What Happens In Felony DUI Cases?
A felony DUI offense is the most serious type of DUI offense in the State of California. If you are convicted of a felony DUI, you can spend significant time in jail or prison. In addition, your reputation, career, and personal life will all be damaged. Once you have completed your sentence, a felony conviction will follow you throughout your life and adversely affect every aspect of your future. Due to the severity of these penalties, it is important that you understand the legal process and the steps that will occur in a felony DUI case.
Once you are arrested and charged with a felony DUI offense in San Mateo, you will be ordered to appear at a mandatory court appearance called an arraignment. During the arraignment you will be informed of the charges against you, made aware of your rights to counsel and trial, and asked whether you wish to give up your rights to a speedy preliminary hearing, i.e., a probable cause hearing that must be set within 10 court days and no later than 60 calendar of your arraignment.
In a felony DUI case the defendant is entitled to a reasonable bail as a matter of right. Essentially, bail is an amount of money that must be paid in order for the defendant to be released from jail. Bail ensures that you will return for future court dates and the judge will set the bail amount depending on the severity of your DUI charge, your ties to the community and ensuring public safety, i.e., the likelihood that you will reoffend while you are out of custody. If the court determines that you are a flight risk, if there was an injury in the alleged DUI, or you live outside of the jurisdiction, your bail may be set in an amount that is higher than the bail schedule that is set by the county.
Superior Court Review
In San Mateo County, the District Attorney and the court offer the defendant a Superior Court Review (i.e., SCR). This SCR is a conference prior to the preliminary hearing wherein the D.A. will plea bargain with the defense lawyer in an effort to resolve the case prior to the preliminary hearing. If an acceptable resolution cannot be worked out prior to the preliminary hearing, then the case will be set for a preliminary hearing.
Preliminary Hearings for Felony Offenses
In the State of California, all defendants that are charged with a felony DUI are entitled to a preliminary hearing. During this hearing, the prosecution must convince the court that there is enough evidence to proceed with trial. It is summary version of a trial wherein the prosecutor must call witnesses to testify to facts that establish probable cause to believe that you committed the DUI offense. However, it is important for you to know that certain hearsay is allowed in a preliminary hearing and that police officers (with 5 or more years of experience or who have been trained in Proposition 115 testimony) can testify to hearsay statements relayed to them by witnesses in your case. This means that the prosecutor may not call certain witnesses against you at the preliminary hearing in order to shield them from defense cross-examination. However, the skilled DUI defense lawyers at Ahmed & Sukaram, may subpoena these witness to subject them to cross-examination. Moreover, you are entitled to present a defense at the preliminary hearing in an effort to get the DUI case against you dismissed on the grounds that there is not probable cause to believe that you were guilty of a felony DUI. Importantly, your guilt is not decided during this stage of the case. If the preliminary hearing magistrate finds that there is sufficient evidence to go to trial, then your case will be sent to Superior Court for felony arraignment.
Felony Superior Court Arraignment
If you are held to answer at the preliminary hearing, i.e., the magistrate determines that there is probable cause to believe that you were guilty of a felony DUI, then your case must be sent to the superior within 15 calendar days in order to be arraigned on the charges against you. This arraignment is similar to the one in the lower court below. Except, at this arraignment, you decide whether you want to have your trial within 60 calendar days of the arraignment or you give up that right. You can again enter a plea of not guilty so that your case can be set for trial.
In San Mateo County, the time between the arraignment and the trial in a felony case can take a very long time. In between these two court dates is usually a pre-trial conference. The pre-trial conference is similar to the SCR. At the pre-trial conference, the defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge will attempt to plea-bargain the case in lieu of the case going to trial. If the case cannot be worked out on terms agreeable to all parties at the pre-trial conference, then the case will be set or confirmed for trial.
Felony DUI Trial
If your felony DUI case goes to trial, you have the right to have a court trial or a jury trial with 12 members of the community. During the trial, there will be opening statements, a presentation of the evidence, cross examination, and closing arguments. The prosecution has the burden of proving that committed a felony DUI beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution cannot meet their burden, there may be a mistrial, because all twelve jurors cannot reach a verdict. Or, you may be found not guilty of the offense. In the latter event, you can never be prosecuted for the same felony DUI offense again. However, if you are found guilty of your DUI offense, then the judge will set a future date for sentencing.
San Mateo DUI Defense Lawyers
If you are charged with a felony DUI in the State of California, contact the dynamic legal team of Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law immediately. We know how serious felony DUI charges can be, and as such, we are ready to fight for you and your family-call Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law today at 877-337-0697 or email us through this site in order to set up a no obligation consultation. If you prefer to video chat, please connect with us using Skype at Nafiz.Ahmed59.