What Should You Do When You Get a DUI in Vermont?
I just got a DUI in Vermont, what do I do?
This can be a very unnerving experience. You may be thinking “I just got a DUI, my life is over!” Most crimes get committed by, well, criminals. There is a certain acceptance of the risk that comes along with that line of activity. But drinking and driving often is done by otherwise model citizens. Alcohol, unlike most non-prescription drugs, is legal. Law-abiding citizens regularly purchase and drink alcohol. But drink a little more than you should, get in your car, and, bingo, you might find blue lights in your rear view mirror, see yourself being paraded on the street in front of your friends and neighbors, front and center in the middle of your own personal nightmare.
What charges will I face from a DUI?
There are typically two components to a DUI, civil and criminal. The State of Vermont gets two bites of the apple. They get to charge you with a civil crime for the DUI, like getting a traffic ticket with a fine and loss of license as a ramification. And they get to charge you criminally for the DUI, with a fine, loss of license, and jail time as a possible ramification. In Vermont, both have court costs associated with them too, should you not prevail in your defense. Incarceration for DUI generally doesn’t occur unless you really screw up, like attempting to elude before being pulled over, or taking a swing at the cop. OR you are on your third + DUI.
What is the court process for a DUI in Vermont?
The civil and criminal DUI cases generally move along in tandem but ultimately, if a deal isn’t struck the civil DUI will get tried before a judge (bench trial) with a “preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not), as the burden of proof the State of Vermont must satisfy. The criminal DUI gets tried to a jury (jury trial) with a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, which is more onerous for the State of Vermont.
Part of the paperwork you might receive for a DUI along with a citation to appear in court may include a form that you need to sign and send in to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles within seven days or you may lose the civil DUI component by default. Similarly, the officer must send you his/her Affidavit within seven days in most cases or the State may lose the civil DUI by default. If you don’t send in that form you may file a motion to re-open the matter but the chances of success depend on how good of an excuse you have for not doing it. The court does not grant these things lightly. Plus, this adds unnecessary costs on to your legal expenses, as the motion must be written, filed, and argued.
Once you have been cited for DUI you will usually need to appear in court at the arraignment. This is where you are charged in open court with the offenses and given a packet by the State with names of witnesses, etc., and another copy of the Affidavit, and you enter a plea. We are sometimes successful in having your appearance waived if it is especially inconvenient for you to appear (you live far away or are taking a test in school on that date, or some such). But the court doesn’t like getting such requests at the last minute. In any case, there are sometimes conditions of release required, meaning the court isn’t going to make you put up bail money if you agree to certain things (coming to court when told, among other things, depending on what you have been charged with).
After the arraignment we perform Discovery to see if you were properly processed for the DUI. This includes determining if the stop was valid and not pre-textual, getting and viewing any videos, consulting a chemist to see whether the breathalyzer was properly maintained and administered, seeing if any meds you took or what you drank before the stop might have skewed the test results, etc., etc.
After we perform our analysis, we sit with you to discuss our results and decide together how we are going to proceed. Many times, the State of Vermont will agree with our analysis. That is, if we argue that the charge should be reduced or dismissed because of certain factors; or, on the other hand, if we need to plea out because they did their job correctly and you need to get this thing behind you ASAP.
Every case is unique, of course.
If you are involved in DUI charges in Vermont, you need an experienced Vermont DUI attorney. If you would like to discuss your particular DUI case, contact Attorney Kevin Volz at 802.775.0700. We are here to help.