The first court date after a DUI arrest occurs approximately 30 days after the day of arrest. The court date is set on the arresting police officer’s “key.” Every officer is given a “key.” For example, the key of “W” will stand for the second Tuesday and fourth Monday of every month. The officer is scheduled to be in court on his key date, not only for your case but for all cases in which the officer was the arresting officer.
You should hire an attorney before your first court date, and that attorney should be with you in court. During your first court date, your attorney will file his Appearance. An “Appearance” is a single page document which officially informs the Court that the attorney is on the case and is your legal representative. In addition to filing his Appearance, your attorney should Motion for Discovery and receive any discovery tendered by the prosecution. Discovery includes police reports with a detailed narrative of what occurred when you were arrested, detailed reports regarding how you performed on the Field Sobriety Tests, and a DVD copy of the police video and audio.
I am often asked what happens if the officer is not in court. The short answer is that it generally does not matter (with an exception for the Statutory Summary Suspension). A DUI charge in Illinois is a Class A Misdemeanor, which requires that you go to trial within 160 days if your out on bond and 140 days if you are in custody (jail). Therefore, on the first court date, assuming it is 30 days after your arrest, the State’s Attorney’s Office still has approximately 130 more days to get the officer into court to have a trial. A DUI is not like a regular traffic ticket where if the police officer does not show up the ticket is dismissed.
However, on the Statutory Summary Suspension, if the police officer is not present in Court and there is a Petition to Rescind the Statutory Summary Suspension which was previously filed, the police officer’s absence may make a world of difference.
As was discussed under “Statutory Summary Suspension,” the State’s Attorney’s Office (whether it is the Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, Kane County State’s, etc.) will have the arresting police officer testify as to what happened from the time of the DUI stop to the time you left the police station on bond. If the police officer is not present in court, the state’s attorney’s office has the option to “go on paper,” which means that the state’s attorney in the courtroom will give the Judge the police officer’s sworn reports as a substitute for the police officer’s live testimony. This usually suffices to establish a prima facia case, meaning that the state has presented enough evidence to require the defense to have to present some of its own evidence. The evidence that I provide is my Client’s sworn testimony. This means that the clerk will swear my Client in and then I ask my Client questions under oath. My questioning is usually limited to three or four very specific questions. My client testifies for no longer than a minute or two.
Most Judges will favor live in person testimony over a sworn report. Therefore, if the State uses a sworn report, the Statutory Summary Suspension will likely be rescinded (thrown out) and as a result of the Statutory Summary Suspension your driver’s license will not be suspended.
The next important event that happens at the first court date is that we get copies of the police reports, including the arresting officer’s first hand account of what he or she observed and the reason that the officer believes you were driving under the influence. We will also get a copy of any video of you driving and any Field Sobriety Tests you may have agreed to perform.
I then will continue the case for approximately 30 days to give us an opportunity to meet. At the meeting we will watch any video, review any police reports, decide if any motions need to be filed and ultimately choose the course of action with which we will proceed.