Drunk driving arrests that occur on federally owned land are prosecuted in federal court. Federal DUI / DWI prosecutions are conducted similarly to trials in state superior courts, but different laws apply depending on where the arrest took place. An attorney experienced in defending federal drunk driving cases can explain the key differences between federal and state prosecutions, and develop a winning strategy to fight each case.
If the driver was arrested in a national park, the offense is regarded as a Class B misdemeanor and is governed by the Code of Federal Regulation. If the DUI arrest took place on any other federally owned land, the court will apply the law of the state where the land is located through the Assimilative Crimes Act.
As in state court, the first step in a DUI / DWI misdemeanor prosecution is arraignment. The driver is advised of the pending charges and is required to make a plea – either not guilty, nolo contendre or no contest, or guilty. If the driver pleads not guilty, a pretrial conference is scheduled.
In some cases, defendants and prosecutors reach a plea agreement, in which the driver will plead guilty before the case goes to trial in exchange for a reduced charge or sentence. If a plea bargain is made prior to the pretrial conference, the driver likely will plead guilty or no contest at the hearing. If no agreement was reached, the hearing is an opportunity to bring pretrial motions before the court. Common pretrial motions involve evidence suppression, discovery, and motions to dismiss.
Defendants in federal DUI prosecutions have the right to a jury trial if the potential punishment exceeds six months in prison. If the punishment does not exceed six months imprisonment, the trial is presided over by a federal magistrate who decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Because federal drunk driving cases carry harsh consequences, it’s important to have competent legal representation. Anyone arrested for drinking and driving on federal land should contact an experienced California DUI / DWI lawyer.