If a police officer suspects you are driving under the influence in Florida, they can arrest you. Afterward, the legal process may begin with a preliminary hearing.
Understanding DUI preliminary hearings
After an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI), the next step is the preliminary hearing. It occurs before a trial can take place and is normally scheduled 30 to 60 days after your arrest. The preliminary hearing takes place at the district court where you were arraigned.
Although preliminary hearings are not trials, they are often confused with them due to their similarities. During the proceeding, a judge hears testimony from witnesses and learns about the evidence in your case. However, unlike a trial, there’s no jury. The preliminary hearing is also much shorter and the court does not issue a judgment.
Instead, the judge decides whether your case should go to trial based on probable cause. The preliminary hearing can take minutes or even hours. Sometimes, a DUI case never gets to that point; if you plead guilty during arraignment, there’s no need to have a preliminary hearing.
Potential outcomes of a preliminary hearing
After the preliminary hearing, the judge can either determine that there’s enough evidence to prove the case and that it should move on to trial. However, if the evidence is insufficient or the judge believes the probable cause is lacking, they can dismiss the case.
Moat DUI cases never get preliminary hearings. This is because the evidence often speaks for itself in the form of the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level if they submitted to a breath or blood test. In this situation, many people plead guilty early on.
DUI charges carry serious consequences, but it’s possible to fight them.