This is the beginning of the case at which the Court takes your plea, determines whether you want a trial by jury or judge (bench), and sets conditions of release pending final resolution of the case (i.e., AA meetings, no driving without a license and insurance, bail, ignition interlock device, etc.). You must notify us as soon as you receive your arraignment notice, either by telephone or faxing a copy of the arraignment notice to our office. This arraignment cannot be waived and you must attend the arraignment in order to avoid a bench warrant.
The complete discovery (i.e., police report, audio/visual tapes, witness statements, BAC database records, etc.) is usually not available until the arraignment or within two weeks thereafter. We need to send for it in order to protect your interests. As soon as we receive the discovery, we will send you a copy with a letter of instructions from our office.
Prosecutors do not discuss or negotiate cases prior to or at the arraignment. Often we are able to discuss your case by telephone with the Prosecutor after the arraignment but before the pre-trial conference. Otherwise, the pre-trial conference is where negotiations between us and the Prosecutor begin. The advantage to negotiations and a plea bargain is that it gives you a definitive result and ultimately saves you legal fees. The pre-trial conference is your second court appearance, usually occurs about 30 days after the arraignment, and requires your attendance or a bench warrant will be issued.
Plea and Sentencing
Often we are able to reach an agreed resolution of your case with the Prosecutor before beginning formal litigation. In that event, we are able to conclude the case with a plea bargain at a pretrial conference. This is the most economically efficient way to resolve your case. If we are not able to do so, we may have to schedule a second pretrial conference or proceed with formal litigation (i.e., pretrial motions, trial, etc.).
If we are unable to reach a settlement of your case at the pretrial conference, it may be necessary for us to schedule a pretrial motion hearing. A pretrial motion hearing is a "mini-trial" before the Judge at which we are attempting to get some of the Prosecutor's evidence thrown out (i.e., dismissal of case, suppression of the BAC test, elimination of your statements at the time of your arrest, etc.).
If we are successful with the pretrial motions and some of the Prosecutor's evidence is thrown out by the Judge, we are then often able to settle your case at that stage of the proceedings. Fortunately, we usually only have to conduct pretrial motions about one-third of the time, which saves you money.
If the pretrial motions are not successful, then we may have to proceed to trial unless you decide to plea as originally charged in exchange for an agreed sentencing recommendation from the Prosecutor.
Deferred Prosecution — This is a program available for repeat offenders or individuals with serious alcohol/drug problems. The Prosecutor is prevented from proceeding against you for 5 years provided you actively participate in a highly structured alcohol/drug treatment program, including a minimum of 2 AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings per week and a mandatory ignition interlock device in your car for a minimum of 1 year. If you successfully complete the program, the criminal court case, and usually the DOL case, are dismissed. If you do not successfully complete the program, a guilty plea is then usually required. In other words, you give up your opportunity to go to trial if you accept the deferred prosecution. Also, since alcohol treatment is expensive and you can only get one deferred prosecution in your lifetime, it is usually not recommended for first-time offenders.
Trial — As a last resort, you may select to proceed by way of trial. Some cases are best tried to a judge and some to a jury. A thorough examination and discussion of your case would be necessary before choosing between a trial by judge or jury.