New Haven DUI Court Process
Our New Haven DUI attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and skill to fight for you in court and at the DMV. Although the court and DMV cases happen at the same time, they are entirely distinct from one another. The DMV doesn’t know what happens at court and the court doesn’t know what happens the DMV. What that means is that you will have to defend yourself in two cases, but our attorneys will do that for you.
We have an in-depth understanding of the unique police procedures and legal issues that arise in New Haven DUI cases. It is our goal to know more about the field tests, chemical tests and legal issues than anyone else in that courtroom and the DMV commissioner. This gives us the ability to point out weaknesses in the state’s case and go to bat for you even when others think it is a lost cause.
Your first court date is called your arraignment. The purpose of an arraignment is two-fold: if you have been unable to post bond and you, a judge will review the reports for probable cause and review the bond issued by the police officer. If you are not able to post bond, this first court appearance must be completed within 48 hours. If you have posted bond, your first court date still may be within that same 48-hour window or, in most DUI cases, a couple of weeks later.
Appearing in Court
You cannot expect that a case will be resolved after the first court appearance because that is a very rare occurrence. As a result, your case will be given a “continuance” that is usually several weeks later. These continuances allow your lawyer to obtain the police report, conduct further investigation that is needed, compile materials that are helpful to your case, and discuss the case with the state’s attorney.
These discussions between your attorney and the state’s attorney are done in private to protect your rights and privacy, and allow your attorney to present the best argument. It is during these discussions that your attorney will present your defenses to the state’s attorney and attempt to resolve the case.
Often, these negotiations will lead to a resolution that is beneficial to our client. It may include the case being nolled (charges being dropped), an agreement to allow the defendant to take advantage of a Pre-Trial Diversionary Program (pdf), or the negotiation of a beneficial plea bargain. If this happens, the case can be resolved.
In some cases, however, no agreement can be reached and the case will be moved to a “judicial pre-trial.” This simply means that your defense attorney and the state’s attorney will meet with a judge to have further discussions about your case. Your defense attorney will present your defenses and legal arguments to the judge and try to negotiate an outcome to the case. Although the state’s attorney controls the actual charges, the judge controls the sentence.
After hearing from your defense attorney and reviewing the case, the judge will make an offer to resolve the case before going to trial. If this proposed outcome is not acceptable, the offer will be rejected and the case will be placed on the “Trial List.” Typically, you will not receive a specific date for trial. While it varies between courthouses, you will only be given a 24 to 48 hour notice of when your trial will begin. This means you could start your trial after placing the case on the trial list one week later or six months later. Your lawyer will also be unaware of when the trial will begin!
Negotiating a Plea
If the prosecutor will not drop your case and you are not eligible for, or simply do want to use, the AEP you have two choices: plead guilty or go to trial. Given the potential penalties and consequences of a criminal conviction this is an enormous decision. In some cases we will be able to negotiate a plea bargain that is very beneficial to our clients that we would advise them to accept. In others, this simply may not be the case and we may recommend rejecting the offer and electing a trial.
If we are able to negotiate an acceptable plea bargain, there are several ways to enter that guilty plea: a straight guilty plea, an Alford Plea, and a Nolo Contendere plea. A straight guilty plea suggests that you find the allegations accurate and that you agree that you have committed a crime. An Alford Plea is a plea in which you admit legal guilt because you believe you would be convicted at trial and face a harsher penalty than that which is being offered but disagree with all or some of the factual allegations made by the state.
The final way to enter a guilty plea is a Nolo Contendere plea, which many people know as pleading No Contest. In this situation, you are not contesting the charges or offering any defenses to the charges. The reason to use a Nolo Contendere plea is because it cannot be introduced as guilt in a civil action against the individual.
Going to Trial
If you decide to go to trial, the first step is rejecting the final offer and placing the case on the “Trial List.” After your case has been placed on the Trial List, we will file various motions. These motions are basically requests to the court that raise various legal issues. Typically, these motions seek to prevent the state from introducing certain evidence or statements that could be damaging to you and your case.
In addition, we will file discovery motions that seek specific information from the state’s attorney. For example, we will want to obtain all of the police officer’s training certificates and the certifications for the breathalyzer machine if you submitted to a breath test. For most motions, the court will have both the written motions, as well as oral arguments on those motions before making a ruling.
You have the right to have your case tried before a jury or electing a court trial. This decision is your decision alone. In either situation, the state has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Your attorney should advise you in regard to the differences with each option as well as the positives and negatives of both. In most cases, people choose to present the case to a jury.
If you choose a jury trial, the Connecticut Constitution affords you the right to question the potential jurors. This process is called voir dire. During this process, your attorney will to determine the best and worst jurors for your case.
Appealing a DUI Case
If you have been convicted, you have the right to appeal. Usually, this is considered a separate matter from your trial and often will require an additional fee. The purpose of an appeal is to challenge any potential legal issues that arose during the trial. The appeals process involves researching all potential legal issues, drafting lengthy briefs and arguing the case before the Connecticut Appellate or Supreme Court. Following the argument, the court will release a written decision.
If you lose the appeal, there may be other potential avenues to continue the appeal and continue an effort to drop your charges or reduce your sentence. If the other paths are unavailable or prove to be unsuccessful, the case is over and your conviction is upheld. If you are successful on appeal, the outcome can range from a complete dismissal to a new trial.