The majority of criminal cases are resolved at the pre-trial hearing stage of the case (because the prosecutor and defense work out an appropriate plea offer). But more and more cases are proceeding to the motion hearing, and some, eventually to trial. If the plea offer from the prosecutor is no worse than a person’s likely sentence if they were convicted at trial, there is really no reason not to set the case for a motions hearing and trial.
CrRLJ rule 3.5 and 3.6 govern motion hearings in DUI cases. CrRLJ 3.5 deals with suppression of the defendant’s statements where as CrRLJ 3.6 addresses motions to suppress evidence. To get a motions hearing set with the court, the attorney will draft a memorandum, which summarizes the legal arguments that they believe are pertinent, along with the applicable case law and statutes. After the memorandum is filed, the court will set a motions hearing date to address those issues. If a factual issue is in dispute, the court will also require testimony from the witnesses. In the DUI context, this normally involves the police officer(s) who made the arrest.
The motions hearing can address critical Constitutional questions, such as did the officer have probable cause to stop the vehicle and arrest the person? For these issues, if the evidence is suppressed, the entire case is dismissed. For instance, if the police illegally stopped the vehicle, all evidence found after the initial stop is also suppressed. It is somewhat rare to get a DUI charge completely dismissed at a motions hearing. What is more typical is a piece of evidence is suppressed, but the prosecutor can still move forward with charge despite losing the ability to introduce the suppressed evidence. For example, if the breath test is suppressed, the prosecutor can still proceed without the test, arguing that the defendant’s ability to drive was “affected” by alcohol. Nonetheless, the less evidence the prosecutor has to use against the person, the more difficult it is to prove the DUI charge.
Setting a motion hearing can be a tactical decision in a DUI case, or in any criminal case. Not only is it an opportunity to suppress evidence, it is also an opportunity to hear the witnesses testify, and assess the strength of the case at trial. Ideally, setting the motion hearing, and briefing the issues, will prompt the prosecutor to take a hard look at the facts of the case and make an acceptable plea offer, which resolves the case. If a motion hearing does not resolve the case, the only other option, besides accepting whatever plea offer has been offered, is to proceed to trial.
Up next, the trial.
Go back to pre-trial hearings.