DUI Arraignment

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 What Is a DUI Arraignment?

A driving under the influence (“DUI”) arraignment is a step in DUI case stages in which a person who has been accused of a DUI makes their first actual courtroom after they have been booked and arrested under suspicion of DUI. An arraignment generally occurs within a few days of an individual being arrested as a part of the criminal procedure process.

Criminal procedure refers to the overall legal process of adjudicating claims for a person who is accused of violating criminal laws. The overall idea behind every state’s criminal procedure laws is based on the “presumption of innocence.”

The presumption of innocence means that a suspect is considered to be innocent until they are proven guilty. Because a defendant has a right to a presumption of innocence, the burden of proof is on the state prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant actually committed the crime they are being accused of committing.

Criminal procedure may be better understood as a timeline that begins with the apprehension of a person suspected of a crime and ends with the final verdict in their criminal case and/or appeal. An arraignment for DUI is one such pre-trial phase of a criminal case that is utilized to process individuals suspected of a DUI.

The following is a general overview of the pre-trial phase of a DUI criminal case:

  • Arrest: A formal arrest occurs when a person is taken into police custody and is no longer free to leave or move about as they wish.
    • There are two instances in which an arrest can typically occur:
      • When a police officer has seen a person commit a crime;
      • When a police officer has probable cause to believe that a person has already committed or is going to commit a crime;
  • Booking: After an individual has been arrested, they will then typically be brought to the police station and “booked.”
    • The booking process includes gathering personal information from the suspect, such as taking their fingerprints and confiscating any personal property that the suspect may have on them;
    • After an individual is booked, the suspect is then placed into a holding cell or released;
  • Bail: Bail amount is the legal term that is used to describe money that is paid by an individual who has been arrested in exchange for their release from police custody;
  • Arraignment: As mentioned above, an arraignment is the first actual court proceeding in a criminal case.
    • At a DUI arraignment, the judge reads the criminal charges that the arrested individual is being accused of and asks if the defendant has an attorney, as they have a constitutional right to an attorney;
    • The judge will also ask the individual accused of the DUI to enter their plea;
      • Pleas are typically guilty, not guilty, or no contest;
  • Plea Bargain: The next stage in the DUI criminal process is the plea bargain.
    • A considerable number of DUI criminal cases typically end at this stage, as the defendant may agree to plead guilty;
    • Alternatively, the defendant may plead guilty in exchange for a lesser punishment than they would receive if they were found guilty in a trial; and
  • Preliminary Hearing: After the DUI arraignment, if no plea bargain is entered, a preliminary hearing will then be held.
    • At this point in the DUI criminal process, the judge will then consider the prosecution’s evidence and determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with a DUI.

What Happens at a DUI Arraignment?

It is important to note that a DUI arraignment usually occurs just a few days after the DUI arrest. As mentioned above, at the DUI arraignment, the information contained in the criminal indictment or criminal complaint will be read in open court in order for the defendant to understand the charges against them. At that point in time, the individual will officially be a criminal defendant.

When Is a DUI Arraignment?

Criminal defendants that have been accused of a crime, such as a DUI, have constitutional rights and protections, including:

  • Their Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial;
  • The right to an impartial jury;
  • The right to assistance of counsel;
  • The right to confront witnesses;
  • The right to be informed of the charges being brought against them, including the possible criminal punishments; and
  • The right to compel witnesses to appear in criminal court.

Once again, a defendant is arraigned within 48 hours if they are in police custody. If the defendant is not in police custody, then the arraignment may not take place for several weeks.

The time of the arraignment will partly depend on the prosecutor’s filing of the charging document, whether it is an information, indictment, or criminal complaint. Once that document is filed, the arraignment can then take place.

What Do I Need to Prepare for a DUI Arraignment?

When preparing for a DUI arraignment, a defendant should be prepared to decide on how to plead to the charges brought against them. The choices for pleadings are either “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” If a defendant arrives at their arraignment without being properly prepared, then a not guilty plea may be entered by the judge on a defendant’s behalf.

Once again, a defendant has a right to a speedy trial. As such, they will need to be prepared as to whether or not they wish to waive their right to a speedy trial. Future proceedings may also be scheduled during the arraignment.

A DUI defendant will also need to be prepared to listen to what the judge tells them about the charges being brought against them and what the charges mean. In other words, the defendant will need to be able to understand whether they have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony DUI, as well as whether or not they are being charged with other criminal offenses.

Do I Have a Right to a Lawyer during an Arraignment?

In some states, if a defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment, then the defendant has the constitutional right to an attorney at the arraignment. Importantly, police and judges should immediately notify a person arrested under suspicion of DUI of their right to an attorney. Typically, this is accomplished when the police inform the individual of their Miranda Rights.

Even if a person cannot afford an attorney, the court must appoint the individual being charged with DUI a criminal defense lawyer at no cost to that person. As such, a defendant has the absolute right to request representation by a lawyer at the arraignment.

If a person can afford to hire an attorney, then they will be advised and afforded time to locate and hire an experienced attorney before the arraignment. Then, the lawyer will be allowed to be present at the arraignment. As mentioned above, one main issue that occurs at an arraignment is setting future hearings and handling issues related to the conditions of the individual’s release, such as their bail amount.

A lawyer will be able to receive the evidence from the prosecution, such as all of the police reports, investigations, and results of blood tests. This information can then be utilized to ensure that the defendant is able to build a solid defense properly.

Do I Need a Lawyer During a DUI Arraignment?

If you are facing prosecution for a DUI or DWI, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer. An experienced DUI attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options under your state’s specific laws on DUIs. An attorney will also be able to represent you in court as necessary.

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