What is the General Court Procedure for a DWI Charge in Fairfax?
Not one DWI case is the same; rather, a defendant’s case will depend on a number of factors including whether or not this was his first charge, whether he hired a private defense attorney opposed to a public defender, whether he posted bail, etc.
Court usually opens at 9:30 a.m. The judge begins by calling the names for the people with cases that did not hire a lawyer and reads them their charges. These people will usually have a defense attorney appointed to them if they cannot afford private counsel and are otherwise eligible.
It is at this time that the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney (aka Prosecutor or District Attorney) assigned to the courtroom will typically look at the case for the first time. Because of the sheer amount of cases that prosecutors handle, they will most likely not have had time to thoroughly read all their assigned cases for that day. Before court starts, the prosecutor will also speak to the police officers about the DWI cases that they were involved in.
After the prosecutor speaks to the police officers, they then meet with the defense attorneys to discuss the cases. Defendants are not allowed to be present at these meetings and they take place outside the courtroom. In these meetings, the defense attorney and prosecutor essentially break down the case, discuss the evidence, and identify any mitigating factors that might help the defendant. The prosecutor will then decide on a plea offer for the case and extend it to the defense attorney.
These plea agreements allow the defendant to plead guilty or no contest right then and there. It is up to the defendant whether or not to accept a plea offer and this decision is specific to the facts of the defendant’s case. For example, plea offers can be favorable to a defendant whose BAC is very high and would be most likely found guilty at trial; if this defendant pleads guilty at this early stage in the proceeding, the prosecutor will likely award him a better sentence than he would receive at a trial. However, a defendant whose BAC is .08 and believes that the evidence shows he was not driving while intoxicated might refuse to take the plea and take the case to trial.
What happens next in the court proceedings depends on whether or not the defendant pleads guilty. If he decides to plead, then the defendant will likely fill out paperwork and be instructed about the terms of his sentence. He will then likely be allowed to leave.
If the defendant pleads not guilty and decides to proceed with a trial, then there are a number of different things that will happen before the trial actually begins. A prosecutor and defense attorney will likely meet at least once more before the trial to discuss the case and talk about the possibility of the defendant pleading. The defense attorney might bring a number of different motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence or a motion for a continuance. The defendant’s trial will likely not start for at least a couple weeks after the initial arrest.