Going to court for DUI charges is intimidating. This article will give an overview of the Sacramento DUI process to alleviate some of the nerves everyone experiences before going to court.
The purpose of an arraignment is to make you aware of your charges. Aside from finding out what you are charged with, the arraignment is an opportunity to hear what the District Attorney’s offer is to resolve the case. While you have the option to accept the D.A.’s offer at the arraignment, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney about your case before resolving your case.
Your experience at the arraignment will differ depending on whether or not you retain a private attorney before the arraignment. If a private attorney is retrained, they will be able to appear for you at the arraignment and simply fill you in on what happens in court. However, if you do not hire a private attorney, you will have to either have the Public Defender appointed to your case or represent yourself.
There is a definite misconception about Public Defenders. Public Defenders tend to be extremely experienced and skilled attorneys that will put you in a position to be successful. If you cannot afford to hire a private Sacramento DUI attorney, a Public Defender will speak to you briefly about your case after being appointed, and will likely set up a time for you to meet with them in their office. Be sure to show up to that meeting with any documentation or information that may be relevant to your defense.
Your case may end up on the “No Charges Filed” or “NCF” calendar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the District Attorney isn’t going to file charges. Cases are typically placed on the NCF calendar when the District Attorney needs more time to have blood results analyzed in cases where the defendant chose a blood test instead of a breath test. If the District Attorney “Declines to File,” then you won’t face criminal charges. However, keep in mind that the DMV can (and often does) take action on a license despite the District Attorney choosing not to file criminal charges.
Arraignments for misdemeanor DUIs typically occur in either Department 3 or 4 at the Sacramento Superior Court on 1:30 PM calendar.
Pre-trial conferences or “Further Proceedings” take place in between arraignment and setting the case for trial. The time in between your arraignment and pre-trial conference allows your attorney to conduct investigation and get ahold of discovery that are crucial to your defense. During this time period, your attorney will also make contact with District Attorney to see what kind of resolution can be worked out.
Going to trial or resolving a case is the sole decision of the client. While an attorney can give their opinion, it is ultimately your choice if you want to go to trial. If you decide to go to trial, your attorney will set the case for trial at your pre-trial conference. You have the right to go to trial within 30 days of your arraignment or plea if you are in custody. If you are out of custody, you have the right to go to trial within 45 days of your arraignment or plea. However, these time constraints can be waived, allowing your trial to be set outside the 30 or 45 day time period.
Once your case is set for trial, you will be given two dates: a trial readiness conference date and a trial date. Trial readiness conferences occur on Friday mornings, and provide the last chance to resolve your case. If you do not decide to resolve your case, your trial date will be confirmed at the trial readiness conference.
All Sacramento trials are assigned to Department 9. From Department 9, your case will be assigned to a trial judge in another department. Be forewarned: it is extremely common to not start a trial on the originally scheduled date. In most circumstances, your attorney will be able to give you a heads up that your trial will not “go,” and you will not have to appear. However, there is always a chance your case will need to be continued even if you show up to court. For example, sometimes there are no courtrooms available.
A typical DUI trial lasts 2-3 days. The trial will begin with jury selection or “Voir Dire.” Jury selection allows your attorney to ask prospective jurors questions to help determine their ability to serve as an impartial juror in your case. Once a jury is selected, opening statements will be given, followed by the District Attorney’s case. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine all of the District Attorney’s witnesses during their case. After the District Attorney presents their case, your attorney will present evidence in support of your defense. The trial will then conclude with closing statements, followed by jury deliberations and a verdict.
A notice of appeal must be filed within 60 days of judgment and sentencing.