Understanding the Criminal and Civil Justice Systems

The defendant may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at this time. If a guilty plea is entered, the judge reserves the right to sentence the

A defendant may agree to a plea agreement at many points during the adjudication process.

defendant or set a date for sentencing. Defendants are typically guided by the defense counsel to enter the not guilty plea. The trial process then begins.

It is important to be aware that very few substance impaired driving cases are actually concluded by trial. The overwhelming majority of them are resolved through plea agreements between the prosecuting attorney, the defendant and the defense attorney. Case Discovery and Pre-trial Hearings After arraignment, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will each gather evidence to support his or her case. During the discovery phase, witnesses will be subpoenaed to give testimony to determine if they will be needed during trial. It is typical for several court hearings to take place before an actual trial date to allow attorneys to argue motions for evidence suppression, change in venue, and to dispute the accuracy of evidence and manners in which evidence was obtained. You may hear the defense attorney request that the judge dismiss the case during arguments. This is common court procedure, but sounds very alarming if you are not prepared. If the defendant has been arraigned on charges you don’t understand, ask the prosecutor to explain the elements that must be proven to get a conviction. The

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