DUI cases have been known to take longer than many defendants expect, especially when the charges are fairly serious.
Even for a “run-of-the-mill” first-time DUI case, it can often be months before a defendant learns his or her ultimate fate. So why do the wheels of justice seem to move so slowly?
Here are just a few reasons why DUI cases take so long to resolve:
1. Scheduling Hearings
Like with any other criminal offense, DUI defendants must be arraigned on formal charges to commence the criminal process. In addition to taking pleas from the defendant and assigning an attorney, the court will also begin to schedule future hearings in the case.
Assuming a DUI defendant pleads not guilty to a felony charge, a court will then typically set a date for a preliminary hearing. In many states, the defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing within a short amount of days because of the right to a speedy trial.
However, this right is typically waived by defendants in DUI cases. This gives the defendant’s attorney time to gather evidence and prepare his or her case. Because court calendars for preliminary hearings are typically jam-packed, defendants who have “waived time” may be scheduled for a hearing several months after arraignment.
2. Gathering Evidence
The process of requesting and gathering evidence from parties in a court case is called discovery, and it often takes much longer than any defendant expects.
In more serious DUI cases — especially those involving homicide charges — either the defense or the prosecution may choose to delay the trial process while waiting on crucial evidence.
Whether a DUI defendant is waiting on background information on the arresting officer or the deposition of an expert witness, this pre-trial process can drag on for as long as a year.
3. Trial and Sentencing
A DUI trial may only last an afternoon, or it may last months. The cross-examination of the arresting officer may take a whole day in itself.
Even when a trial is over or isn’t necessary (i.e., if the defendant pleads guilty or accepts some sort of deal), the sentencing hearing often isn’t scheduled until weeks later. For example, a Michigan woman who pleaded guilty Tuesday to driving drunk with children in her car was originally arrested in January and won’t be sentenced until December — almost a year has passed without a trial, Detroit’s WWJ-TV reports.