Most people have never been to court on a criminal charge, and the different types of court appearances and procedures can be very confusing. In many cases, OUI charges can be worked out in just a few court dates.
- Arraignment: After your arrest, if you are bailed out you will usually be given an arraignment date within a few days. You have to come to court and have the charges officially read to you, and be advised of certain rights. You will plead not guilty in almost every case, regardless of whether of not to plan to plead guilty later. If you are not bailed out, generally you will be brought to court on the next business day. See my arraignment FAQ for more details for exactly what you need to know before your OUI arraignment.
- License Suspension: If you failed the breath test your license will be immediately suspended for 30 days. If you refused the breath test your license will be suspended for at least 180 days. For more information about your potential penalties, go to my penalties page.
- Pre-trial Conference: Generally this happens several weeks after the arraignment date. At this court date the district attorney will offer you a plea bargain. Consulting with your attorney, you may decide to accept it or reject it and elect to move forward with a trial.If we work out a deal, we’ll also go before the judge and plead guilty or CWOF, and settle the case with the court on that day. You can skip down to #6 (Sentencing). Also see my Pretrial FAQ. If we are taking the case to trial, I may file several motions at the pretrial, Including:
- a Motion to Produce Training Manual, so I can help establish the exact procedures the officer was trained to follow, and demonstrate where he may have failed to do so.
- A Motion to Suppress Statements, where we will set a date to have a hearing to establish whether or not you were denied your rights under Miranda.
- Suppression Hearing (Motion to Suppress Hearing): If I suspect that your constitutional rights may have been violated, I will file a motion to suppress the evidence against you, and we’ll having a motion to suppress hearing court date.The police officer who arrested you will be present, and we’ll go over exactly what happened during the stop, and why he decided to pull you over. If the reason for the stop was not legitimate, the case could be dismissed that day.If that doesn’t work, we will still get the officer’s statements on the record as to exactly when he or she formed the opinion that you were impaired, and decided to arrest you. We can use that information to help our trial strategy.
- Trial: Almost all trials in drunk driving cases take place in district court where you have a right to have a trial in front of a jury of 6, or you can choose to have a trial in front of a judge (bench trial). If we win at the trial, you don’t have to go on to the next stage.
- Sentencing: The Court imposes a sentence after a conviction at trial or after a plea bargain is accepted and a plea entered. Most of the time in District Court, sentencing happens on the same day as a trial, but rarely, we’ll have to come back for a Sentencing Hearing. Sentences may include jail time, community service, alcohol classes and fines. A list of alcohol education classes in Massachusetts can be found here.
- After you are sentenced, I’ll work with you to get a hardship license to get you back on the road as soon as possible.
There are a few other, less common court dates that occasionally come up in OUI cases as well as other criminal cases in Massachusetts District Courts, such as:
- A “show cause“, or clerk magistrate’s hearing. If you are not immediately arrested after an OUI, (which may happen in an accident case), you may get a notice in the mail to appear at a clerk’s hearing. The object of the hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the charges against you, and whether the commonwealth’s case should move forward. It is important to have a lawyer present for this hearing! It may be possible to have the case thrown out on the spot!
- A Dangerousness Hearing may be held in more serious cases. The district attorney may want to hold a dangerousness hearing in cases of multiple offenses (usually a 3rd offense or more), cases of OUI with serious injury, or OUI while driving with a child under 14. In a dangerousness hearing, the court hears arguments about whether you should be allowed bail. Essentially, they may argue that you are too “dangerous” to be let out, since others will be at risk if they believe you are likely to drive under the influence of alcohol again.
- Some courts try to have an Attorney Assignment date, if the attorney is not present at the Arraignment. Usually we can turn this court date into a pre-trial conference on the spot.
- A few courts such as the Boston Municipal District Court separate the Pre-trial Conference (meeting with prosecutor) and Pre-trial Hearing (in front of the judge to hear motions, or plead out) into different days, but this is rare. It’s also largely a waste of everyone’s time, in my opinion.
- A discovery compliance date, also known as a compliance and election date, in cases where there is evidence to be disclosed, or other reasons not to proceed directly to a trial;
- A trial assignment date, which is just as it sounds, a court date to schedule a future trial date.
Call me anytime for a free consultation on the specifics of your case at (781) 380-7730. You’ll get some free advice from a highly experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, so you have nothing to lose by calling.
Russell Matson, Attorney at Law