Attorney at Law


James Parker
February 16, 2022
Last reviewed by
August 16, 2023

What Is an Arraignment?

An arraignment also called the initial hearing, is the first procedural step in the criminal justice process. At an arraignment, the defendant will appear before a judge who will read the defendant the charges against them and inform them of their rights. Typically, an arraignment will occur either the same day that the defendant is arrested or the following day. 

If the defendant has been arrested, the arraignment is where the bail amount will be set or discussed and the defendant will either be released on bail or on their own recognizance. The arraignment is also the procedural step where the defendant may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The judge will confirm at the arraignment that the defendant understands the charges against them. This does not have to mean that the defendant agrees with the charges being levied against them but simply that they comprehend the charges they are being accused of.

Finally, at the end of the arraignment, the future schedule will be set. The judge will decide the schedule for preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions, and trial dates.

Key Takeaways

  • Arraignment is the first appearance of someone accused of a crime before a judge.
  • The arraignment is where the charges against the defendant will be read, their rights are explained and where the defendant will enter their plea.
  • Failure to appear or failure to prepare for an arraignment can severely impact the outcome of the case.
  • If you have not retained an attorney before the arraignment, the court may assign you an overtaxed public defender.
  • If you have received a date for an arraignment, you will need an experienced DUI attorney there who may be able to improve the outcome of your case by leveraging experience and expert testimony.

Arraignment and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Charges

Arraignment is a crucial stage in the legal process that occurs after a person has been formally charged with a crime, including DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charges. During an arraignment, the defendant is brought before a court to hear the charges against them and to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. In the context of DWI charges, the arraignment serves as the initial step where the defendant is informed of the specific allegations related to their impaired driving incident. This stage provides an opportunity for the defendant to understand the legal consequences they are facing and to make a preliminary decision about how they will proceed in terms of pleading.

In the case of DWI charges, the arraignment becomes particularly significant due to the potential serious repercussions of impaired driving. This stage allows the defendant to better comprehend the charges they're facing, the potential penalties if convicted, and the options available to them. Depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances, these penalties can range from fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, probation, and even jail time. During the arraignment, the defendant can choose to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A plea of not guilty can lead to further negotiations, pre-trial motions, and possibly a trial. A guilty plea or a plea of no contest might lead to sentencing proceedings where the court determines the appropriate penalties. In essence, the arraignment in DWI cases is a critical juncture where defendants are informed of their charges and given the opportunity to chart the direction of their legal defense.

Bottom Line

The arraignment is the first step in the criminal justice process. It is vital that you arrive at that first encounter properly armed with an attorney and the knowledge you need to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. 

An experienced DUI attorney can lay out your options and have an honest discussion about how you can plead. Unlike a public defender, a private DUI attorney can focus all of their energy on your case and won’t just push you to take a plea deal. A DUI attorney can help present your case in the best possible light, starting the case off on the best possible foot, and they can help instruct you on ways to not give away information that could be detrimental to your case.

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