Being arrested for a DUI starts a series of processes. You will have to deal with consequences handed down from the California Department of Motor Vehicles as well as the criminal justice system. Your first appearance in the criminal justice court after being arrested for a DUI will be your DUI arraignment hearing. An arraignment is a preliminary hearing in a criminal case where your case will be heard and, if you are convicted, sentencing will take place. You will have the complaint or charges against you read and asked if you have and/or need an attorney, or public defender if you cannot afford one. You do not need an attorney to represent you at a DUI arraignment hearing although it is generally advisable so you are aware of and informed on all the elements of an arraignment. Since this is your first court appearance after your arrest, this may be the first time you've seen your police report. If, upon reviewing the report, you wish to speak to an attorney before proceeding, you can request the judge reschedule the hearing for a later date. At this point, you can hire an attorney or have a public defender appointment if you cannot afford a private attorney. It also won't be until the arraignment that you get a copy of the complaint, outlining the charges against you. Once you get the complaint and the police report, it is a good idea to ask the hearing be reset so you can speak to an attorney. You generally won't be able to request a copy of the police report prior to the arraignment. Without representation and a copy of your police report and the complaint, there is not a lot of preparation you can do prior to the arraignment hearing. You will also be asked how you will plead: guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere, also called no contest. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you will then be sentenced and usually no future court dates will be set. It is important to note that you do not have to plead guilty, even if you know you were over the legal limit. Keep in mind, however, that if you do not plead guilty or nolo contendere, also called no contest, your case proceedings will continue, meaning you will have to appear in that court again. Keep that in mind if you do not live close to the court that will be handling your case. Not showing up at future hearings can result in an arrest warrant being issued. Pleading not guilty simply postpones your case until you can prepare an argument. Unless you plead guilty or nolo contendere, another hearing date will be set and provided for you. At this next hearing, you can either plead guilty or nolo contendere, or decide you want to take your case to trial. Before you declare you want to go to trial, make sure you have a good reason to request a trial. Without an argument to present in trial, you could be wasting precious courtroom time. You may or may not be asked why you feel you may win at trial so be prepared with your reasoning. This is also when you would enter a plea bargain if you wish to do so. If you wish to propose a plea bargain to the prosecution, it is highly advisable to speak to an experienced DUI attorney prior to doing so. He or she will be able to evaluate your case elements and advise you on how likely it is your plea bargain will be accepted and how to go about getting one. Between the initial arraignment hearing and this second hearing is when you will consult with an attorney or public defender, if you wish, or prepare your own argument and plan for your plea. Preparation and planning can pay off. Being prepared for the arraignment hearing as well as any future court proceedings gives you the best chance at reaching the most favorable outcome possible for your case. DUI cases aren't always cut and dry and it may be well worth your time and effort to obtain an attorney and fight your charge.
Are you facing DUI charges and have questions about your hearing? Contact experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for legal help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Mr. Martens has 10 years of experiences as a defense attorney and has never been a district attorney. Mr. Martens has handled thousands of criminal defense cases and has taken over 50+ cases to trial. He will not be afraid to fight aggressively for your rights. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.