What to expect are a DWI arrest
If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI or DUI in the State of Arkansas, especially if you have never experienced it before, you are likely to be very confused, anxious and scared. These are all normal feelings and emotions following a DWI/DUI arrest, or any arrest for that matter. Sometimes when people are faced with the aftermath of a DWI arrest, they are somewhat frozen in fear because of all the questions and worries about what is going to happen to them. People who have never been to court sometimes feel that the anticipation of what is about to happen is overwhelming. Most people don’t know what to expect and imagine the worst, or imagine it will be like what they see on TV. The information on this page is provided so that you will know what to expect through all of the stages following your DWI arrest, from administrative hearings through plea and arraignment and trial. The DWI attorneys at Collins Defense Law answer these questions and more every day for our clients. If you have been charged with a DWI or DUI in Arkansas, let our attorneys help you, too.
There are important dates coming, sometimes quickly; therefore, you need an experienced DWI attorney from the very beginning of your case so that no part of your case is overlooked. Remember that your attorney is your voice in the judicial system, so you need to pick the right attorney for your case. (See our section on How to Hire an Attorney for more information regarding this important decision.)
Pink Sheets Given to You By the Police
When you are arrested for DWI in the State of Arkansas, the police officer will take your driver’s license. In return, he should provide you with two pink sheets of paper. One is your temporary license. It will serve as your driver’s license for 30 days after your arrest. In theory, this is to allow you to get your court handled and be on the road to getting your license back, either after a not guilty verdict, or after your period of suspension following a guilty plea or a finding of guilt after trial. In reality, this is almost never enough time for the process to be concluded. Often times your first court appearance, or plea and arraignment date, is not even set within that 30 day time period. The second pink sheet is a form for a request for an administrative hearing. You have 7 days to mail or fax that sheet to Driver Control (at the address or number provided on the form) to request a hearing regarding the immediate suspension of your license. Failure to send that form to Driver Control will result in a denial of a hearing regarding your license. Although this procedure is established, by law, as an administrative “hearing”, most cases result in an automatic finding that your license is suspended, with the time for suspension depending on whether it is a first offense DWI, a subsequent DWI, or a DUI. (See our section on penalties and consequences found at the “DWI Answers” tab above for specific information regarding the various license suspension periods.) The hearing officer will not hear testimony and will base his opinion on the report submitted by the police officer, who is not even present for the hearing. Still, it is important that the hearing request form be submitted to Driver Control within the 7-day period, because it is also the means by which you begin the process of getting an interlock device installed on your car.
License Suspension/Interlock Device
In most cases, after the 30 day temporary license has expired, your license will be automatically suspended through Driver Control. This is completely separate from the court process. At the time of your hearing, after a hearing officer finds that your license should be suspended, Driver Control will issue an “Interlock Order” that states that you are eligible for an interlock device to be installed on your vehicle. This device is attached to your ignition and you are required to blow into it in order to start your vehicle. The vehicle will not start if there is a detectable amount of alcohol on your breath. You will also be required to periodically blow into the machine again in order for your vehicle to continue operating.
Driver control will also provide you with a list of local interlock providers. You can call any of the providers listed on the form to have the machine installed on your vehicle. Some of the companies will even come to your vehicle for installation. There is a fee for installation of the device and a monthly maintenance fee, which varies by and is payable to the interlock providers. After the interlock is installed, the provider will give you a certificate of installation. This certificate must then be taken to Driver Control and then you will receive a form that will serve as your restricted driver’s license which states that you are only allowed to drive a vehicle that has an interlock device installed in it. This form will be valid for the period of your driver’s license suspension, which is determined by whether you are charged with a DWI-1 or subsequent DWI, a DUI or a Refusal. (See our section on penalties at the “DWI Answers” tab above for the specific time periods of license suspensions.)
Another form that you should receive from Driver Control will specify what you are required to do in order to get your license reinstated after your suspension period, such as the alcohol education classes and reinstatement fee. These requirements will not be necessary if you are found Not Guilty at trial.
The ticket you received from the police officer will have your first court date written on it; it tells you when you must appear in court, and the Arkansas District Court in which you must appear. This date is called a plea and arraignment date. This is a court date on which only guilty pleas or not guilty pleas are accepted. If you plead guilty on this date, you are sentenced immediately and your case, except for the consequences, is over. So is your ability to fight your case. If you plead not guilty, you will be given a trial date. Some people ask if it is ok to plead not guilty on this first date and later come back and plead guilty. They usually ask, “Won’t that make the judge mad?” The answer is that it is very common for that to happen. Since sometimes there has been no opportunity for a Defendant to speak to an attorney prior to their first court date, a judge will almost always understand why someone would not plead guilty on their first court date and then later change their plea to guilty.
