After a DUI arrest in Atlanta, Georgia, there are steps that you must take to prepare for your eventual DUI trial. These steps are an integral part in preparing your legal defense to the charges and possibly avoiding them altogether. Just because you were arrested does not mean that you are guilty, and fighting your charges through the DUI trial process can protect your rights.
To protect your constitutional rights, you need an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney at your side every step of the way. You do not have to face this process alone.
Plea Bargain vs. Trial
In deciding whether to go all the way to trial, a person convicted of a Georgia DUI may be required to decide whether to accept a plea offer from the prosecutor. The penalties for a Georgia DUI can be very serious, especially when injuries were caused in an accident. Often, a plea is offered near the beginning of a case, and maybe even before you have had the chance to hire an attorney. This is often an attempt to get you to plea when the prosecutor knows he or she does not have a very good case.
A plea can help protect you from the worst a DUI charge could carry. This includes agreed-upon sentencing terms or even a change of offense. A common plea is to a less offense of reckless driving rather than driving under the influence. This charge carries less serious penalties and can be a major "win" for you in fighting off charges. Even though this is a less serious charge, you should not agree to plea to reckless driving without first consulting with an experienced DUI attorney. You may not be guilty of any crime, so a plea would not be in your best interest in that case.
Pleas may also occur after a hung jury, in which the jury at trial could not agree on your guilt or innocence. When this happens, the trial will be rescheduled. Many defendants choose to plea rather than face the uncertainty of another trial. Whether a plea is the right choice for you is a decision that should be made only after consultation with your attorney.
In preparing for trial, certain pre-trial motions can be filed to exclude evidence from your case. When evidence is excluded, it cannot be used against you at trial. This can devastate the prosecutor's case, and protect you from unconstitutional acts by Georgia law enforcement.
Your DUI defense attorney can file a motion on your behalf to exclude unconstitutionally obtained evidence. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Breath Test Evidence: If a breathalyzer test is administered incorrectly, the results cannot be trusted. This evidence may be kept out of court, making it very difficult to prove the case against you.
- Blood Test Evidence: Blood tests must be administered under very specific guidelines under Georgia law. When these guidelines are not followed, the results can be thrown out in some cases.
- Field Sobriety Test Evidence: When a law enforcement officer asks you to submit to a field sobriety test, he or she is required to administer it correctly. Failure to do so can warrant suppression of the evidence.
Motion to Suppress Evidence
A motion to suppress evidence, when successful, is one of the most powerful ways to defend your DUI case. A successful motion to suppress will keep out certain evidence the prosecutor wants to use to attempt to prove your guilt of the charge. When that evidence is excluded, it cannot be used against you at trial.
A motion to suppress can keep out evidence such as that mentioned in the pre-trial motion section above, but also more. This includes the initial traffic stop. When an officer pulls you over for an unconstitutional reason, the entire traffic stop is likely unconstitutional. This means that any evidence that came from your arrest could be excluded from evidence.
This can result in a reduction of the charges against you, or even a full dismissal of your case. With the help of an experienced Georgia DUI attorney, you can analyze your case and file a suppression motion in the appropriate circumstances.
Preparing Yourself for Trial
When getting ready for your DUI trial in Georgia, there are certain things you want to consider. First is what to wear. While this may sound silly to some, appropriate dress is important to both the court's and jury's impression of you. Coming to court sloppily dressed can come off poorly and negatively impact your case. You want to appear professional and respectful and wear the nicest clothes you have appropriate for court. Your clothes should not be dirty, stained, or what you might wear to a nightclub.
You should also plan your trip to the courthouse and make sure to leave plenty of extra time for unexpected delays. Being late on the day of your trial could be a disastrous mistake and could very negatively affect the judge's or jury's opinion of you. When dealing with a jury, you want to do everything appropriate you can to make a good impression.
You will also want to meet with your attorney to prepare for your trial. He or she can inform you of the trial strategy, teach you what to expect, and help you to understand the rules of the court, which can seem very foreign to non-attorneys. Your attorney can teach you about the process of cross-examination, direct examination, and the introduction of exhibits.
Understanding what happens at trial also includes the methods of how questions are asked. There are rules about how a question can be asked on "direct" and then change when a witness is on "cross."
Consult an Atlanta DUI Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI, understanding how to prepare for trial can help you understand what you face, and how to defend your case.