An arraignment is the first time an accused person appears in court. An arraignment, or initial hearing, informs the accused of their rights and the charges against them. Arraignment is the first stage of courtroom-based proceedings after the DUI arrest, booking, and initial bail phases of the DUI process.
Many people 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. In DUI cases, the arraignment usually represents the first and last time the suspect will be in court. This is because most DUI suspects choose to plead guilty. This is especially true if evidence of intoxication is solid and little leeway for a plea bargain exists.
This article addresses the timing of an arraignment. It also discusses what happens during a DUI arraignment. Finally, the article covers the right to counsel and when evidence becomes available to an accused person's attorney.
When Will I Be Arraigned?
Although courts are busy with pending cases, you have the right to a speedy arraignment. After your arrest for driving under the influence (DUI), the arraignment should happen within a few days. This helps reduce the mounting stress and confusion of the DUI charges against you.
What Happens During a DUI Arraignment?
During a typical DUI arraignment, you must appear before a criminal court judge who:
- Reads the criminal charges against you, the defendant
- Asks you if you have an attorney or need the help of a court-appointed attorney
- Asks you how you answer or "plead to" the criminal charges (guilty, not guilty, or no contest)
- Decides whether to alter the bail amount or to release you on your own recognizance. These matters usually get revisited even if lawyers addressed them in prior proceedings.
- 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?
At the arraignment stage, the prosecutor will usually give you (the DUI defendant) and your attorney copies of police reports and other documents relevant to your case.
For example, the prosecutor may give the defense lab reports of any chemical tests or blood tests performed and copies of any notes the arresting officer took during field sobriety tests.
The Right to Counsel
Suppose you face possible jail time upon conviction of a DUI offense. In that case, you have a constitutional right to the help of an attorney or "counsel." If you want an attorney but can't afford to hire one, the court will appoint an attorney at no cost to you. These government-appointed defense attorneys, usually employed as public defenders, protect your 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 a DUI Lawyer
Your drunk driving arraignment can be confusing but is also essential to your case and criminal defense. A judge has several options during an arraignment, including setting your bail amount, scheduling future court dates, including a plea bargaining hearing, and more.
Consult a local DUI attorney before your arraignment to know what to expect and discuss your DUI defense. A defense lawyer is familiar with DWI and DUI laws and can help you determine whether a guilty plea or jury trial makes sense for your case. An attorney can educate you on DUI penalties related to any potential DUI conviction.