HOLIDAY DUI? MARCH COURT APPEARANCE?
March 8, 2022
With Covid, most of us were nestled at home during Christmas and New Year’s and much of the last 2 years. But that did not stop your holiday drinking and celebrating. You were tired of home cooking and drove for a burger to McDonalds or In n Out, only a mile away. After all, nothing could happen in 1 mile…or could it?You see flashing red lights behind you and develop Black and White Fever. You didn’t read my legal columns, you panic, and take ALL the breath tests at the scene, performed the Field Sobriety Tests, and admitted to Palm Desert Sheriffs that you had 7 drinks at home…all wrong!Your drinking resulted in your using poor judgment, and admitting that you take pills for Depression or Weight Loss. You did not realize that when mixed with alcohol some pills make you more impaired. At the scene you failed the Field Sobriety Tests and you are asked to put your hands behind your back and taken into custody. You forgot my Mantra that “Silence is Golden and Handcuffs are Silver”.The next morning you are brought to court or you are ordered to appear for an arraignment in a few months because of Covid. NOW WHAT HAPPENS? To address the court freeze, DUI cases were given appearance dates that were farther out than normal. Many of these case will be coming up for their first appearance in March 2022.Well, your first court appearance is the Arraignment in Dept 2K in the Indio Court. There, the judge asks you if you have a lawyer and, if not, a public defender will be appointed for you. Now, you have a choice to plead guilty or not guilty. Most defendants either personally or through their lawyer will plead not guilty. If it is a more serious misdemeanor or felony where you are still in custody, the issue of bail will be addressed. Recent legislation seems to be making bail an antiquated subject.If bail is required your lawyer can set a bail review hearing in a few days, if it is not resolved at the arraignment. How much bail is needed depends on the charges against the Defendant and whether s/he has a criminal history. The court wants to be sure the Defendant is not a risk to public safety and will likely show up for the next court date. At the Arraignment the defense normally gets the police report and a new date is set for a Pre Trial if it is a Misdemeanor or a Preliminary Hearing for a Felony.This setting is another opportunity for the DA and Defense lawyer to discuss an amicable resolution of the case and work out a plea bargain. However, the DA’s in Indio don’t really “DEAL”. If not resolved, the matter may be set again for a Pre Trial or a Felony Preliminary Hearing (PH) may take place. The PH is where the DA shows a crime has been committed and the Defendant is “connected to the crime”. This is not the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt stage. Only a small amount of evidence is needed to hold the Defendant over.Thereafter, the case is set for trial. However, before the trial date, a good lawyer will visit the scene of the crime. Doing so has been invaluable to me in being able to competently cross examine witnesses on DUI and ACCIDENT cases. I have won cases where cross examination of the wit shows s/he could not have seen what they are testifying too have seen.Careful preparation is often the difference between a not guilty and being convicted of a lesser crime or lighter sentence. Many people believe winning a case is just getting a case dismissed or a not guilty verdict. In reality, a win may be a lighter sentence or fine. Sometimes community service is the sentence instead of jail or a tracking device or home arrest are imposed instead of jail.The most common misdemeanor case, in the Indio court, is a DUI. Most people don’t realize we have more DUI’s, PER CAPITA, in the CV than anywhere else in California. The Indio Judges have the largest personal case load of any court. This is in part because California’s economy does not allow us to have the same number of judges…compared to other California counties.A DUI does not usually result in much jail time…but it can! However, the courts impose 10 days in jail on many cases. This sentence can be handled by home arrest, an ankle bracelet or community service. The consequences of a DUI are very serious as an arrest kicks in a DMV hearing in addition to a court proceeding. Most Defendants will have their license suspended for 30 days. Those who need a special license for their work, such as nurses, may also have to deal with an administrative hearing on that issue.