California DUI Arraignment

The arraignment hearing is the first court appearance after a DUI arrest.  Understanding the process can help remove some of the fear that comes with the unknown and complex factors surrounding the charges of driving under the influence.  Knowing what to expect helps to be better prepared when working to protect your rights and reputation.


If you were released from jail on your own recognizance, you should have been issued a citation. At the bottom of the citation, a mandatory appearance date is listed.  You will be required to appear in Court on the specified date and time.  Should the citation list the charges against you as misdemeanors, you can have an attorney appear in Court on your behalf without you having to be present.  If you posted bail in order to facilitate your release from custody, the same process applies.  If you were unable to post bail and were held in custody, then you have a right to go before a Judge within 48 hours of arrest for a probable cause hearing.

Day In Court

At the first Court appearance you or your attorney will be provided with a copy of the complaint which lists the charges against you.  Additionally, you will be able to receive a copy of the discovery.   At that time a plea will be entered as to the charges.  Many times your DUI lawyer will enter a plea of “not guilty” on your behalf, other times your DUI lawyer may decide it is in your best interest to continue your arraignment.  Should you decide to represent yourself at Court, pro per, make sure to allot most of the day for your matter to be heard.  There will be a number of cases on calendar and the Court typically employs a hierarchy system when hearing cases.  Those represented by counsel usually have their case heard first.

Entering a “not guilty” plea and setting your matter for pretrial allows your attorney time to negotiate your case with the prosecutor and to fully evaluate all of the discovery.  Should later your attorney decide that it is in your best interest to enter into a negotiated plea agreement, then you can change your plea to “guilty” at that time.  Many times those representing themselves, who decide to forgo attorney representation, will enter a plea of “guilty” at the initial appearance.  Entering a “guilty” plea does not allow you to later change your plea to “not guilty.”  If a “guilty” plea is entered, then the Court will sentence you on the matter.

Please note, it is not uncommon to appear in Court and have your case not be on calendar.  There are a number of reasons why this scenario may occur: further investigation needed by the prosecutor’s office, arresting officer’s failure to timely forward his/her arrest report to the prosecutor’s office, or the charging deputy was unable to review the report and file charges prior to the Court date.  When this happens you should go to either the Clerk’s Office or Prosecutor’s Office to get a date stamp evidencing your appearance.  If you have hired a lawyer, he/she should do this on your behalf.  At a later date, you will receive a letter in the mail for the prosecutor’s office notifying you of your new arraignment date.  Your appearance on that date is mandatory.

Failure To Appear

It is very important that you appear on the date scheduled for your arraignment.  Failure to appear will likely result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest.  If you cannot make your Court appearance remember that if your matter is filed as a misdemeanor your attorney can appear for you.  If you already failed to appear at your Court date, contact the DUI Professor today to appear in Court and recall your warrant.

The arraignment process is much easier to navigate when you have a skilled DUI lawyer representing you.  Consult with a legal professional, the DUI Professor, to find out what your best of course of action is regarding your arraignment.  Call for a free consultation today!