How to Reduce DUI Stress by Understanding the Justice System
Being arrested for drunk driving is a one-of-a-kind experience that 1.5 million drivers go through each year. There are many types of alcohol offenses, but generally, suspects endure the immediate psychological effects of an arrest similarly. Most people facing a DUI charge often feel significant emotional stress as they worry about what their families and friends will think of them, whether or not their arrest will affect their jobs, what will happen next, what kind of sentence they could face, and so on. If you’re feeling considerable stress from a recent DUI arrest in Orlando, you could find some relief from worrying about your case by simply understanding the judicial process.
First Things First: Know That You’re Not Alone
The situations leading up to and including a drunk driving arrest are often very similar across the board. Most people have difficulty moving on from the memory of the DUI stop and arrest. The trauma accompanying the painful memory may lead to unhealthy habits, which may lead to more complications further down the road.
Anyone with a DUI charge should understand that DUI is one of the most common criminal offenses. People are charged with DUI almost immediately after being arrested, and there is little investigation done by police to determine whether the charge is fair. At most, you submit to a breath or blood test to measure your blood alcohol concentration after your traffic stop, which might not be an accurate reflection of your cognitive abilities behind the wheel at the time police stopped you.
Keep in mind that people of all kinds have DUIs on their records, and most people with a DUI are not who you’d consider hardened criminals. Dozens of celebrities, politicians, athletes, and other influential people have had a drunk driving arrest in their past. So, learn to cope with your charge by knowing what to expect from the justice system.
Why the Long Wait to Resolve Your Case?
Feeling like your case is delayed is a natural part of any criminal trial. There may be several reasons it seems like your case will never reach a resolution. You should trust your attorney to do everything possible to expedite the process or postpone it, if necessary, to gather more evidence that could work in your favor.
Waiting around for your case to get off the ground can exacerbate your stress. Common reasons for long wait times in a DUI case are:
- Scheduling. Several parties are involved in your case, including judges, judges’ scheduling clerks, prosecutors, witnesses, and police officers. Their schedules must line up to tackle your case. Judges also typically have full control of scheduling, so there is often little your lawyer can do to expedite the process.
- Discovery. The discovery process is a fact-finding process that can take several weeks to months to complete. During discovery, your lawyer waits to receive information about your case that can help him create a strong defense.
- Behind-the-scenes proceedings. There may be several things going on behind the scenes that your lawyer will likely not inform you about, including plea negotiations, obtaining and reviewing discovery, or asking for an adjournment.
- A backlog of cases before yours. If the court responsible for your case has a backlog of cases, your case might just be waiting in line for its turn.
The Different Phases Your DUI Case Will Go Through
A significant number of people who are arrested for DUI in Orlando have never before been exposed to the criminal justice system. Knowing the main steps your case will go through should provide some peace of mind.
Step One: Arrest
After an arrest for DUI, which usually happens immediately after conducting field sobriety tests and determining probable cause for arrest, your immediate concerns are posting bond and getting out of jail as quickly as possible. Another priority in this stage is hiring the right DUI defense lawyer to represent you.
Step Two: Arraignment
Your arraignment is your first appearance before a judge, and you may or may not need to be physically present for this depending on whether your lawyer was granted an arraignment waiver. If you do attend the arraignment, the appearance accomplishes two things:
- The court formally informs you of the charge you face and the maximum sentence possible for the charge. The judge also informs you of your right to representation.
- The judge decides whether the bond set is appropriate or if it needs to be increased to secure future court appearances from you. The court may decide to set conditions to your bond to ensure you do not commit the same offense while on bond.
Step Three: Pretrial
A pretrial hearing is a meeting between you and your defense lawyer and the prosecution. The judge may also be a part of this hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to clear up any issues and administrative details before trial so that the two parties can focus on their arguments.
Several things can happen during a pretrial hearing, including:
- The filing of motions
- Requesting to delay trial so discovery may be completed
- Scheduling a bench or jury trial
- Negotiating a charge reduction
- Entering a guilty plea (if appropriate)
Step Four: The Trial
The trial is perhaps the most anticipated and stress-inducing component of any DUI case. Unlike what you see on TV, not many people attend a DUI trial. In a typical DUI trial, the following parties are usually present:
- 6-7 or 12-13 jurors (depending on whether you have a misdemeanor or felony charge)
- The judge
- The prosecutor
- The officer
- Other interested parties
Step 5: Sentencing
If you accept a plea bargain or lose your case at trial, the judge may impose jail time. You may be sentenced a few weeks after your conviction, and jail may be included in your sentence if you were convicted of an alcohol-related crime. The judge who issues your sentence will likely tailor your sentence so that it’s fair for your case. So, if it’s your first DUI and you have no prior offenses on your record, you will likely avoid the maximum possible sentence.
If you’re facing a second or subsequent DUI conviction, you will likely face the minimum sentence, which may increase with each subsequent conviction. Discuss with your attorney how your prior record, if you have one, might work against you. In some cases, it may be possible to have your charge reduced to one that’s less serious. Your lawyer’s strategy should provide peace of mind.
Don’t Stress Your DUI. Hire Competent Orlando DUI Lawyers
The lawyers with The Umansky Law Firm have dedicated a significant part of their careers of more than 100 years combined to tackling DUI and other alcohol charges in Orlando and throughout Central Florida. Our attorneys are former prosecutors with extensive experience defending DUI. Recognized as one of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite in 2018, you can rely on us to fight for the second chance you deserve. Call our office or complete our contact form for a free case review 24/7.