If you have talked to friends and/or family about your DWI, or even other attorneys who are not familiar with DWI defense, you may be advised to just plead guilty on your first appearance and get it over with. However, our attorneys almost never give someone this advice; we definitely will not advise someone to do that if they have hired COLLINS, COLLINS & RAY to represent him or her. At this stage of the case, it would be foolish to do so. You don’t yet have all the information that the prosecution will try to use against you as evidence of your guilt. Imagine you have pain in your right side. Would you allow a doctor to advise you to get a liver transplant based on that information alone? No, of course not. You would certainly want to see the results of tests, MRIs, etc. that said it was necessary for you to have a liver transplant. And even with that information, something so serious would cause you to more than likely seek a second opinion before you did something that would affect the rest of your life. A DWI will affect the rest of your life as well. (See our section on Penalties and Consequences and our Success Stories before you decide you don’t want to hire a lawyer to fight your DWI.)
In most jurisdictions, if you hire an attorney to represent you on your DWI, the attorney will handle the plea and arraignment date for you and you will not have to appear in court. (That is what we do at COLLINS, COLLINS & RAY. When you are interviewing attorneys, be sure to ask if they are willing to handle your first court date for you.) Whether you attend the plea and arraignment, or hire an attorney prior to that court date, it is at that court appearance that you will be given a trial date.
After you have hired an attorney, most people want to know how long they will have to wait for their case to be over. Understandably, they want to put this whole experience behind them as quickly as possible. You may be feeling the same way. Unfortunately, the process is not quick and easy. A lot of work has to be done by the attorney before your case ever gets to court. Documents and records have to be requested from the courts, police, Dept. of Health, and other agencies that may be involved in your case. It takes time to compile all these documents and records; sometimes the attorney has to fight the agencies involved to get the necessary documentation. This is another reason you need to hire an experienced DWI attorney; other attorneys, although good attorneys, may not know about all the various documentation (and the various sources through whom the information is received) that they need to properly defend your case. It goes well beyond the police report. This is a time consuming process in which the attorney is doing a lot of work and you are doing a lot of waiting. You should call your attorney at any time during this period for updates on your case if you feel apprehensive.
As the trial date gets closer, most people start feeling anxious and worried about what will happen at court. This is very common. Again, especially if you’ve never been to court, going to court on your own case is a worrisome ordeal. You should be proactive in your case. Your attorney will be able to make you feel much more comfortable as the time nears by preparing you with the defenses that he or she will be presenting at trial. Make sure you know the date and time of your next court appearance and the location of the court house. Your attorney should tell you all these things, but sometimes clients lose their letters, forget, etc., so keep in contact with your attorney so you will always be prepared.
It is not common for the Defendant to testify at trial. Most people are very worried about getting up on the stand and being asked questions by the Prosecutor. Most clients will never have to do that; their attorney will do the talking for them. If you are going to testify at trial, you will discuss this at length with your attorney and be more comfortable with the plan before you do it. The attorney will be the one who will be asking the witnesses questions at court, but you should take an active role in your trial. Be prepared to listen carefully to all the testimony and be prepared to take notes, if asked to do so by your attorney, as listening to the testimony may jog your memory regarding the events of your arrest.
On your court date, it is best to arrive for your DWI trial about 15 minutes early. You should dress in “business casual” attire. No suits or “church clothes” are necessary, but you shouldn’t dress as if you are going to a cook-out or concert, either. There will be other lawyers and other DWI cases set for trial on your court date so plan to be there for several hours. If you are from out of state, plan on flying home the next day to avoid flight scheduling problems.
Appeal from District Court
If you do not win your case at the District Court level, you do have the right to an appeal. In Arkansas, the courts are separated with the lower court, or District Court, as the one in which your case first appears. Cases appealed from District Court go the the Circuit Court of the county in which the District Court lies. For example, a Little Rock District Court case will be appealed to the Pulaski County Circuit Court and Texarkana cases will be appealed to the Miller County Circuit Court. When a case is appealed to Circuit Court, it starts over from the beginning. This is called a trial “de novo”, or from the beginning. A new plea and arraignment is usually required,the paperwork from your case must be replicated, and you will have a new trial. The great thing about a de novo appeal is that you can choose to have a jury trial instead of having the case heard and decided by a judge. The bad news is that the choice to have a jury hear the case is not yours alone. The prosecution can also get a jury trial. In other words, if you want to have a judge decide the case, but the prosecution wants a jury, the prosecution can force you to a jury trial. Regardless of whether you have a bench trial, or a jury trial, the attorneys at COLLINS, COLLINS & RAY will fight for you every step of the way.