After you are arrested for drunk driving, a whole legal process is set in motion. We explain the steps of this process in our video on Criminal Procedure 101, so you can better understand exactly what is going to happen to you after an arrest. Understanding the basics of the criminal process can help you to feel more in control even as you cope with the uncertainty of how your DWI case will affect your future. However, the bottom line is that you need advanced knowledge of the law to protect your rights as you move through the criminal justice system. A New Orleans DWI lawyer can help every step of the way. The Criminal Process After a DWI Arrest As our Criminal Procedure 101 video explains, after an arrest for drunk driving:
The District Attorney or prosecutor assigned to your case looks at the police report and evidence. Then he or she decides if there’s enough evidence to move forward.
If the case goes forward, a Bill of Information is filed. This is the point at which you are officially indicted and charged with the crime of drunk driving.
You appear before the judge at arraignment and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. A New Orleans DWI lawyer will explain your options and advise you on how best to plead.
The pre-trial process occurs. Motions can be filed and evidence collected during this pre-trial process.
The trial begins. You are innocent until proven guilty and the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a drunk driving offense.
Throughout every step in this process, your New Orleans DWI lawyer is working to protect the rights guaranteed to you by the Constitution. For example, if evidence was collected in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights because the police searched you illegally, your attorney will file a motion to have the evidence suppressed. If the judge agrees the evidence was collected illegally, the prosecutor won’t be allowed to use it and will have to find some other way to try to formulate a case. Often, the prosecutor cannot and the charges are dropped. When your case goes to trial, it’s even more important that you have a lawyer looking out for you. In Louisiana, first time drunk driving offenders have a trial presided over by a judge, not a trial by jury, despite the fact that you have a Sixth Amendment right to be tried by a jury of your peers if charged with a crime. States have increasingly been abridging the right to a trial by jury. Trials before judges have been used since the late 1700’s to deal with petty offenses but the definition of a “petty offense” has expanded. A drunk driving offense isn’t really a petty offense, but it is treated like one. The Louisiana courts said in Landry v. Hoepfner, 840 F.2d 1201 that no trial by jury would be required because the penalties for a first time offense were capped at six months jail time. Since your case is before a judge, who may feel political and social pressure from groups like MADD to be tough on intoxicated drivers, you need a top-notch New Orleans DWI lawyer to help make your case and ensure you’re presumed innocent.