DUI arraignment is the first actual courtroom appearance for the defendant that has been arrested and booked for driving under the influence. The arraignment occurs just a few days after the DUI arrest and is where the defendant is formally charged with a DUI.
During an arraignment, the charged suspect is called into court by a judge who does the following:
- Inquires whether the defendant has an attorney or needs one appointed
- Reads the charges against the defendant
- Asks how the defendant pleads to the charges
- Determines the bail amount
- Schedules future court dates for further proceedings
- Hands over initial discovery to the defendant (or the defendant’s attorney), which is usually:
- Copies of police reports;
- Results of chemical tests; and
- Results of blood tests.
Every defendant has a right to a speedy trial so courts try to speed up every process. After a DUI arrest, you should be arraigned within a few days and you will be read your charges by a judge and your request for an attorney will be granted.
When preparing for your DUI arraignment hearing, you should be prepared whether you want to plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no contest”. If you go to your arraignment unprepared and do not enter a plea, the judge will enter a “not guilty” plea for you on your behalf.
If you plead “not guilty” at your DUI arraignment, the judge will set a date for the pretrial hearing. The pretrial hearing usually occurs within 90 days from the date of your DUI arraignment.
If the crime is serious enough and the defendant faces the possibility of jail time if convicted, the individual being arraigned has a constitutional right to an attorney. Police departments and judges everywhere are very aware of this right, and should immediately spring to action when a request for counsel is made by a DUI suspect. Even if the suspect cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney at no cost.
It is extremely important to be represented by legal counsel as soon as possible. Since the arraignment is technically the first step in a potentially long criminal adjudication, it would be wise to hire an attorney.
A DUI/DWI lawyer will be able to make the right strategic decisions regarding time waivers, whether to accept a plea bargain, or a number of other considerations. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to appear on your behalf without you showing up to court.