When a person is charged with driving under the influence in Atalanta, they typically face a series of about 4-5 hearings in Municipal Court, which take place over a six month time frame. This may sound like an unrealistic time commitment for the average person balancing work, family and other obligations, but it is important to remember that your attorney can attend many of these court appearances on your behalf.
The Municipal Court of Atlanta DUI Process
Date of Arrest: The day that you were placed under arrest for driving under the influence will determine the dates of the subsequent hearings.
24-48 Hours After Arrest: Arraignment: This is your first appearance before a judge. The purpose of this hearing is to demonstrate that you are aware of and understand the nature of the charges brought against you. If your arrest occurred on a Thursday night or at any time over the weekend, your arraignment will be scheduled for Monday. If you were arrested on a weeknight, your arraignment will usually be the next day. The DUI arraignments are scheduled in Courtroom 5A and are overseen by the Honorable Judge Christopher Ward. If you do not have an attorney representing you at arraignment, you will be instructed to retain one prior to your next appearance (a status hearing). If you have retained an attorney, your attorney may attend the arraignment on your behalf. You do not need to be present.
2 Weeks After Arrest: Status Hearing: This is the second appearance before a judge. The purpose of this hearing is for the judge to get an understanding of how the case is progressing. If you were not represented by an attorney during arraignment, the judge will see that you have representation at a status hearing. The judge will also check in with the attorneys prosecuting your case. He will determine if they have obtained all of the evidence for the arresting officers that is available. This typically includes any chemical test results, video recordings, and arrest reports. Your attorney may attend the status hearing on your behalf. You do not need to be present.
30 Days After Arrest: Inquiry Hearing: Similar to a status hearing, an inquiry hearing gives the judge an opportunity to see how the case is moving along. However, at this later-stage hearing, both sides should have reviewed all of the available evidence in the case and have a general idea of what the next step will be. In many instances, discussions regarding plea agreements will begin around this time. If that has happened, the parties will inform the court, and move forward. Your attorney may attend the inquiry hearing on your behalf. You do not need to be present.
60 Days After Arrest: Final Plea: The purpose of this hearing is for the defendant to inform the court whether or not a plea deal has been agreed upon. There are three possible next steps at this stage:
- The defendant may exercise his or her right to a jury trial. If this happens, the case will be transferred out of Municipal Court and to the State Court of Fulton County. Pre-trial proceedings will then begin.
- The defendant may waive his or her right to a jury trial and elect to have a bench trial. This means that the case will stay in Atlanta Municipal Court and a judge will make the ultimate determination of guilt.
- The defendant may agree to a plea agreement with the state. If this happens, the parties will lay out the terms of the plea agreement and the next step will be to fulfill the agreed upon terms.
No matter which of these three options you and your attorney determine you will pursue, you must attend the Final Plea. Your attorney may not attend this hearing without you present.
From this point forward, the timeline will depend upon which course of action you took during the Final Plea. If you made an agreement with the prosecuting attorneys, you will begin to fulfill the terms of your plea agreement. If you are headed for a bench or jury trial, these should be scheduled and completed within 180 days of the date of arrest.
If you are scheduled for arraignment tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, or if you have already begun to try and navigate the Municipal Court process on your own, please contact me as soon as possible. If we decide to work together, I can handle the next court appearance on your behalf.