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Misdemeanor Drunk Driving Charges: The Court Process

judge.jpgIn California, including San Diego County, when a driver is arrested for driving under the influence, two processes start. There is an administrative process that is handled through the Department of Motor Vehicles, (DMV). That portion of the case addresses the status of the arrestee’s driver’s license. In addition, there is a criminal court process that addresses the crime of DUI. This article specifically addresses what happens in the court process. For information on the DMV, see “Driving Under The Influence And The DMV Hearing.”

The person suspected of drunk driving is often arrested and booked into the San Diego County Jail or the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility. They are given an opportunity to post bail and be released. Upon release, they are given a Bail Receipt which states the recommended charges and the date, time, and place of the first court hearing, the Arraignment.

At the Arraignment, the defendant is informed of the actual filed charges. Also, they are given a copy of the complaint and an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. (Be aware of accepting an offer at this early stage! You and your attorney will not have all the evidence to review to help make an informed decision about pleading guilty. However, the prosecutor often gives a decent offer at this stage in hopes of getting the case resolved quickly.)

If the defendant chooses not to plead guilty, a Readiness Hearing is scheduled. Between the Arraignment and the Readiness Hearing, the prosecuting agency will forward all of the discovery to the defendant or the defendant’s drunk driving attorney. The discovery is reviewed by the attorney and the defendant. The defense attorney may find issues with the case and proceed with filing motions to challenge the State’s case. Winning a motion can result in a better offer or even a dismissal of the entire case!

In addition, there is a negotiation meeting between the prosecutor and the DUI defense attorney and another offer is made on the case. The defendant may choose to accept the offer, and enter a change of plea at the next Readiness Hearing.

However, if the DUI defendant chooses not to accept the offer, the next step is a trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the jurors, (or the judge if it is a court trial), will decide if the defendant is guilty of the charges. If found guilty, the judge will proceed with drunk driving sentencing. If the defendant is found not guilty, the defendant is acquitted and the court no longer has jurisdiction over the case.

The above blog is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may change and some may not apply to your case. For the latest information, or to get legal advice about your specific drunk driving matter, speak to a DUI attorney in your area.


If you have been charged with drunk driving in San Diego County, you need to hire The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman, the exclusively DUI defense firm, to aggressively defend your case. Contact us now for a free telephone consultation to discuss your rights, defenses, and the best strategy on how to handle your matter. Call 619-260-1122 or use the “Contact Us” form on this page.