You have been arrested with driving under the influence in the District of Columbia. The officer released you from the police station with a notice to appear in D.C. Superior Court. What happens now?
DC DMV License Revocation
First, there are time-sensitive DC DMV consequences that must be addressed. The DMV will automatically revoke your DC license or DC driving privileges unless you request a hearing within ten (10) days if you have a DC license or fifteen (15) days if you have an out-of-state license. If you request a hearing, your license will remain valid until the hearing and will only be revoked if you do not prevail at the hearing.
Second, you must attend the first hearing at DC Superior Court. The first hearing is called an “arraignment,” and usually occurs three to four weeks after the initial arrest. At the arraignment, the government tells you the specific charges that they have brought against you and gives you the police report (or “initial discovery”).
Unless there is a warrant out of your arrest or a pending charge or conviction, there is very little likelihood that you will be taken into custody at arraignment. The Judge will impose conditions of your pre-trial release, however, which usually can include reporting to pre-trial services and taking a preliminary drug test.
DUI Plea Offers
In DC, it is very rare to receive a genuine plea offer from the government until after arraignment. A plea offer is generally extended after both sides have reviewed the discovery, the defense attorney has presented mitigating facts, and the prosecutor and defense attorney have discussed and negotiated an offer.
The plea offers for a DUI charge can vary greatly depending on the facts of the case. The best offer that an individual can get for a DUI case in DC is diversion. In a diversion agreement, the government imposes conditions upon the defendant that has to be completed by a certain date. The government agrees to dismiss the case if the individual completes the conditions.
However, the government has no obligation to extend a diversion plea offer. The diversion option is generally only available to a narrow subset of first-offender cases when the defense attorney presents sufficient mitigating facts to support this option. Generally, the general plea offer extended by the government is to plead guilty to one of the charges in exchange for the government agreeing not requesting significant jail time.
DUI Status Hearing
The second court date is called a “status hearing,” which is appropriately named because the court uses this hearing to determine the status of the case.
At the status hearing, the defense attorney will inform the court regarding whether or not a plea offer has been extended and whether the individual wishes to accept or reject the offer. If the defendant accepts the plea offer, he or she may enter into the plea at the status hearing. If the defendant rejects the plea offer, the case will be set for trial. The defense attorney can also use the status hearing to address discovery issues, such as the government failing to turn over video footage or other evidence.
If the individual chooses not to accept the plea offer, the case will be set for trial.
The trial date begins with the court confirming with the government that they are ready to proceed to trial that day. The government is the only side that must present witnesses because the government has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. As such, if the government’s witnesses are not ready or not available that day, the case can either be outright dismissed or the court can decide to continue the trial to another day. Whether the case gets dismissed or continued is entirely within the discretion of the Judge.
If the government’s witnesses are present and ready to testify, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, the government first puts on their case-in-chief. In DUI cases, that generally includes the officer that initiated the traffic stop, the officer that conducted the field sobriety tests, and the officer that conducted the breath test. The defense attorney has the chance to question (“cross-examine”) each witness after the government elicits the witness’s direct testimony. The defense attorney can utilize this cross-examination to point out deficiencies or inconsistencies in the witness’s testimony.
Following the government’s case-in-chief, the defense has the opportunity to put on its own evidence. Sometimes this entails introducing defense witnesses, such as a friend or spouse who was with the defendant on the night of the arrest and can testify as to how much — or how little — the defendant had to drink. The defense can also introduce video evidence, such as body camera footage, that may be beneficial to the defense’s case.
Following the close of both the government and the defense’s cases, the Judge will determine whether or not the defendant is guilty. The Judge generally has to explain his or her reasons supporting the verdict.
Sealing/Expunging a DUI Conviction
One of the reasons why defense attorneys fight so hard for the government to offer a diversion agreement for DUI cases is because a DUI conviction in particular can never be expunged (or “sealed”) in the District of Columbia.
Therefore, not obtaining a conviction can be very important for individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence in the District of Columbia. As such, it is crucial to have attorneys on your side who are experts in DUI law and litigation, such as the attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel. Call (202) 930-3468 today for a free DUI consultation.