Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

Rhode Island DUI Court Process

Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esq.

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RI DUI Court Process

When a person has been arrested and charged with a Rhode Island DUI he/she will have to appear in one of Rhode Island’s Courts multiple times.  An experienced and aggressive Rhode Island DUI Defense Attorney will help you navigate the complicated DUI Court process.  Rhode Island has 4 major Court counties (Providence, Kent, Washington, and Newport) and a Traffic Tribunal in Cranston.  If you have been arrested and charged for a drunk driving charge or breath test refusal charge, which Court you will go to depends on which police department arrested you for the criminal charge.  Check Rhode Island DUI charges and drunk driving defenses for more information.

Call Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer S. Joshua Macktaz, Esquire today at 401.861.1155 for your best DUI defense

When you are arrested and charged as a DUI offender in RI,  your first appearance in criminal Court is called an arraignment and is held in one of the four (4) Rhode Island District Court buildings.


An arraignment is generally a short court appearance where you are formally advised of the DUI criminal charges against you in front of a Judge, and you enter a plea of “not guilty”.  The Judge decides whether to set a cash bail amount which must be posted before leaving the courthouse, or whether to release you on personal recognizance which is just your promise to appear in the Rhode Island District Court for all future court dates.   The last thing that occurs at an arraignment in the Rhode Island District Court is the Judge will give you a second court date, called a pre-trial conference.  Most folks charged with the criminal offense of DUI are released on their promise to reappear in court and are not required to post any cash bail.  Cash bail is usually only required if a person has failed to appear before at other, prior court appearances.

Pre-trial conference

The second court date is called the pre-trial conference and will take place approximately 2-3 weeks after the arraignment.  The purpose of the 2-3 weeks is called the Discovery period, which is the time when the prosecutor must provide your DUI defense attorney with all of the police reports, videos, blood alcohol content, and any other evidence that the police department has against you in the drunk driving case.  

This 2-3 weeks also allows an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer to properly investigate the DUI criminal case against you and prepare any and all possible defenses to your charge and avoid a DUI conviction.  My law office policy is to make sure every criminal client sees every single piece of evidence that the police have against them.  Once this discovery process is completed, it is time to meet with the prosecutor for the State or Town that arrested you for DUI or chemical test refusal at the pre-trial conference.  DUI clients are present in court for the pre-trial conference but do not take part in the actual conference.  

The pre-trial conference is an opportunity for your criminal defense attorney to meet with the prosecutor to discuss your DUI arrest and to present any possible defenses or mitigation to the drunk driving charge.  Sometimes, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, there can be two or three pre-trial conferences over the course of a few weeks while your criminal defense lawyer is negotiating with a prosecutor and presenting all of your possible defenses.  Check Rhode Island DUI defense for more information.

If your DUI case requires more than one (1) pre-trial conference, the next court date will be one (1) or two (2) weeks later.  The average Rhode Island DUI case usually takes between 45-60 days to complete.  As an experienced DUI Lawyer I will negotiate your path through the criminal court process as quickly as possible, but never at the expense of the best results.  

There are three (3) possible outcomes to your Rhode Island DUI or breath test refusal charges. 

Every single case ends in one of these three (3) ways:

  • Dismissal of the charges by the prosecutor:  This is the best possible outcome, and my goal in every case for every client.  Once the DUI charges are dismissed I can have them Expunged (erased) from your criminal record.  Check out expungement for more information about Rhode Island expungements.
  • Negotiated plea agreement:  This is where your DUI defense attorney and the prosecutor reach an agreed upon result for your case (with your approval of course) which brings the case to an end.  Plea agreements can include DUI penalties such as  fines, community service, probation, alcohol counseling, ignition interlock and hardship license and other penalties consistent with the facts and circumstances of your case. 
  • A Trial:  An actual trial (like you see on TV) in front of a jury, or a judge sitting without a jury (client’s choice), who will hear the witnesses testify and then make a ruling of guilty or not guilty.  In reality, only about 15% of DUI arrests actually get as far as the trial stage.  Why so few?  Because a properly prepared and aggressive DUI defense attorney will get the outstanding results you hope for without the need and worry of a full-blown trial.

But 15% of Rhode Island DUI cases do go to trial.  If I have advised a DUI client that he/she should go to trial in their criminal case, it is because I am as certain about success as I can be.  If you go to trial and you are found not guilty everything ends right there, and you have put this terrible experience behind you.  That means no DUI penalties, no loss of driver’s license, and no ignition interlock device.  

