If you just picked up a DWI charge, you’re probably feeling anxious about next steps and wondering what the process looks like.
One of the first questions people ask when they call with a DWI charge is, “What happens next?” This article is an overview of the process for a DWI in Virginia.
If you were admitted to bail, when you went before the magistrate, you were handed a document (titled “recognizance”) outlining the conditions you have follow while your case is pending. You’ll want to look at this document closely, and make note of the conditions of your release and ensure that you are aware of your restrictions.
That document will contain your next court date where you must appear. On this date, you’ll go to court and the judge will inform you of your right to an attorney and will likely schedule the case for either a status date to ensure that you’ve hired an attorney by that time, or will schedule the case for trial.
Once you hire an attorney, that attorney will note his or her appearance in your case, by filing a notice which will signify to the court that you have hired an attorney to represent you. On the next court date, you can expect that your attorney will be engaging in negotiations with the prosecutor. If you are not extended an offer that is acceptable to you, and your attorney has received discovery (think, video footage of the stop, including your field sobriety tests and police report), then you will have a trial. If your attorney has not received discovery, then they will likely file a motion for discovery, schedule the trial for another date, and prepare your defenses based on what he or she finds in the videos and reports. You can expect your attorney to call you or meet with you and go over the findings to apprise you of your possible defenses.
You and your attorney will then discussed the plan for trial. You should feel comfortable and educated about what will happen at trial when you arrive. If your attorney plans to call you as a witness to testify, you will have had discussions about what you can expect to be testifying about. You have the right not to testify, and many times, defendants will exercise that right. (What I often tell my clients when they ask me what to do during trial is to “sit there and look pretty”).
The trial is conducted in the following order: both parties have the opportunity to give opening statements, the prosecutor calls its witnesses and rests, the defendant can then call witnesses to testify, and both parties make closing arguments.
If the judge finds you not guilty, the charge can be expunged. If the judge finds you guilty, you will be sentenced. If you are unhappy with the outcome of the case, you have the right to appeal your case to the circuit court where you have the right to have your case heard by a jury. There is a time limit on your right to appeal the case from the general district court to the circuit court- you must note your appeal within 10 days of the order of conviction.
Once you finish reading this article, you’ll have a general understanding of how the process works, but you’ll absolutely want to call and speak with an attorney about the specifics of your case and your defenses. Feel free to give us a call at McCollum Legal, and let us help you understand your rights, defenses, the process, and walk you through this uncertain and scary time.