If you have been arrested for DUI you can expect a court date in your near future. Bellingham Courts tend to have defendants appear in court within days of the arrest. Therefore it is critical you speak to an experienced Bellingham criminal defense attorney as soon as you are able following your release from custody. The first court date is called an arraignment and is the time when you will enter a plea of NOT GUILTY. It is also the time when you will be advised of your Rights and the potential penalties when facing a particular charge. Importantly, at the arraignment the Bellingham Judge will issue conditions of release which must be followed in order for you to stay out of further trouble. Typical conditions of release include “staying out of bars and taverns,” not driving without a license and insurance and no new criminal law violations. If you are under the age of 21, which many defendants from Western Washington University are, you will receive the additional restriction of not consuming any alcohol during the pendency of the case. If you have a prior DUI arrest you can also expect the Bellingham Court to order the installation of an ignition interlock device within 5 days of the arraignment. The power the Judge has at an arraignment makes it clear why it is essential to have a qualified Bellingham DUI attorney by your side as soon as possible.
Following the arraignment, the next court date in Bellingham Municipal Court or Whatcom County District Court is the pretrial (often called the “Omnibus Hearing” in Whatcom County). This court date is usually scheduled approximately two months after the arraignment and appearance at this, and all court dates is mandatory. This court date is used to settle cases when a plea deal can be reached between the parties, to confirm for motions or trial or most often, to continue the case to continue negotiations between the parties.
One possible court date that may be discussed between yourself and your Bellingham attorney is the “Motion Hearing.” A motion hearing may be confirmed to argue whether the evidence in your case is admissible at trial. Such motions may argue whether the initial stop and contact of you was justified and lawful, whether the arrest was supported by probable cause, whether the field sobriety tests were administered in accordance with NHTSA standards, whether your statements are admissible and importantly, whether your breath test or blood draw was completed following correct procedures and protocol.
The scariest of all court dates is the Jury Trial. The strength of your Jury Trial will depend on the facts of your case and the success at the motion hearing (what evidence was excluded for trial). Importantly, the success at trial is also determined by the skill of your Bellingham lawyer. Understanding how to present evidence and how to successfully argue a defendant is not guilty of a serious crime such as DUI is not an easy craft to master – and remember, not all Whatcom County DUI attorneys can do this well. If there is even a small chance of your case proceeding to trial it is strongly advised that you talk about Jury Trial with the attorney you consult with prior to retaining counsel.
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