Florida DUI: The Court Process

Let's face it, getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) isn't something that anyone plans. However, it does happen. If it does, hiring a competent DUI attorney and knowing how the court process works can ease your mind.

How the court process works in Florida

We asked William D. Umansky, a Florida attorney with over 15 years of experience whose practice focuses in the areas of personal injury and criminal defense, to explain how the court process works. Here's what he told us in a recent interview:

  • Arraignment. The first step of the process is called an arraignment. You will want to contact an attorney so that he can file paperwork waiving your appearance at the arraignment. This is done so that you do not have to take time off work to show up to court, enter a plea of not guilty and request a jury trial. The attorney will act on your behalf. While most defendants don't want to go to trial, it's best to request a trial at this point so that the defense lawyer can examine all the evidence against you to see if there are any loop holes or a way to throw out any of the evidence against you.

    An attorney will make sure that your rights are being adequately protected, as opposed to entering a plea of guilty, which means that you get sentenced and convicted to a DUI right there. You definitely do not want to do that in most cases.

  • Pretrial conference. The next step of the process is typically a pretrial conference. At that conference, the attorney again can file a document called a Waiver of Appearance so that you do not have to take time off from work and the attorney can appear in your place. Usually in that pretrial conference, the clients may request that the defense attorney do things such as setting the case for hearings on motions to suppress evidence that's been seized by the police.

    At the pretrial conference, the lawyer will sometimes negotiate the case to see if it can be resolved to a lesser charge such as reckless driving or, if really fortunate, getting the DUI reduced to a civil citation such as careless driving. If the case can't be resolved in a plea-bargain to either a DUI with lesser penalties, reckless driving or careless driving and all other motions have been heard in front of the judge, the defense lawyer will set the case for a jury trial.

  • Filing motions / requesting discovery. A lawyer can file a number of different motions such as trying to suppress evidence obtained from an illegal stop, attacking field sobriety tests as being unreliable, questioning the officer's request that you perform field sobriety tests and attacking the admissibility of the breath test or blood results based upon the reliability of the machine and many other types of motions.

    The defense attorney will also request additional discovery. Sometime before the pretrial date, the attorney will get the discovery and set motions, but many times he won't have that opportunity until the pretrial conference. At that point, if the defense attorney is not ready to resolve the case, then he will ask for a continuance so that he can further prepare your case for trial.

  • Jury Trial. At a jury trial, the government will be required to prove their case against you and must get six people on the jury to agree that you are guilty of the crime. If you are found not guilty, you walk out of the courtroom a free individual. If you are found guilty, the judge will often sentence you on the spot. That sentence can include many different things such as community service, classes, fines, costs and in some cases, incarceration.

If you have a DUI issue, contact an experienced DUI lawyer to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.