Knowing what to expect in an Arlington DUI court hearing can be difficult. This is why it is important to retain the services of an experienced Arlington DUI attorney. They are familiar with the court proceedings, know how the judge and the prosecution will approach the case, and understand how to argue most effectively for your unique circumstances. Additionally, a DUI defense attorney will be able to advise you on the process, what steps need to be taken, how to present yourself, and what to expect.
Arlington DUI cases are always first heard in the general district court. There are two types of DUI cases: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are for first and second offenses; felonies are for third or subsequent offenses. No matter what, the first court you go to will be the general district court, located on the third floor of the Arlington County Courthouse. The general district court is where your arraignment will be, any initial bond hearing, as well as where your case will first be heard.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the general district court is where your case will be set for a trial and where you will have a trial, a plea, or dismissal in your charge. If you are charged with a felony, only the preliminary hearing for the case will be at the general district court because there are no felony trials or pleas in general district court. At the preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth must put on sufficient evidence to show that officers had probable cause that you had committed the felony offense, and if they do that case it will be bound over to the grand jury and ultimately end up in the circuit court.
At the preliminary hearing, your charge can be amended, you can plead guilty, or your charges can be dismissed. No matter what, the first place your case will be heard is the general district court, which is on the third floor of the courthouse at 1425 North Courthouse Road.
Whether the trial is heard by the jury or not may come down to your decision as the charged person. However, in Virginia, and specifically in Arlington, if you are charged with a misdemeanor DUI, meaning it is a first or second offense, your case will first be heard by a judge in a bench trial, meaning without a jury. In general district court, there are no jury trials. If you lose your trial in general district court and you are unhappy with the result, you have an automatic right to appeal de novo, meaning brand new or from the beginning. The courts acting de novo will judge as if the first trial never happened, even if you were found guilty.
While typically an individual can select who will hear the case, either judge or jury, the prosecutor can also demand a jury. Therefore, if either party wants a jury trial, either the prosecutor or the defense, or even if the judge does not want to hear it himself, they can demand a jury to hear the case. You can have another judge hear your case, other than the judge you were assigned, if all parties agree in the circuit court; who will hear your case depends on your desires, the prosecutor’s desires, and the court’s desires.
On a felony Arlington DUI case, there are no trials in general district court. This process usually begins with a a preliminary hearing in front of a judge, then the case will go before a grand jury, and then eventually will go to the circuit court. Felony cases first heard in circuit court have an automatic right to a jury trial should the defendant want it, the prosecutor also has a right to demand a jury and the judge can as well on their own.
A misdemeanor Arlington DUI case typically takes about two months to get to the first trial, if you appeal that it will take probably another two months to get to the second trial in the circuit. Thus, typically within two months you should know your outcome in general district court and within four to six months you should know your outcome in circuit court.
As far as how long does an actual case take while you are in court, a DUI trial can last anywhere from thirty minutes to upwards of two or three days. Jury trials take longer while judge-only trials tend to be fairly quick and easier or handled within an hour. If you have a felony DUI charge, it will take about approximately four to six months to get through the system entirely until you have a final resolution. Once again, a felony trial can last as low as thirty to forty-five minutes, and upwards to two to five days, depending on how serious or severe the facts are. And this will depend also on whether you have a judge or jury.
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