After the arrest, booking, and initial bail phases of the DUI process, the first stage of courtroom-based proceedings takes place -- the arraignment. Many citizens that are arrested for a DUI have never had a criminal case in court. And because they have no experience in the courtroom, they don't understand how the process works. It is important to note that in DUI cases, the arraignment usually represents the first and last time the suspect will be in court, as most DUI suspects choose to plead guilty, especially if evidence of intoxication is strong and if little leeway for a plea bargain exists.
When Will I Be Arrainged?
Even though our courts are busy with pending cases, you have the right to a speedy arraignment. After your DUI arrest, you should be arraigned within just a few days. This will help alleviate the mounting stress and confusion of the charges against you.
What Happens During a DUI Arraignment?
During a typical arraignment, a person charged with DUI is called before a criminal court judge, who:
- Reads the criminal charge(s) against the person (now called the "defendant");
- Asks the defendant if he or she has an attorney, or needs the assistance of a court-appointed attorney;
- Asks the defendant how he or she answers or "pleads to" the criminal charges -- guilty, not guilty, or no contest;
- Decides whether to alter the bail amount or to release the defendant on his or her own recognizance (note that these matters are usually revisited even if addressed in prior proceedings); and
- Announces dates of future proceedings in the case, such as the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and trial.
When Will My Lawyer Get My Police Report and Documentation of Other Evidence Against Me?
Typically at the arraignment stage the prosecutor will give the DUI defendant and his or her attorney copies of police reports and any other documents relevant to the case. For example, the prosecutor may provide the defense with lab reports of any blood or chemical tests that were performed, as well as copies of a police officer's notes taken during field sobriety tests.
The Right to Counsel
If a DUI defendant faces the possibility of jail time upon conviction, they have a constitutional right to the assistance of an attorney, or "counsel." If the defendant wishes to be represented by an attorney but cannot afford to hire one, a government-appointed attorney will be assigned at no cost to the defendant. Usually employed as "public defenders", these government-appointed defense attorneys are responsible for zealously protecting a criminal defendant's rights at all stages of the criminal process. To learn more about the right to counsel, check out FindLaw's section on the Right to Counsel.
Learn More About DUI Arraignments from an Attorney
Your DUI arraignment can be confusing, but also extremely important to your case. A judge has a number of options during an arraignment including setting your bail amount, scheduling future court dates including a plea bargaining hearing, and more. It's in your best interests to at least consult with a local DUI attorney before your arraignment so you know what to expect.