The flashing lights in your rearview mirror have led to a DUI arrest, and now you’re left wondering how to navigate the legal system. Your mind races with questions about what comes next and how to handle the situation. Fear not–we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we outline the essential steps to take after a DUI arrest and show you how an experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through this challenging situation.
Step #1: Comply with Pretrial Release or Bond Conditions
Understanding and Following Your Release Conditions
After a DUI arrest in Knoxville, it’s essential to follow the pretrial release or bond conditions set by the court. If you were released on pretrial release, you must report to the pretrial office within 72 hours of your release. This office is located in the Old Courthouse at 300 West Main Street.
Regardless of whether you were released on pretrial release or bond, it’s crucial to review the conditions of your release to ensure you fully understand how to remain in compliance. Failing to adhere to these conditions may lead to the District Attorney’s Office and/or your bonding company filing a motion to revoke your bond or pretrial release. This can result in you being arrested and placed in custody until your underlying case is resolved.
Potential Consequences of Non-Compliance
By not complying with your release conditions, you put yourself at risk for further legal trouble. Keep in mind that violating the terms of your release can result in additional fines, incarceration, or both.
Understanding DUI Charges and Penalties in Tennessee
In Tennessee, DUI charges and penalties can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the individual’s prior DUI history. First-time offenders can face fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol safety education programs, and even jail time. Subsequent offenses carry increasingly severe penalties, including longer license suspensions, higher fines, and mandatory ignition interlock device installation.
Step #2: Seek the Expertise of a DUI Attorney
One of the most critical steps after a DUI arrest is contacting an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. Talking to a DUI attorney will help alleviate much of the stress and anxiety surrounding your case. At Barnes & Fersten, our knowledgeable team will provide answers to your questions and concerns, review the specific facts of your arrest, and get to know you as an individual. Our clients often express gratitude for the sense of security and stress relief our guidance provides.
Benefits of Hiring a DUI Lawyer Early
Hiring a DUI lawyer as soon after your arrest as possible can provide additional benefits beyond alleviating stress. Your attorney may be able to:
- Amend your bond or pre-trial conditions: Your lawyer can work with the court to modify any conditions that may be overly restrictive or unnecessary, such as an ignition interlock device, scram device, drug testing, or frequent reporting to pretrial services. Your lawyer can file a motion to modify your pre-trial conditions or bond conditions, and negotiate with the prosecutor to amend those conditions.
- Determine if there are any legal issues with your arrest: Your attorney can identify any potential violations of your rights, such as lack of probable cause, improper administration of field sobriety tests, or unlawful search and seizure.
- Evaluate the evidence against you: A skilled DUI lawyer can analyze the evidence in your case, challenge the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results, and identify any flaws or inconsistencies that could weaken the prosecution’s case.
- Negotiate with the prosecutor: Your attorney can discuss your case with the prosecutor to negotiate a plea bargain, which could result in reduced charges or penalties, or even the dismissal of your case.
- Represent you in court and present your case in the most favorable light possible: If your case goes to a preliminary hearing or trial, your DUI attorney will present a compelling defense, cross-examine witnesses, and challenge the prosecution’s evidence, giving you the best chance of a favorable outcome.
If you and your lawyer determine that a particular condition is unfair or unnecessary in your case, your lawyer may be able to remove or amend the condition as soon as possible, sometimes even before your first court date.
Step #3: Understand the DUI Court Process
Familiarizing yourself with the DUI court process in Knoxville, Tennessee, can help you better understand what to expect as your case progresses. The process typically includes:
- Arraignment: At this initial court appearance, you’ll be formally charged, and a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest will be entered. Your attorney may request modifications to your bond conditions or file a motion on your behalf to amend those conditions.
- Pretrial conference/Status Date: This is an opportunity for your attorney to discuss your case with the prosecutor, address any legal issues, and explore potential plea agreements.
- Preliminary Hearing: This is the first opportunity for your attorney to cross-examine the arresting officer, as well as other potential state witnesses such as a victim, to know exactly what their testimony will be at trial. It is also an opportunity for your lawyer to explore potential legal issues and strategically ask questions for sworn testimony to file motions in criminal court thereafter. Your lawyer may request your case be dismissed at the preliminary hearing based on a lack of probable cause or a legal issue, but the main purpose of the preliminary hearing is to get the sworn testimony for a motion hearing or trial later.
- Grand Jury: After the preliminary hearing, the State has full discretion to bring your case to the grand jury regardless of whether the judge binds your case over to the grand jury or dismisses your case at a preliminary hearing. Your attorney is not present during the grand jury unfortunately. However, it is an extra layer of protection where citizens must find probable cause of the offense you allegedly committed.
- Motion hearings: Your attorney may file motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or address other legal matters. These hearings allow the judge to make determinations on these issues before trial. Generally, a motion hearing will occur in criminal court, not general sessions court. In general sessions court, the judge will usually address motion hearings during the preliminary hearing.
- Trial: If your case proceeds to trial, your attorney will present your defense and challenge the prosecution’s case. The outcome will be determined by either a judge or jury.
- Sentencing: If you’re found guilty, the judge will determine your sentence, which may include community service, alcohol treatment programs, probation, or incarceration. The jury will determine the fine.
Throughout this process, your DUI attorney will advocate for your best interests and work tirelessly to achieve a favorable outcome.
Don't Face a DUI Arrest Alone - Contact Barnes & Fersten for a Free Consultation
When facing a DUI arrest in Knoxville, Tennessee, you need an experienced and skilled criminal defense team by your side. At Barnes & Fersten, we are dedicated to guiding you through this challenging time and fighting for the best possible outcome for your case. From the initial consultation to the resolution of your case, we’ll be with you every step of the way.
Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you take control of your situation and safeguard your future. With our expertise, commitment, and personalized approach, you can trust that your case is in capable hands. Call Barnes & Fersten now to start building a strong defense against your DUI charges.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.