, if you have an arraignment scheduled for 8:00 am, please give my office a call. We answer 24/7 and have a team of experienced attorneys ready and willing to go to the arraignment on your behalf.
The next court appearance is typically held 14 days after your arrest. This is known as a Status Hearing, and the primary purpose for this appearance to allow the judge to make sure all proper steps are being followed in your case. The judge will check to see that the prosecution has received all relevant evidence from the law enforcement agency that arrested you. This evidence can include the report made by the arresting officer, the results of any chemical tests performed, and any video footage of the arrest.
Your attorney can also attend a status hearing on your behalf. Due to the fact that it is a mere check to ensure that things are progressing on track, you do not need to attend this hearing.
Following the Status Hearing, an Inquiry Hearing will be scheduled. An inquiry hearing shall be conducted within 30 days of your arrest date. Much like the Status Hearing, this proceeding is a chance for the presiding judge to ensure that the case is progressing as it should, and that both sides have had a chance to obtain and examine all relevant evidence. As with the preceding appearances, your attorney can attend an Inquiry Hearing on your behalf.
The Final Plea will occur within 60 days of your DUI arrest. This is a chance for you and your attorney to announce if you have decided to take a plea agreement or if you are prepared to take the case to trial. Unlike the previous appearances which your attorney may handle on your behalf, you are required to attend the Final Plea so that the judge has a chance to communicate directly with you.
If you and your attorney have not been able to come to an arrangement with the prosecution, you may request that your case be transferred to the State Court of Fulton County, where it can be tried in front of a jury, or you may waive your right to a jury trial and request that your case be heard by a judge in the Municipal Court.