What to expect at your DUI arraignment hearing? The arraignment is the first court date in a DUI case. At the arraignment, the judge will explain the charges against you and the possible penalties.
You will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. It is important to consult with a trusted DUI lawyer before the arraignment.
Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty
At arraignment, the judge must read the law you’re charged with violating and advise you of your rights. However, many defendants choose to waive this formal advisement, especially if they already have an attorney.
The judge will also address bail and conditions of release at this hearing. In most DUI cases, the defendant will be released without posting bail (released on their own recognizance) as long as they promise to attend future court dates.
Defendants may also agree to a plea bargain at their arraignment. For example, the prosecutor might offer to reduce the charge from a DUI to “wet reckless” (2nd offense) in exchange for a guilty plea. Your trusted attorney can advise you on the best plea to enter.
You’ll also have the opportunity to file legal motions at your arraignment. These include a request for discovery, which requires the DA to turn over police reports and evidence in your case, and a motion to suppress evidence if the police violated your constitutional rights during your stop, detention or arrest.
Often, the officer who made the arrest will be present at your arraignment hearing to testify about his or her observations during the stop and any subsequent tests. If you have a witness that you think would be helpful to your case, your lawyer may submit a request for a subpoena at this time.
At your arraignment hearing, you will also receive a copy of the police report and possibly other evidence such as blood or breath test results. Your attorney will use the police report and other information to begin the discovery process.
Your attorney might also submit pretrial motions at your arraignment or during a later court appearance called a Pre-Trial Conference. These include motions to suppress evidence, requests to dismiss and other motions “in limine” which are designed to improve your prospects in the case. If your case does not settle or you are not given a plea agreement, it will proceed to trial. This includes a jury trial where your defense attorney must convince 12 people that you are not guilty of DUI.
The judge will read the charges against you and ask how you intend to plead (guilty, no contest or not guilty). If you plead not guilty, a pretrial hearing date is set.
The court will also set your bail at this time. If you are a low flight risk, the judge may allow you to be released on your own recognizance (OR release) or set a much lower amount for bail.
Your attorney can file motions that challenge key evidence, such as the police report and breathalyzer test results. They can also request a full discovery of evidence in your case, including any video or audio recordings. This could uncover information that leads to the case being dismissed. This is why it’s important to have a DUI defense lawyer working on your case early on. They can also investigate whether the police acted lawfully during your arrest and search for any errors that may benefit your case.
If you choose to plead guilty at the arraignment, you avoid the preliminary hearing and trial. However, you must meet certain bail conditions such as prohibition on alcohol or non-prescribed drugs and a promise to appear for all court dates. In many cases, your attorney can negotiate a plea bargain to something less than DUI such as wet reckless.
At the arraignment, the judge will ask how you want to plead, including guilty, not guilty and nolo contendere (no contest). While some defendants may choose to plead guilty at this point, most attorneys will advise their clients that it is best to keep all options open by entering a not-guilty plea at arraignment. This will also allow the defense to build an attorney-client relationship with a reputable legal professional and gather solid evidence before your next court date called a pretrial conference. This process will also give the prosecutor a window to offer a plea deal.