An arraignment is a hearing in court where a person is formally presented with the charges they face. Their constitutional rights are read to them. In a DUI case, that is the initial court appearance.
If you have been arrested and charged for driving under the influence in Washington, DC, the following is what you should know about what will happen after you go to arraignment. For more information or for legal assistance with your case, call and schedule a consultation with a DC DUI arraignment lawyer today.
When the person is arrested and released with a citation to return to court and there are intervening weeks between the release and the arraignment, the person can retain a lawyer, and meet with them to talk about their case and begin working on it. When the person is arrested and brought to court the next day, there is normally not enough time to obtain a lawyer. The work to prepare the case is done after the first court hearing.
The person must appear at the arraignment because that is where the charges are formally presented to them. Everyone has the constitutional right to know the charges against them.
In a DUI arraignment, a judge is not permitted to hold you in custody while the case is pending, unless you are on pre-trial release or probation in another criminal matter.
If that’s the case, then the judge has the option of determining whether or not you should be held based on your prior criminal history or flight risk. It’s very important to have a lawyer present in the event that you are eligible for a hold by the judge because a lawyer can advocate on your behalf to convince the judge that you are not a risk of flight and are not a danger to the community in order to secure your release.
In Washington DC, when a person is facing a misdemeanor charge such as driving under the influence, there is a presumption that the person will be released. The only time where a judge would have to consider a risk of flight or a risk to the community is if a person gets arrested for a DUI while they are on pre-trial release, parole, or probation in another criminal matter. Aside from that situation, the judge will not consider holding a person in custody at arraignment.
Instead, the judge will release you as long as you comply with any release conditions they deem appropriate. Those conditions could be a requirement to enroll in an alcohol program, or to get an assessment to see whether you might be in need of alcohol treatment. Judges can also impose requirements such as an order to not drive at all while your case is pending or to not drive after consuming any alcohol. It would be the responsibility of your defense lawyer to advocate on your behalf for the least onerous conditions of release.
A plea of not guilty is usually entered at an arraignment for a DUI case. The arraignment begins the case officially and at that point, discovery is provided and the court process begins.
With respect to a no contest plea, there is a plea called an Alford plea. In this plea, the person does not admit to the act. It is interpreted that the person was so intoxicated they cannot remember what happened. They do not plead guilty; but acknowledge that the government has enough facts to prove them guilty. It is a form of a no contest plea.
The role of an attorney during the arraignment is to assert a person’s constitutional right and to obtain the most favorable release conditions of the person. A lawyer is absolutely essential for giving someone, who may be eligible to be held in custody the best possible chance of walking out of the courthouse.
A lawyer can help by discussing your family background, job situation, and any prior criminal history, and advocating to the judge why pretrial detention is not necessary. You should always be represented by a lawyer at a hearing where you could be held in jail pending a DUI case.
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