One of the scariest parts of a DUI arrest for Atlanta drivers can be getting told that they have to be in court at 8:00 am the next day. You barely have time to wrap your head around the fact that you've been arrested for something and you have to be in court that soon? For some drivers, they can be due in court in a matter of hours. If you find yourself in this position, there's one important thing you should know: if you hire an attorney as quickly as you can after your arrest, you don't need to worry about going to court. Your lawyer can handle the whole thing for you. Not only can your lawyer handle the first appearance (the arraignment), but there are several other court dates you won't have to worry about trying to fit in your schedule. Check out the Atlanta Municipal Court process for someone charged with a DUI:
First Appearance: The Arraignment
If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, you will be required to appear before a judge the next morning that the courthouse is open. Usually this is Monday morning at 8:00 due to the fact that the courthouse is closed Thursday-Sunday. The purpose of the arraignment is to set the schedule for the future court dates for each case. Nothing related to whether or not you are actually guilty of driving under the influence will be discussed; the primary purpose of this appearance is administrative.
If you have hired an attorney, you do not need to go to the arraignment. Your attorney is able to handle everything on your behalf. If, however, you have not hired an attorney, the judge will ask you to report back to the courthouse with an attorney in about 1-3 weeks. Coming to the arraignment without an attorney can set the whole process of resolving your DUI case back by weeks.
If you have an arraignment for DUI, give me a call- any time, day or night. Don't be worried about having to show up at court - have an experienced defense attorney handle this for you.
About 2 weeks after you were arrested, there will be a Status Hearing for your case. This hearing gives the presiding judge a chance to see how everything is going. The judge will check to see if the District Attorney's Office has gotten all of the evidence from the arresting law enforcement agency. This can include any dash cam video footage of the arrest, the report made by officers involved, and the results of any breathalyzer (or blood or urine) tests that were performed. You do not need to come to the status hearing. Your lawyer can handle everything that will happen at this hearing on your behalf.
About 2 weeks after the Status Hearing, an Inquiry Hearing will take place. There is not much difference between a Status and an Inquiry Hearing. Again, the judge gets the chance to make sure that everything is on track in your case. Once you get to this point, all evidence related to your arrest should have been obtained and both the District Attorney and you and your defense attorney should have had an opportunity to have reviewed the evidence. Also like with the Status Hearing, you don't need to worry about coming to the inquiry hearing. Your attorney can handle everything for you.
Final Plea: You Do Have to Attend
Within 2 months of your drunk driving arrest, you will have your Final Plea. This is where you and your attorney will inform the judge how you intend to proceed with your case. At this point, you have two main options: chose to accept a plea agreement as offered to you by the District Attorney or take the case to trial. Unlike the Arraignment, Status, and Inquiry Hearings you are required to attend the Final Plea, so that the judge can speak directly with you.
If you have decided to accept a plea agreement, you will finalize those details at the Final Plea. If you have not decided to accept a plea agreement, you will make arrangements for your trial. If you wish for your case to be tried in front of a jury, your attorney may request that the case be transferred to the State Court of Fulton County. If you would rather have a bench trial (have the case heard by a judge), you can waive your right to a jury trial and the case will remain in the Municipal Court and will be heard by a judge.
The appearances leading up to a DUI trial can sound overwhelming, but the truth of the matter is this: if you hire an experienced defense attorney as quickly as possible, you don't have to worry about the large majority of these court appearances and you can focus on getting on with your life. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, give Lawson and Berry a call asap.