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DUI Booking, Arraignment, and Bail

After law enforcement stops you on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), they ask you to submit to chemical and field sobriety tests. If you are under the influence of alcohol, and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or above your state's legal limit, the police officer will place you under arrest. Law enforcement can arrest you if you are below the legal limit if you show evidence of intoxication, or if the officer believes you are under the influence of drugs.

Law enforcement will confiscate your driver's license at the time of your arrest. Most likely, your motor vehicle will get towed and impounded.

Once arrested, you will go through the booking process, arraignment, and a bail hearing.

Booking Process

After an arrest, a DUI suspect is usually taken into police custody and booked or processed. This procedure can vary widely from station to station, but a police officer typically:

  • Takes your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, physical characteristics
  • Records information about your alleged crime
  • Performs a record search of your criminal background
  • Takes your fingerprints and booking photographs or mug shots
  • Searches you
  • Confiscates and inventories all personal property
  • Places you in a police station holding cell or local jail
  • Allows you to contact an attorney or a family member

Law enforcement will subject you to another chemical test, such as a Breathalyzer or breath test, a blood test, or a urinalysis. These tests verify your BAC and will look for any intoxicating substances.


DUI suspects may need to spend the night in jail, with an arraignment held the following morning. If you are in custody overnight, this generally will count toward any jail time you may receive following a DUI conviction.

An arraignment is a court appearance where a judge explains your DUI charge and any other criminal charges you may face. Bail will be set, and any conditions on your release will be entered into the court record. An arraignment will not discuss or argue aspects of your criminal case.

Most first offenses are misdemeanors. However, certain factors may enhance your charge to a felony DUI or an aggravated DUI. These may include:

  • Having a BAC of 0.15% or more
  • Causing significant property damage
  • Inflicting personal injury or death
  • Transporting a minor during your DUI

The judge will ask if you need a public defender or if you wish to hire your own criminal defense attorney. If you have an attorney and can reach them before your arraignment, they may be in court with you to argue for your bail amount.


Bail is a process through which, after arrest, you can pay money in exchange for release from police custody. As a condition of release, you promise to appear in court for all scheduled criminal proceedings. These include arraignment, preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and the trial.

Other conditions usually exist, such as abstaining from drugs and alcohol and not committing further crimes. You may also need to meet with the probation office.

Some courts have a bail amount predetermined through a bail schedule. The judge may set an amount of bail after considering multiple factors, such as:

  • Prior DUIs
  • Your criminal history
  • Your BAC
  • Cooperation with chemical testing
  • Aggravating factors, like injuries or transporting a minor
  • Flight risk, employment, and ties to the community

If You Cannot Afford Bail, Bail Bonds and Bond Agencies May Help

Once the judge has set a bail amount, you, your friends, or your family can post bail in the full amount set by the court. Some areas allow you to post a bond instead of the full amount.

A bond is a written guarantee that the full bail amount gets paid if you fail to appear in court as promised. Bonds are usually obtained through a bail bond agency, sometimes called a bail bondsman. A bail bond agency charges a nonrefundable fee and will pay bail for you. This may be about 5% to 10% of the bail amount. Bail bond agencies may also want additional collateral before posting the bond since the agency will be responsible for paying the full bail amount if you fail to appear for any of your court dates.

Not all states allow bail bond agents to operate within their court system. In these instances, there may be other options available.

Own Recognizance Release

If this is your first DUI offense and you have no other criminal history, the judge could allow your release on your own recognizance. In this situation, you do not need to pay bail money. You promise, in writing, to appear in court for all upcoming proceedings, and the jail releases you.

Most state criminal courts impose certain conditions when you're released on your own recognizance. These may include prohibiting you from leaving the area while proceedings are ongoing or requiring that you contact the court.

If you're released on your own recognizance and fail to appear in criminal court as scheduled, the judge writes a warrant for your immediate arrest. Any chance for bail release is all but eliminated. You may stay in jail.

Have Questions About DUI Booking and Bail? Speak with an Attorney

A DUI arrest is a serious situation. A conviction carries heavy consequences. You will have a lengthy driver's license suspension. You may need to install an ignition interlock device to drive to work or school. You will face large fines and possibly jail time, even for a first-time DUI. An experienced DUI defense attorney can provide legal advice and help you through the process.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified DUI attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate DUI penalties
  • A lawyer can help get your license back

Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


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