How do I Prepare for a DUI Arraignment?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Preparing for a driving under the influence (DUI) arraignment often involves learning what the arraignment process entails. This way, you will know what to expect and avoid unpleasant surprises. Another important aspects of preparing for an arraignment may be seeking the advice of a lawyer who can inform you of the punishments you might face and your chances of demonstrating that you are not guilty. Additionally, you will have to enter a guilty or not guilty plea during your arraignment, so part of preparing is deciding how you want to plead.

At a DUI arraignment, a plea of guilty or not guilty is made.
At a DUI arraignment, a plea of guilty or not guilty is made.

Many people who have never been arrested before are unclear about what an arraignment is and how it will proceed. In most jurisdictions, the arraignment occurs after you are arrested and allows you the chance to plead guilty or not guilty to the DUI charges against you. If you plead guilty, you may be sentenced right away. If you plead not guilty, however, your case will likely continue, and you will usually have a trial on a later date.

Someone caught drinking and driving might be charged with a DUI.
Someone caught drinking and driving might be charged with a DUI.

At a DUI arraignment, a judge may ask you whether or not you have an attorney. If you do not, many jurisdictions will, at your request, provide one to represent you in your case. You may want to seek the help of a DUI attorney prior to your arraignment, however. This way, he can help you decide whether you should plead guilty or not guilty in advance, and he may provide strategies for winning your case or at least minimizing the penalties you will face.

As you prepare for the arraignment, you may be tempted to plead guilty to driving under the influence. You may think this is the best option since it may represent the fastest route to the end of your court proceedings. Many legal experts recommend against this, however, as it means you will have a criminal record and you may face stiff penalties, such as time in prison, fines, and a suspended license. If you plead not guilty, on the other hand, and have an experienced lawyer to help you, your penalties may be reduced, and you may have a better chance of securing a not-guilty verdict. In some cases, a lawyer may even be able to negotiate probation instead of prison time if you are found guilty of a DUI.

An experienced DUI attorney will be familiar with the local laws and statutes regarding DUI.
An experienced DUI attorney will be familiar with the local laws and statutes regarding DUI.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


What happens to a person who uses someone else's identity during the DUI arrest and was released? That person obviously does not care about showing up in court so it is the person with stolen identity obligation to show up in the arraignment with evidence of false accusations. Would the DUI arrest be dropped and an identity theft case be open?


My husband got arrested for DUI and he has been in jail since the date of the arrest in July 2012. There was no bail, no nothing. He went to an arraignment and got a new court date for September. That would be 45 days straight in jail. Now I ask what other penalty could he expect if he already has done time in jail?


@matthewc23 - The penalties for drunk driving vary by state, since they are the ones issuing driver's licenses. I am familiar with New Jersey drunk driving laws.

I am pretty sure that the legal limit in every state is a .08 percent blood alcohol content. Some states have other levels with more serious charges. .15 percent seems to be a common level for stiffer penalties. Every state will suspend your license for a certain period of time. In New Jersey it is 3 to 12 months depending on circumstances. Some of the more rural states have lower suspensions.

You'll also be faced with quite a few fines. Besides paying for a lawyer, you will have court fees and probably be ordered to take a substance abuse class. Community service may also be involved, but I'm heard some states will waive community service in lieu of higher fines. Some states require DUI offenders to use in-car breathalyzers for a certain period, as well.

I'm sure for most, the jail time is the most worrisome. At least for a first time offender, there will usually be little to no jail time. Being a repeat offender is when you'll start to see extended jail time and license suspensions.

Having 3 or 4 DUI arrests will usually result in felony charges, but if you are arrested 4 times for DUI, you probably have bigger issues.


What are the normal drunk driving penalties? I'm sure there is some variation from state to state, but what is normal? Is there really prison time involved? I think most DUIs are misdemeanors. What about if you get a drunk driving felony charge?

Something else I was wondering about is what happens if you were in another state and got pulled over for drunk driving? Would you have to stay in jail until someone came to bail you out? How would the punishment work in that case?

What is the best way to find a DUI lawyer if you ever are arrested?


My brother was pulled over and arrested for a DUI, so I know what the process is in my state. After he was arrested, he was taken to jail and processed.

Where we live, the arraignments happen the next day after an arrest (unless it is a weekend). Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get hold of anyone soon enough to bail him out of jail before the arraignment. I didn't know they could do this, but he attended his arraignment from the jail via a camera system.

For DUIs here, the arraignment is only used to set bail, determine whether or not the person needs a court appointed attorney, and set a date for a pretrial conference. I'm not sure if this is normal in the state or just our county, but I was able to bail him out for only 25 dollars with the condition that I was responsible for him, and if he didn't show up to his pretrial conference, I would be held in contempt of court.

He got an attorney who looked at the facts of the case and explained local DUI laws to him before the next court date. It was here where he had to enter his plea and be sentenced.


@BoniJ - I think DUI and reckless driving go hand in hand and most people are initially charged with both counts. At least where I live, though, whenever a count is dropped, at least for DUI, it is the reckless driving, and the person still has to face the DUI charge.

Like the article says, getting a lawyer is key. Especially for a DUI case, most court appointed lawyers aren't going to go through the effort to look into whether there is a way to get the charges dropped. They will just suggest you plead guilty and take whatever sentence the judge decides.


It is wise to get a good attorney before you go for an arraignment for a DUI charge. A lawyer will probably advise you to plead "not guilty." If the arrest records were done properly and it showed your alcohol level as high and you were driving, I think you are "guilty."

But depending on circumstances, you may get a lesser sentence, if this is your first offense and vice versa. Or, if you have had no other arrests, you may get a lesser sentence. I still say if you did the crime, you need to do the time-not necessarily in jail, but community service or probation or whatever.


A young man who lives in the neighborhood was arrested for a DUI and also reckless endangerment.

He borrowed enough money from his parents so that he could hire a lawyer. The lawyer advised him that he should plead guilty of the lesser crime of reckless endangerment, so the DUI arrest could be wiped off his records. This is a plea bargain.

So when he went for his arraignment, he pleaded guilty to reckless driving and got a sentence of community service. He was glad that he went to a DUI lawyer, who told him about plea bargaining. He might have gotten different advice if a court appointed lawyer was assigned to him at his arraignment.

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