DUI Motions Hearings: What To Expect
In DUI cases, there are several different types of motions hearings that may occur. For a discussion of the various types of procedural and substantive motions, see other articles in this section.
A motions hearing is typically a time where a judge in a DUI case will hear evidence and argument of counsel. Lawyers from both the state and the defense may submit legal documents called “briefs” in support of their side’s arguments. The idea is that the judge reads the written briefs before court starts, and so is already prepped for the arguments.
There are two main schools of thought amongst DUI defense lawyers as to how to conduct a motions hearing:
School 1: “The Bull In The China Shop.” – Under this theory, the lawyer throws every single argument out into open court, argues every point, and does not concede anything. The hope is that something will stick (also known as the spaghetti theory of law… throw a handful against a wall and see what sticks). The main benefit to this method (at least to the lawyer) is that the client can not accuse him or her of not fighting, or not bring up points that the client thought were important. The main drawback is that it is not an effective method, and judges do not like or appreciate it, and it really does not benefit you, the client.
School 2: “The Surgeon” – Under this theory, the lawyer picks only the arguments that actually have merit in fact and law, and therefore a chance of success. He or she crafts the legal arguments concisely and clearly. It would not be unusual for this type of lawyer to spend as much time drafting a single sentence as it would take a lawyer from school 1 to draft an entire page. The “surgeon” lawyer wins a high percentage of the arguments he or she makes, but only makes a small percentage of the arguments that the “bull” makes in the average case. Judges and prosecutors alike respect this type of lawyer. Judges listen to this type of lawyer and actually read the lawyers’ briefings because they know the lawyer is serious and will not waste the court’s time with stupid arguments.
At a motions hearing the following procedure is roughly followed, although jurisdictional differences do exist:
- Court convenes;
- The judge announces the case and sets the ground rules;
- If witnesses are to be called, the part with the burden of proof typically calls its witnesses first. If a party has a burden of going forward (beyond the scope of this article), it must first call a witness or establish that it has met is burden through another means.
- The witness is examined by both lawyers, and the judge may ask the witness questions as well.
- Other witnesses are called in the same manner by both sides.
- Both sides argue their points of fact and law.
- The judge either makes a decision or takes the decision ‘under advisement.”
If the decision is taken under advisement, that means that it could be hours, days or even months before a ruling is issued. When it is ready, the ruling may be issued in writing or orally.