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How Much Time Does to the DA Have to Bring You to Trial?


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12/6/2011
James W Harwood
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Your arrest for driving under the influence kicks off a number of important time limitations.  Many of these limitations are provided for by statute and/or guaranteed by your Constitutional right to a speedy trial. 

Your first important deadline in a DUI case is with the DMV.  Under California law, you must file documents with the DMV telling them that you intend to contest any revocation of your license within 10 days.  In many instances if you miss this deadline you will not be able to go to the DMV later to contest the revocation.  They will regard your silence as an implicit agreement to the suspension.  This is one reason why it is so important to hire a qualified DUI attorney as soon after your arrest as possible. 

Another quick timeframe is how long you must remain in custody before being brought before a magistrate.  If you are not released on your own recognizance (OR), or make bail, then you must be brought before a judge within 48 hours, not including weekends or holidays.  This gives the officer time to type his report and the District Attorney time to file charges.  Your first hearing before a judge is called an arraignment, and it is where a lawyer may be appointed and bail amount set.  It is possible to sit in jail for quite some time before you arraignment.  Imagine getting arrested on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.  Since Thursday and Friday are both court holidays, you can languish in jail until Tuesday.  That’s almost six days in jail before you can say anything about your situation!  If you are planning to get arrested that day make sure you have bail money lined up.

If you are charged with a felony DUI charge you have the right to a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to hold you for trial.  If you are in custody at your arraignment, you must get a preliminary hearing within 15 court days.  Court days do not include weekends or court holidays.  This 15 day period can be extended for good cause, but cannot be extended beyond 60 days without your consent. 

If a judge does find that there is enough evidence to hold you over for trial, then the prosecutor must file an information, and you must be arraigned on that information within 15 calendar days. 

In a misdemeanor driving under the influence case you have the right to a jury trial within 30 calendar days of your in custody arraignment.  If you are out of custody at your arraignment you have the right to a trial within 45 calendar days.  In a felony DUI case, whether in custody or out, you have the right to a jury trial within 60 calendar days of being arraigned on your information. 

Of course, you have the right to waive most of the above time restraints and have your dates set farther out.  Often waiving time allows your attorney sufficient opportunity to prepare your case and gather all of the evidence in your favor.  Also, I learned as a Deputy District Attorney that “aging” a case almost always benefits the defendant.  People lose interest in the outcome and witnesses’ memories fade.  If you are out of custody it may pay to allow an unprepared prosecutor all the time he wants to kick the case out.

While the ultimate decision to waive time is entirely up to you, an experienced attorney will be able to help you to make the smartest decisions for you case. 



Category: General


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