The criminal court process can be confusing for people who have never been arrested. For many people, their first run-in with the law is during a traffic stop where the police suspect the driver is impaired. Even after an arrest, the individual may be left in limbo waiting for the prosecutor to decide when and if to prosecute the defendant. It may take up to a year for the individual to know whether or not they will be charged with a crime.
After a drunk driving arrest, you should contact an experienced East Bay DUI lawyer as soon as possible. You can lose your license after a DUI arrest even if you are never charged with a crime. Your attorney can help you challenge the arrest to keep your license and build a strong defense so that the prosecutor may never get the chance to take the case to court.
Released Before Arraignment
Generally, a suspect arrested in California will appear before a judge during the “arraignment” where formal charges are initially brought. This is where the defendant gets their first opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty (or “nolo contendere”). An arraignment must generally be held within 48 hours of the arrest (excluding Sundays and holidays) if someone is being held in custody.
If an individual is released before arraignment, this does not necessarily mean that the person will not face criminal charges at a later date. Depending on the suspected crime, the prosecutor may want or need more time to determine whether or not to file charges.
If you were arrested and released before the arraignment and not given a court hearing for an arraignment, you may still want to contact an attorney. Your lawyer can help determine whether you will be facing criminal charges, and act quickly to stop any adverse actions related to the arrest, such as a suspended license after a DUI arrest.
Released After Arraignment
During the arraignment hearing, the court will also generally determine whether or not to release the individual on their own recognizance, or set bail before the individual can be released. On release, the court may provide notice of a future hearing. Talk to an experienced California criminal defense attorney before showing up to court to make sure you understand your rights and options to challenge the criminal charges.
After release from custody, the defendant may not have a court date or the date gets pushed back. This waiting period can be stressful for individuals and their families, not knowing whether or not they will face criminal charges and potentially go to jail. Unfortunately for these waiting defendants, the prosecutor has a lot of time to make the decision whether or not to prosecute the case.
For most misdemeanors, the prosecutor has up to a year (365 days) before the statute of limitations expires. Technically, a driver could be arrested on January 1st on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and have to wait until December 31st to know whether or not the prosecutor will charge the individual.
Felonies generally have a longer statute of limitations, with no statute of limitations for certain felonies, including capital murder.
If the statute of limitations passes and no charges were filed, the prosecutor will be barred from bringing charges. Talk to your California criminal defense attorney to make sure the prosecutor cannot prosecute the case and to make sure your record gets cleared up. If no charges are filed, it is possible to petition the court to have the arrest sealed and removed from your record. Lynn Gorelick offers this service.
No Notice of Criminal Charges
Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that the court sent a notice of a court hearing and the defendant never received notice. The notice could have gotten lost in the mail, sent to the wrong address, or was picked up by someone else. Without notice, the individual may never know that there is a pending hearing. Failure to show up to court will generally result in a Failure to Appear (FTA) and possibly a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you did not receive notice of the hearing you might not receive notice of any bench warrant or FTA. It may be the next time you are stopped on a minor traffic violation when you find out about the warrant and end up in jail. Contact an experienced California lawyer after an arrest to make sure you do not miss any court hearings and avoid a warrant for your arrest.
East Bay DUI Defense Attorney Lynn Gorelick
Experience matters. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 35 years of California criminal defense experience and has helped clients get their criminal charges reduced or dropped. Contact Lynn Gorelick today.