If you have been arrested for a DUI in Virginia, you may be wondering what the next steps are. Your first move after your DUI arrest should usually be to begin to assess the appropriate legal defense strategies, and figure out whether you should plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Pleading guilty means that you admit to the charges and that you want to skip the trial and go directly to the sentencing stage.
If you choose to plead not guilty, you have chosen to exercise your right to a trial. After the arraignment, a preliminary hearing will be held. The judge will use the probable cause standard to determine whether there is enough evidence to make you stand trial. This means that the judge will look at whether the prosecution has the evidence needed to convince a reasonable jury that you are guilty of the charges.
During the preliminary hearing, the judge will carefully consider the government’s side of the case. The government may present witness testimony and physical evidence to show that the case needs to go to trial. Your defense will cross-examine these witnesses and question the prosecution’s evidence to show that the case is not strong enough to withstand trial. If the judge believes that there is enough evidence to go trial, a trial will be scheduled. If there is not enough evidence, the charges against you will likely be dismissed.
While most people facing DUI charges decide to plead guilty and therefore do not get a preliminary hearing, it is important that you know what will happen if you plead not guilty.
Source: FindLaw, “DUI Preliminary Hearing,” accessed on Nov. 24, 2015