By Garth O'Brien | August 26, 2010
Filed Under Washington DUI
The arraignment hearing generally is the first time a defendant appears in front of a criminal court judge. In most jurisdictions a prosecutor will be present representing the rights and interests of the government. In Washington State the defendant’s presence is REQUIRED for a DUI arraignment hearing. Most criminal courts in Washington State will have an on-call public defender present to assist defendants that appear without an attorney. Why would cities and counties extend such an expensive courtesy at the arraignment? Well it can be one of the most important hearings throughout the court process.
The court will cover three very important issues on the record:  notice;  conditions of release; and set a  future court date.
Notice – The judge will read the formal criminal complaint filed by the prosecution. The complaint will inform the defendant of the criminal charge against them and the alleged date of the criminal conduct. When the judge has finished reading the complaint they will typically ask the defendant, “Do you understand the complaint?” and “How do you plead?” The only ACCEPTABLE responses are, “Yes, I understand and I plead not guilty.”
This is NOT an opportunity for the defendant to make statements about the arrest. It is NOT an opportunity for the defendant to provide a defense or an excuse for their actions. Anything a defendant says at the arraignment is being recorded and can be used against them at a later hearing. Defendants that have an attorney present usually say nothing and let their attorney respond. Defendants that do not have an attorney tend to be the ones that speak up to their own detriment. I have heard some people claim, “I might have had too many drinks but I was not drunk!” Guess what? DUI is not a drunk driving crime. DUI is driving under the influence, so consuming “too many drinks” can be a damning statement.
Conditions of Release – After the judge has accepted the defendant’s plea of not guilty, the judge must determine whether or not to impose bail. If a defendant cannot post bail, then they will sit in jail throughout the duration of their criminal case. A DUI case can take up to 30 to 180 days to conclude. Judges can also impose lifestyle restrictions while the case is pending. For example, a judge might require a defendant to attend AA meetings, install an Ignition Interlock Device in their car and might require no consumption of alcohol.
The judge will determine bail by evaluating if you are a danger to the community and if you are a flight risk. Assessing a defendant’s danger level is determined by reviewing the alleged facts of the current case and the defendant’s past criminal activity. Individuals with criminal history can expect some level of bail to be imposed. The judge will also review the facts of the case, so if the defendant caused injury, property damage and/or had a high breath test reading bail might be imposed. Bail can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. It is imperative you have an attorney present at the DUI arraignment if you have past criminal convictions or arrests.
Even if it is your first offense I strongly recommend you have an experienced DUI attorney present.
Future Court Date Notice – The last thing that should occur at the DUI arraignment is the scheduling of the next court date. A defendant must not leave the arraignment until they know when the court expects to see them again. Failure to attend a scheduled court hearing will result in an issued bench warrant for your arrest. So make sure you see the court clerk and do not leave the courthouse until you have a written document stating the date, time and location of your next hearing. The next hearing will be the DUI Pretrial hearing.
That is an explanation of a Washington State DUI arraignment. Make sure you have an experienced DUI attorney present to protect your interests and rights. Contact an experience Seattle DUI attorney for a free consultation.