There is no rule of thumb to go by when projecting the length of time needed to resolve a DUI case. There is a multitude of factors that can affect the duration of a case. Some cases are resolved quite quickly, while other extreme, outlier cases can take several years. To name a handful of the factors that come into play in determining the duration of a DUI case:
- what plea is entered
- the nature of the evidence in the case (some evidence takes a long time to gather)
- how many cases are on the court calendar
- how long it takes each attorney to present their arguments, cross-examine witnesses etc
Generally speaking, it will take longer to resolve a case for those who wish to fight their charges and enter a Not Guilty plea. The wait can be worth it if it means avoiding a DUI conviction on your record, as a conviction can have long-lasting, far-reaching consequences.
Sometimes defendants in a DUI case may choose to waive their right to a speedy trial, granting their attorney more time to gather evidence and prepare the case. In addition, proceedings may be delayed by either side if they are awaiting crucial evidence or if the case involves steeper charges, then it may take each side longer to gather evidence and witnesses. If a DUI defendant is waiting on the background of an arresting officer or the deposition of an expert witness, for example, this can drag out the duration of a case. When fighting any criminal charge, every bit of evidence that the state provides can be examined and challenged, in an attempt to poke holes in the prosecution's case. Another factor that can cause delay is if the court calendar is jam-packed with preliminary hearings, so those who waive their right to a speedy trial may not be scheduled until months after arraignment. The process of discovery also may take a good while as well-executed discovery should be thorough and exhaustive.
As an example, Guilford County, NC has a backlog of over 4,000 DWI cases waiting to go to trial. The average age of an unresolved DUI case in this county is a year and a half. The rate of arrests can easily outpace the speed at which the court handles and resolves DWI cases.
When it comes to DUI trials, speed may not be the main priority and could actually be a detriment to obtaining the best possible outcome. One way to think of it: "Don't be in a hurry to get convicted." Achieving the best resolution should be prioritized over obtaining a speedy one. It may actually be helpful to allow more time to elapse between arrest and trial. Your arresting officer's memory of the event may be less than sharp. Generally speaking, the older evidence is, the less compelling it might be in court. This is, in part, the reason that states impose a statute of limitations for filing other types of claims: evidence is less compelling over time.