If you’ve been charged with a dui offense in Horn Lake, Southaven, or other parts of Mississippi, your case is going to start in the municipal court. Municipal courts are sort of the lower tier courts where all cases begin. Misdemeanor cases, like most dui offenses, will be resolved here either through a negotiated plea or a trial. Felony cases can have what’s called a preliminary hearing before moving up to the grand jury. If you’re facing a drunk driving charge, contact a Horn Lake dui attorney for help.
For a typical first or second offense misdemeanor dui case, your options at the municipal court level will be to either work out some kind of resolution (like a plea) or have a trial. How do dui trials work in the municipal court? Most importantly they are bench trials. This means there’s no jury. They are rather informal. They’re done with everyone standing in front of the judge. There’s no witness stand or court reporter either. Municipal courts are courts of no record, meaning there is no one there (at least provided by the court) to take down what everyone’s saying. You are free to record the hearing your self if you want, or to bring your own court reporter at your expense.
Since the state has the burden of proof, they go first. The city prosecutor will probably first call the officer who pulled you over. That officer will testify, then you (your lawyer) will get to cross examine him or her. There’s probably going to be a dui officer also, the one who was called by the first officer to go to the scene are decide that you were driving impaired. This officer may have administered field sobriety tests and conducted the breathalyzer. This officer’s testimony will be crucial.
After the state has presented its proof, it’s your turn. Usually defendants in dui cases don’t have witnesses, unless it was a passenger in the car with them or a medical expert. It really depends on the case. While you have the right, it’s usually not a good idea to testify for yourself. What you’re trying to do with a dui trial is not prove that you were driving sober, but prevent the state from beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence. They have a high burden, so make it difficult for them to carry it.
Municipal court dui trials can seem like simple affairs, but there’s a lot that goes into them, and the stakes are high. In the next article I’ll talk about how to prepare for one of these hearings. If you are looking for representation, contact Horn Lake MS DUI lawyer Patrick Stegall.