Preliminary Hearings in DUI Cases
March 15, 2019
If an Indiana driver is caught drunk while behind the wheel, chances are they’ll get arrested. The accused will then have to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty is an admission that the charges are right, leading the accused directly to sentencing. Should the defendant wish to plead not guilty, they will have to attend a preliminary hearing before their case goes to trial.
In a nutshell, a preliminary hearing is sort of a trial before the trial where a judge listens to the case from both the prosecutor and the defense attorney and then decides whether there is enough evidence for the trial to move forward. In other words, the judge has to decide whether the prosecution has amassed enough evidence to convince a jury of the culpability of the defendant and whether this evidence will hold up in trial after the defense has tried to discredit it.
Seeing as most people charged with DUI tend to plead guilty, the majority of cases never make it to the preliminary hearing stage. This is all the more prevalent when the evidence is strong, such as if the suspect took a breathalyzer test that indicated that their blood level was above the legal limit. Since some states reserve the use of preliminary hearings for felony cases and other states resort to what’s known as a grand jury indictment, not all DUI cases end up going through a preliminary hearing regardless of whether or not a guilty plea was entered.
Because penalties in DUI cases can vary between required driving school and jail time, alleged offenders would do well to educate themselves about this side of the law. An attorney experienced in DUI law could help a client develop a legal strategy.