“What Do I Need to Do to Prepare for Trial?”
How to Get the Most out of Your Attorney
Get a DUI Attorney as Soon as Possible
If you are arrested for DUI or refusal to submit to a breath test, get the best DUI attorney you can afford as soon as possible! You have several defenses and key rights that may expire within 14 days of being arrested. Without a DUI attorney, you may lose those rights.
A good DUI/DWI attorney may also help you get your license back, get your car back, or get you a pretrial restricted license. You are likely going to pay the same price for an attorney no matter when you hire one, so you might as well hire one as soon as possible. Doing so will allow you to get the most for your money.
Proving Innocence and Mitigating Damages
There are two types of evidence helpful to a defense: 1) evidence that proves innocence and 2) mitigating evidence that proves you deserve a less severe sentence. Whether you are innocent or not, you need to gather both types of evidence.
Write Down Everything
As soon as you are arrested, write down all of the details you can remember. In Virginia, the prosecution does not have to notify your DUI defense attorney about the evidence it has against you before trial. You have very limited rights to find out the evidence against you before trial. Therefore, your attorney’s most important source of information is you.
The most important details that you should write down are those concerning the conversations you had with the police. What questions did they ask you? What did you say to them? Did they read you your rights? Did the police notify you of your right to observe the breathalyzer results? Write down as much information as you can, as soon as you can.
Do not procrastinate gathering evidence. Any documents used in court should be originals or certified copies. These documents take time to gather, so do not put off getting an attorney and gathering evidence.
Some documents you will want are certified copies of your DMV records from all the states that have issued you a driver’s license in the last 5 years. Also, diplomas of defensive driving classes and documentation of alcohol treatment programs may be important. Make sure to keep all of the documents you received at the jail and get them to a DUI attorney as soon as possible.
Register for ASAP
Registering for ASAP before your trial may make it easier to get a restricted license. If you are likely to be convicted of DUI or “wet reckless”, registering for ASAP before the trial may allow you to get a restricted license sooner. Some judges will only grant a restricted license after the driver has been evaluated by ASAP, so preregistering can reduce the amount of time you spend without at least some driving privileges.
Register for AA or Rehabilitation
Drivers who may suffer from a substance abuse problem should consider beginning to attend AA or a similar drug or alcohol treatment program before trial. Your attendance in one of these programs may be kept quiet if you are found innocent, and it may be presented to the court as mitigating evidence if you are found guilty.
Defensive Driving Classes
In Virginia, attending defensive driving classes can restore up to five points to your driver’s license and may encourage a judge or prosecutor to give you a more lenient sentence especially if you have been charged with traffic offenses in addition to DUI.
If a DUI results in an injury or the destruction of property, the driver, under the supervision of his attorney, may want to pay restitution to the other party before trial in order to increase the likelihood of a reduced sentence. However, make sure you consult an attorney first.
Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario
Make sure that you are ready for the worst-case scenario on the day of trial. Do not drive yourself to the courthouse if there is a chance that you will be found guilty. If you are found guilty and lose your license or are sentenced to jail, you cannot drive home.
Take the time before trial to get your finances in order so that you can pay any possible fines, ASAP fees, and other expenses on time. Arrange to take the time off work to go to court or to serve jail time. Also, leave all valuables (cell phone, cash, watches etc.) at home, so you will not risk losing them in the jail’s property room if you are sentenced to jail.
Talk to your attorney about the implications of the various potential sentences, and prepare all aspects of your life for the worst-case scenario.
Can I Get a Continuance?
In Virginia, continuances are very important and should never be wasted. Continuances can be used to discover what evidence the prosecution has against the driver. The attorney can show up on the day of the trial, talk to the police and Commonwealth attorney, and find out what evidence they have. The attorney can then obtain a continuance in order to prepare a defense.
Additionally, if the attorney you want to hire is not available on your trial date, that attorney may use a continuance to reschedule your court date. However, if you have wasted your continuances this may not be possible and you may have to settle on hiring someone else.
In Virginia, being granted a continuance may increase the odds that the court will grant the other side a continuance should it ask for one. If the police officer, breathalyzer operator, or other witnesses do not show up at your trial, your attorney may ask for the case to be dismissed. However, if the court has already granted you several continuances, it may be more inclined to grant the Commonwealth a continuance instead of dismissing your case.
Do not put yourself in a position where you will have to waste continuances. Find a quality DUI attorney immediately.