Virginia DUI Court Process
Learn the criminal process and procedure for Virginia DUI cases.
In each Virginia DUI case, there are many steps that occur after the DUI arrest. Below, you will find information regarding the procedures that typically follow a DUI arrest in Virginia. Every jurisdiction is different, however, and the information below regarding procedures and process may differ depending on where you are arrested and the particular charges you face.
NOTE: Keep in mind that in every DUI case there are two separate cases that flow from the same offense. In addition to criminal charges, you will also have a separate Administrative License Suspension (a civil case) filed against you. Refer to the Virginia Driving Tab above for more information on the civil aspect of your DUI charges.
An overview of the Virginia Criminal process
In DUI cases in Virginia, the first criminal court appearance is called the arraignment. At this hearing a judge will inform you of the charges against you and you will be asked to enter a plea. If you plead guilty, a sentence will be imposed.
NOTE: If you have been accused of DUI in Virginia, it is in your best interest to have legal representation at every court appearance. Unless you have hired an attorney to represent you who has filed a notice of appearance on your behalf, your attendance is mandatory at the arraignment hearing. Typically defense attorneys will have you sign a waiver of presence, allowing them to represent you without you having to attend.
If you enter a plea of NOT GUILTY at your arraignment, your case will be set for trial.
The pretrial conference is a hearing prior to trial to negotiate with the prosecutor and update the judge on the progression of your case. At this hearing your trial date may be postponed if there are issues with discovery, witness availability or attorney schedule conflicts. Your attorney will go over any offer with you and discuss the potential benefits and/or ramifications. If you wish to accept the offer from the prosecutor, the case may be resolved at the pretrial conference. If no continuances are necessary, and a plea agreement has not been reached, the judge will set your case for trial.
Motion or evidentiary hearings are requested by the defense when issues exist that may preclude the admission of certain evidence. Your attorney and the prosecutor will go before the court and the judge will decide important key issues of your case, such as the admissibility of chemical test results and statements/testimony from DUI witnesses. Other challenges include whether there was probable cause for the stop, detention, and arrest. Motions regarding discovery may also be argued at this hearing. Testimony by the arresting officer is typically given. Expert witnesses may be called to testify. Your attorney will have the opportunity to question and cross examine the police officers that participated in your case, and will have the opportunity to present testimony, evidence, and argument. The prosecution has the burden of establishing that your chemical test was performed in substantial compliance with the state testing procedures. If the prosecution cannot show substantial compliance, your results will not be admissible to the jury in your trial. If successful at the motion hearing, the prosecution may offer another plea arrangement at this time.
There are two possible types of DUI trials in Virginia – Jury Trials and Bench Trials. In Jury trails, 7 jurors will determine questions of fact, while the judge determines issues of law. In Bench Trails, the judge plays the role of both judge and jury. DUI cases that contain complex issues and evidence may be harder for a jury to understand, in which case a bench trial may be more desirable. Your attorney will help you determine which type of trial is best for your case.
At the Virginia DUI trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proving all elements of your DUI charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine the police officers that were involved in your case, and will have the option of calling expert witnesses to testify as well. Once the final decision in the trial is reached, either a sentence will be imposed or all charges will be dismissed. If found guilty, the DUI defendant may file an appeal.
If you are found guilty following a Virginia DUI trial, you are eligible to participate in the appeals process. Certain time limits apply to when an appeal must be filed. Consult with one of our local Virigina DUI attorneys for more information on appealing your case.