If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence in Rhode Island, it is very important that you be familiar with each step of the process so that you are comfortable navigating the court system. The following three steps are common in any RI DUI case:
- Pre-trial Conference(s)
After the arrest, the charging police department will schedule an arraignment. An arraignment is an initial court appearance. The arraignment which will take place at one of the four District Courts in Rhode Island, depending on where you were arrested.
At the arraignment, the judge will read you the charges that the police department has filed against you and ask you to plead guilty or not guilty. Whether you plead guilty or not guilty can have a significant impact on what happens with your case moving forward. If you plead guilty, the case is over and you will be sentenced at the arraignment, without the ability to review the evidence against you or to negotiate with a prosecutor. If you enter a not guilty plea, the arraignment and the DUI process continues.
The judge will also set bail for your release. In a first offense DUI charge, the judge will almost always order that you be released on your own recognizance, meaning you would not have to pay anything unless you fail to appear at your next court date or you violate the conditions of your bail by failing to keep the peace and be of good behavior (getting arrested on new charges).
At the end of the arraignment, the court will schedule a pre-trial conference, which is generally held approximately two (2) weeks from the arraignment.
If you are not familiar with the legal process, the arraignment can seem like a very daunting task. The attorneys at Abilheira Law have years of experience in guiding clients through the arraignment process with successful outcomes. Our attorneys can appear with you at your arraignment, advise you on how to plead based on the facts of your case, and negotiate to get you a reasonable and fair bail.
The pre-trial conference is the heart of any criminal case. This is when the case is transferred from the police department to a prosecutor. The prosecutor is then tasked with reviewing the case and making an offer to the defendant and/or their attorney.
During the pre-trial conference, you may request a discovery packet from the prosecuting attorney, which will contain a copy of the evidence that the prosecution plans to use in its case against you. This might include the police report, witness statements, breathalyzer or chemical test results, and video and/or photographs. DUI charges are very technical and require several elements to be present in order for the prosecutor to meet its burden of proof. This is why it is essential to have a trained RI DUI attorney review the discovery packet.
Once the discovery is received and reviewed, the prosecuting attorney will meet with the defense attorney (or the defendant if they represent themselves) to discuss the facts of the case and potential resolutions. At this time, the prosecutor will make an offer to resolve the case by way of a plea agreement. It’s helpful to have a skilled RI DUI lawyer at this stage of the case. Your lawyer can present facts about you, exploit potential weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, and present any legal defenses to the charge. An experienced lawyer may also convince the prosecuting attorney to dismiss the charges against you altogether.
Based on the complexity of DUI cases, the amount of discovery and the importance of negotiating, the pre-trial conference phase of the case is likely to require several court appearances and could take several months to complete.
The next step of the case, if you have not already reached a plea-agreement or dismissal, is trial. In District Court, DUI trials occur in front of a judge only, not a jury, unless you explicitly request that the matter be transferred to Superior Court for a jury trial.
In a DUI trial, the prosecutor has a burden of proof. This means that they need to convince the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of a DUI. As such, the prosecutor is required to present witnesses and evidence. Your RI DUI attorney will then have the ability to cross examine the prosecution witnesses. At the close of the prosecutor’s case, your attorney may make a Motion to Dismiss, asking the judge to dismiss the case for their failure to meet their burden. If the judge grants the motion, the case is over and the charges are gone. If the judge denies the motion, you as the defendant then have the opportunity to present your own witnesses, including testifying on your own behalf. At the close of the defense’s case, closing arguments will be made by both lawyers. The judge will then weigh the evidence and reach a decision.
If you are found not-guilty, the case is over and you are free of these charges. If you are found guilty, the judge will issue a sentence. However, if you are found guilty, you have the immediate right to an appeal. This means, that your case can brought to the Superior Court, where you start this process over again and have the right to a jury trial.
The attorneys at Abilheira Law have years of experience in handling DUI trials in Rhode Island. Our DUI law firm in Providence can work with you to put together a strong defense and get you the best possible outcome in your case. Do not wait, call us today at 401-245-5100 and get our skilled RI DUI lawyers on your side today!