Your arraignment is typically within 24 hours of your arrest. For most DUI suspects, this will be your only appearance. You appear before the judge, who reads the charge against you. You are asked if you have an attorney or if you need a public defender. You are asked if you plead “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” Pleading “no contest” has the same results as if you pled guilty as far as your punishment is concerned, but it does not require you to say that you are guilty of the charges. This is helpful if other charges in this case may result, such as for property damage or personal injury.
The dates of any future proceedings are scheduled by the clerk of the court at this time. You can leave relatively quickly by posting bail or being released “on your own recognizance.” This means the court believes you will attend your scheduled court appearances. If you fail to make your court appearance after being released on your own recognizance, a warrant is issued for your arrest.
A family member, friend or bail bondsman can pay “bond” to have you released and promises that you will report for scheduled proceedings. A bail bondsman usually pays 10 percent of your bail amount and you sign a bond that you will go to your court appearances. They must pay the full amount of your bond if you do not appear and a warrant is issued for your arrest. Your bail amount is determined by your criminal history, the seriousness of the offense, and whether you are a known member of the community in which you were arrested with family and business ties. Bail can be refused.
Some states have increased sentencing for convicted drivers who registered a blood-alcohol content of more than .20 percent; refused to submit to chemical test or field sobriety tests; caused injuries to others while under the influence; had a minor in the vehicle when the driver was arrested; drove at excessive speeds while intoxicated. Increased sentencing options include increasing the charge to a felony, higher fines, increased likelihood of probation and/or jail time, and other punishments at the court’s discretion.
In addition to your criminal arraignment for driving under the influence, in most states you will have to have an independent administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within five to ten days after your license is suspended. It strictly deals with issues of whether or not you should be permitted to again have the privilege of a driver’s license. Your individual situation will be reviewed and it will be decided if your license should continue to be suspended for some period of time or if it should be entirely revoked.