As a criminal lawyer for 30 years, I have handled thousands of cases before Jury’s, Judges and Magistrates from both sides of the table.  The number of RI criminal defense attorneys who can actually say that is incredibly small. This is where I obtained the necessary trial skills NOT possessed by the vast majority of DUI defense lawyers.   Of course, no one wants to go through the time and worry of an uncertain drunk driving trial…but if you do, it is this kind of experience that really matters in your drunk driving defense.  

What you can expect to happen if you have a Rhode Island DUI Trial:

  • The decision on judge or jury:  The Client has the right to proceed with a jury trial or a bench trial in any criminal case, DUI included. A bench trial is where the judge acts as the jury deciding the verdict of guilty or not guilty. There are some positives and negatives to having both types of trials and this decision is usually made based on the facts of the case, as well as the specific judge who your Rhode Island DUI case is before.
  • Jury selection:  If the trial will be held before a jury, your criminal defense attorney and prosecution select the jury through a question and answer process called “voir dire.”  It is a great way to find out more about the people who will be sitting in judgment, and to weed out anyone who seems biased towards law enforcement.
  • Pre-Trial motions:  Your defense criminal defense lawyer and prosecution make arguments to the judge, in advance of trial, to admit or exclude certain evidence from your DUI arrest. These requests are called motions in limine (Latin for “to limit”).  These are extremely important in RI DUI trials as the ability by the defense attorney to exclude certain evidence such as breathalyzer test results, field sobriety test results, blood alcohol content, your driving record or incriminating statements made by the Client can significantly damage the prosecution’s case.
  • Opening statements:  These statements provide an outline of the case each side expects to prove.  Your DUI lawyer may reserve an opening argument until the conclusion of the police’s case and evidence.  This is an excellent trial tactic employed by experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorneys.
  • Prosecution’s case:  The prosecution presents its main case through a direct examination of witnesses. Generally, this consists of testimony by the arresting police officer, any independent witnesses to the arrest, photographs and a state expert from the Rhode Island Department of Health to testify about the results of any breath test and/or breathalyzer equipment.
  • Cross-examination:  Your defense attorney then cross-examines the prosecution witnesses. It has been said that there is no greater mechanism for the finding of truth than a vigorous cross-examination, and I agree entirely.  Cross-examination is an art form, not easily accomplished by the majority of criminal defense lawyers.  I thoroughly enjoy the art of cross-examining police officers and witnesses to the DUI charge.
  • Prosecution rests:  The prosecution finishes presenting evidence.
  • Defense’s case:  Your RI DUI lawyer has an opportunity to present your DUI defense. The Client has the right to testify and/or call any expert or civilian witnesses he/she feels will help defend the case.
  • Cross-examination:  Now the prosecutor cross-examines the defense witnesses.
  • Defense rests:   The defense finishes presenting its case.
  • Prosecution’s closing argument:  The prosecution makes its closing argument.
  • Defense’s closing argument:  Your criminal defense lawyer makes the  closing argument.
  • Jury instructions:  The judge instructs the jury about what DUI law to apply to the case and how to carry out its duties.
  • Jury deliberations:  The jury deliberates and tries to reach a verdict which must be unanimous.
  • Verdict:  The judge or the jury reads the verdict of guilty or not guilty to the charges of drunk driving.


  • Former Rhode Island State Prosecutor
  • Judges, Lawyers and Police Officers refer family and friends
  • 30 years of experience in Rhode Island criminal law with a concentration in DUI arrests
  • 300+ Five Star online reviews across all platforms
  • Aggressive, experienced and personal representation of all clients charged with drunk driving
  • My law office has strong and long-standing relationships with all Rhode Island Judges and prosecutors 
  • My goal in every criminal case is DISMISSAL and then EXPUNGEMENT of all charges from your criminal record and driving record.
  • I will be the DUI lawyer reviewing and overseeing your case and I will be the DUI attorney standing next to you in court.  Unlike so many other Rhode Island Criminal Defense firms, I do NOT send associates to do my job.  I am in criminal court every day of the week, and I strongly believe each DUI client deserves this personal service.
  • I copy every client on every single document coming into the law office, or leaving the office, regarding their DUI charges.  I think it is critical for every client to be well-informed and fully engaged in the process.  Defending your criminal DUI case is truly a team effort.
  • All calls and emails will be returned by me, not an associate, within a few hours of receiving the email or call.  
  • I provide a free and comprehensive initial consultation in all new DUI cases.
  • I am available 24/7/365
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