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.
Arraignment for the charge of driving under the influence is a serious process. There are two important aspects to consider regarding a DUI charge: choice of attorney and attendance.
The most important part of an arraignment for a defendant is the decision of who will be representing them. At the arraignment, if the defendant has no attorney the court will assign them a public defender. Public defenders are provided to the defendant by constitutional mandate, but they are not always the ideal representative for a defendant. One of the strongest contrasts between public defenders and private attorneys is their ability to prioritize clients.
Public defenders have many cases and cannot always devote themselves fully to a single case and may not specialize in DUI law. By contrast, a DUI attorney specializes exclusively in DUI law in their region, knows the local DUI judges, and can prioritize one case at a time.
The next most important thing is ensuring that the defendant actually shows up on the day they are scheduled for. Whether through scheduling conflicts or willful disobedience, there are serious consequences for failing to appear in court. The first consequence that can occur when a defendant fails to appear is the judge may issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest. This warrant may result in the defendant being arrested and the issue of failure to appear will be adjudicated along with the DUI charge.
Additionally, failing to appear can also result in jail time with no opportunity to post bail, additional fines, or a default judgment being rendered against the pending DUI charges. This makes appearing for the arraignment one of the most critical factors in the ultimate decision in a DUI charge.
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.