The DUI Process in MS: What to Expect in Criminal Court
The American court system can be divided into civil trials (i.e. car wrecks with money damages and no jail time) and criminal trials (fines and jail time). This clear division applies in federal and state courts, and this article focuses on criminal law cases in Mississippi state courts.
The one civil issue that applies to DUI cases in state court is the license suspension which occurs when the DUI arrestee refuses a breath, blood or urine test when offered by the arresting officer. This license suspension can be for 90 days on a DUI first offense and a year on a second or subsequent DUI arrest. This suspension is in addition to any driver's license suspension if convicted on the DUI.
Another page on this website further explains the details of how Mississippi state traffic courts operate and should also be viewed. As you will understand all municipal courts operate differently, and your local criminal defense lawyers should be able to explain just what you should expect on your trial date. We are in municipal courts on a daily basis and can ensure that your court appearance goes smoothly.
These municipal courts hear all types of misdemeanor crimes (jail time up to 6 months and a $1,500.00 fine). DUI trials are the most serious crimes heard in these municipal and justice courts. There are much more detailed procedures in these types of cases.
The most important penalty in any criminal charge is the time you spend in jail if you are convicted. Our clients tend to be focused on hiring criminal defense lawyers nearby who both understand how local courts operate and how to keep them out of jail. Further, these clients also want their lawyers to keep these criminal charges off their records.
I wrote the original book on Mississippi DUI over a decade ago titled Mississippi DUI Law and Practice (Thompson/West) and am now joined by Kevin Stewart and Lance Mixon for the last 10 years for a yearly update of new cases and scientific articles by guest authors. Come talk to the lawyers who wrote the book.
This article primarily focuses on what you can expect when your DUI goes to trial in a local Mississippi traffic court. DUI first and second offenses or misdemeanor crimes and can be heard in local municipal and justice courts. These charges should all start in lower courts (municipal and justice) and are heard and what is referred to as a “bench trial” which means that a judge will hear your case rather than a jury, and that judge will render a decision of guilty or not guilty.
DUI charges can also be felony cases. When you are charged with a DUI third offense within five years, or a DUI fourth offense in your lifetime, or if the DUI results in serious result in a serious physical injuries to your passengers or individuals in another vehicle, felony charges will be charged by way of a grand jury indictment (felony charges) and your trial will be before the circuit court of the county where you were charged.
To get a better understanding of these municipal (city) and justice courts, see criminal court process.
These non-jury DUI trials appear to violate our Constitutional rights to a trial by jury. However, this issue was decided in the 1989 case of Blanton v. City of North Las Vegas, 489 U.S. 538 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that so long as the jail term for a criminal offense was not more than 6 moths (DUI 1st and DUI 2nd offenses) that bench trials (judge only) was acceptable.
Other states (Nevada, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Nebraska) deny DUI/DWI offenders a jury trial which differs from neighboring southern eastern states like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina and Louisiana which is closer to the Supreme Court ruling that DUI's with less than 6 months jail time do not have to be afforded a jury trial.
As part of the DUI court process, the arresting officer issues the person arrested a traffic citation or affidavit that conforms to the Uniform Traffic Citation Act under MCA 63-9-21. This citation is a multi-copy form, and the person arrested should be provided with a copy.
The original traffic citation will be filed by the arresting officer to the proper municipal court or justice court in the city or county where the arrest took place. In writing out this DUI ticket, the arresting officer swears that the arrested person committed the criminal offense of DUI.
The Court clerk takes the sworn citation, creates a case file, adds it to their criminal court docket, and so begins the criminal case. Your case will be part of a future criminal court calendar in what may essentially be a justice of the peace or a municipal (city) court.
An arrest for DUI may be made by any highway patrol officer, sheriff or his duly commissioned deputies. Plus, any police officer in any incorporated municipality, and any officer of a state-supported institution of higher learning (campus police force) made on campus property can arrest you.
Beyond those police personnel, any officer appointed and commissioned pursuant to the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, in their area, can arrest a person in that designated area. In addition, a Park Ranger on federal property, Military Police on military bases, and constables in their counties may be the arresting officer.
The criminal court DUI process gives each accused citizen the right to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. In the pre-trial phases, an arraignment for a drunk driving case will often happen before blood test results are back from the crime lab.
Unlike a speeding ticket, a lane violation, or a failure to yield the right of way, every Mississippi DUI will involve an implied consent notice seeking chemical testing by way of a blood sample or breathalyzer breath sample.DUI Attorneys Near Me Defend Your Constitutional Rights
When facing any criminal or traffic problem, putting off a lawyer consultation can create terrible consequences. Plus, having to keep thinking about the unknown can cause anxiety and depression in most people.
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