When a DUI attorney is hired, they should give the defendant an outline of what to expect. The lawyer should offer best-case and worst-case scenarios; and how to make the best-case likelier. The attorney should discuss any possible defenses to the charge.
In Idaho, each DUI case (criminal charge) is paired with a license suspension (administrative case through the Department of Transportation).
The license suspension requires a response within seven days of the DUI stop. If the defendant does not file an appeal of the driver’s license suspension within the deadline, suspension goes into effect 30 days after the arrest.
The defendant is also given a date to appear before the court to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”
Typically, the attorney files a “not guilty” plea on behalf of the defendant, and the court vacates the hearing. The court then sets the matter for a pretrial conference.
If the defendant does not appear, a warrant is put out for their arrest.
The pretrial conference is a hearing in court before the jury trial. Before the pretrial conference, the DUI attorney requests the discovery in the case. Discovery consists of the police reports, dash cam video, body cam video, test results, expert witness disclosures, witness statements – all the evidence the State wants to use to prove their case at trial. Once the defendant’s attorney receives the discovery, they file legal motions in the case and begin negotiations with the prosecutor. The objective is to settle the case through a plea agreement.
The DUI attorney negotiates a reasonable settlement for the defendant before the trial. It is an uncommon occurrence for a DUI case to go to trial unless there is some legitimate question about whether the defendant was operating the vehicle, or whether the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. Sometimes motions come up before trial that result in a case getting dismissed. For example, a motion to suppress evidence for an unlawful stop of the vehicle may result in complete dismissal.
When the defendant’s DUI attorney settles the case, the prosecutor promises to make a particular sentencing recommendation in exchange for a guilty plea to the charge. Just because the prosecutor promises to recommend a specific sentence does not mean that a person is guaranteed to get that sentence. The judge makes the final decision, and the court makes that decision at a sentencing hearing.
A sentencing hearing is a hearing held after the defendant enters a guilty plea. It is at this hearing that the judge decides what sentence to impose. The judge considers mitigating and aggravating factors. The attorney presents mitigating factors to the judge to try to convince the judge to give the defendant a more favorable sentence.
When imposing jail time, a judge may grant options to serve it. Those might include community service, sheriff’s inmate labor detail, work release, etc.
DUI cases usually have a probationary period imposed, which can be either supervised or unsupervised. For supervised probation, the defendant is assigned a probation officer, with monthly supervision fees, monthly meetings, and random sobriety tests. For unsupervised probation, there is no probation officer. A DUI attorney may be able to take actions before a court date to improve likelihood of unsupervised probation.
DUI cases have mandatory alcohol evaluations. It is in the best interests of defendants to get this evaluation done quickly and try to get started on treatment before the first court date.
The court imposes fines and court costs. However, payment plans are available.
The court suspends the defendant’s license at the sentencing hearing, if convicted. In Idaho, the minimum license suspension is 90 days. However, the court can impose a maximum 180-day license suspension with 30 days absolute. The court typically backdates the license suspension to the day the administrative license suspension began. The absolute portion of the suspension may already be finished, and the defendant may be eligible for a work permit immediately.
For those who do not have criminal histories, and who are proactive with evaluation and treatment, the court often grants “withheld judgment.” Instead of entering a judgment of conviction, it withholds judgment during probation. After probation, a DUI attorney can initiate a motion to dismiss your case.
Unsupervised probation is common for a first DUI, especially with some steps of evaluation and treatment completed. The court explains the terms of probation to the defendant. A DUI Attorney may also clarify any questions.
The Department of Transportation requires that a person carry SR-22 insurance after a DUI conviction. SR-22 insurance is high-risk insurance that costs more to carry than regular coverage. However, once probation is over and the court dismisses the case, SR-22 insurance is no longer necessary.
With court over, probation begins, if applicable. A defendant finishes, pays off fines, complete community service, and does not get rearrested. One year following sentencing, a DUI attorney can initiate paperwork for dismissal.