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Many drivers charged with DUI have never been in trouble with the law before, and the prospect of being booked, fingerprinted and placed in a holding cell can be ominous. Having a better understanding of the legal issues involved and knowing what to expect after being placed in the back of a police vehicle should help motorists facing DUI charges.
The booking process generally begins for DUI suspects after they have been transported to a police station or other law enforcement facility. Those arrested for driving while under the influence are presumed innocent and protected by the Constitution in several ways.
The time it takes to process and book DUI suspects can vary widely depending on how busy police facilities are, but drunk driving suspects can expect to spend at least two hours answering questions, being fingerprinted and photographed, and submitting to searches and possible further toxicology testing.
Police officers are generally unconcerned with coaxing confessions during the DUI process as these cases are usually decided based on the results of toxicology tests, but they do ask basic questions in order to fill out arrest reports and other paperwork. Suspects should answer these questions truthfully and cooperate with and be courteous to police officers, but they should remember that they are protected against self-incrimination by the Fifth Amendment before making any spontaneous statements or admissions.
Once police officers have gathered the information they need, a number of background checks are run. DUI suspects could face additional charges if these checks reveal open warrants, and information about prior criminal acts will be placed in the defendant's file to give prosecutors the information they need to pursue the case effectively. However, police officers will not generally interrogate suspects or bring up the results of these background checks in DUI cases.
When fingerprints are taken, they are added to a national database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is standard procedure and should not be cause for alarm. Photographs or mugshots are used to identify suspects and show how they looked after being arrested, and they can be crucial evidence in cases where excessive force or abuse is alleged.
While the roadside breath-testing devices used by police officers are generally reliable, additional DUI testing may be ordered during the booking process to provide prosecutors with more accurate blood alcohol readings. These are usually straightforward breath tests using more sophisticated equipment, but drunk driving suspects may be asked to provide blood samples in certain situations.
Once DUI suspects have been processed and booked, they will generally be placed in a holding cell of some sort prior to their arraignment. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure sets strict limits on how long criminal defendants can be held before arraignment. This limit is generally 48 hours, but it can be extended to 72 hours when judges are unavailable due to public holidays or weekends.
Arraignment hearings are not designed to establish guilt or innocence. Arraignment judges make sure that the criminal complaint has been properly prepared and that the defendant understands what is happening and is competent to stand trial. After a plea has been entered, judges decide whether or not the defendant should be held in custody while the case is pending.
DUI suspects who have not been in trouble with the law and were not involved in serious accidents are often released on their own recognizance. Space in correctional facilities is limited, the costs of keeping suspects incarcerated is high, and remand may be seen as an unnecessary step when defendants are not facing stiff penalties and pose no further threat to the community.
Bail may be ordered when charges are more serious or defendants have criminal histories, but the amount can vary widely. Bail is designed to ensure that defendants appear at their trials, and it can be high when the possible sanctions are severe and the temptation to flee is strong. Defendants who are considered flight risks may also be ordered to surrender their passports, but this is unlikely in drunk driving cases unless injuries are serious or lives have been lost. Bail does not resolve criminal matters, but it allows defendants to remain at liberty until their cases are decided, and it is generally refunded when they show up to their trials.
Arraignment judges usually allow bail to be posted in cash or by bond. DUI bail bonds are a written guarantee, generally provided by a licensed bail bond agency, that a criminal defendant will appear, and they help defendants with limited means to retain their freedom while their cases are pending. Bail bond agencies will normally charge defendants a nonrefundable fee representing 10 percent of their bail and sometimes ask for additional collateral. This is because bail bond agencies have to post the entire bail amount and can face significant financial losses if defendants flee.
Arrest, booking and arraignment procedures vary greatly in different parts of the country, and DUI suspects in some areas are able to complete the process at a local police station and never have to set foot in a courtroom until their cases are resolved. However, there are certain steps that police officers in all parts of the country take, and understanding their significance can allow those facing drunk driving charges to avoid common pitfalls and help their DUI attorneys to advocate or negotiate effectively on their behalf.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified drunk driving lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local drunk driving attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.