Arraignments can be different in DC than in other jurisdictions because, in DUI cases, there is typically no resolution to the case at the arraignment. For example, in states like Maryland, an initial court hearing could consist of arraignments, negotiations with the prosecutor, a plea offer being made and a final determination of the merits of the case by a judge all on the same day, and that can be the case in a lot of different states.
However, DC is different from that. DC tends to have much longer court cases where each individual hearing serves a specific purpose. For example, a DC arraignment serves the limited purpose of informing a defendant what they are charged with, what his constitutional rights are, and establishing conditions of release. Only after that would a DC DUI arraignment attorney have the opportunity to discuss the case with the prosecutor, potentially take the case to a trial and consult with a defendant regarding the best course of action.
An arraignment for a DC DUI is a hearing where someone is officially read the charges that have been filed against them by the attorney general’s office and they are informed of their constitutional rights. Someone’s judge will not hear any testimony from them or the police officer and will not make any decision on the merits of the charge against them.
The judge’s role at a DUI arraignment is only to determine what, if any, conditions of release to impose on someone while the case is pending and to schedule a second court hearing. This gives the defense attorney an opportunity to examine the evidence in the case, conduct an independent investigation and negotiate on their client’s behalf for a favorable resolution with the prosecutor.
A presentment is a different kind of hearing from an arraignment. If someone is arrested for a felony charge before being released, they would have a presentment hearing before a judge who would decide whether to release them with their case is pending or hold them in custody pending a full detention hearing. That determination is made by considering a number of factors, which could include the seriousness of the charge, a person’s criminal history, any risk they might pose to the community or any risk of the defendant not showing up to additional court dates. DUI cases in DC do not have presentment hearings.
If a defendant is charged with certain types of violent crimes, a judge would be required under the law to hold a defendant in custody for 3 days until a different judge can hold a hearing when considering additional factors for release. That can include serious assault charges, murder, sexual assault, certain kind of weapons offenses, and drug distribution cases.
In certain other situations, the presentment hearing judge would have the discretion to consider certain factors in determining whether or not to hold a defendant in custody, but would not be required by law to do so. Those factors can include whether the person has a history of not showing up to court or has a criminal history suggesting they might pose a danger to the community if released. However, the judge would only consider those factors in specific situations, the most common of which is the defendant was on pretrial release or probation in another criminal matter at the time of his arrest.
An arraignment can be a first opportunity to make a first impression with your judge. It is also a first chance for a lawyer to file requests for information and evidence with the prosecutor and advocate for the least cumbersome release conditions. Having an experienced lawyer who understands the court system, understands the DC prosecutors, and understands how a DC DUI case works is in a much better position to advocate for your best interests at your arraignment hearing.
Even though an arraignment does not involve calling witnesses and does not involve arguing the facts of your case, there are a number of other things that can be accomplished at an arraignment hearing that having an experienced defense lawyer by your side can start you off in the most favorable position.
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