Anatomy of an Arraignment in a DUI Case

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingApr 20, 2022

An arraignment is essential in a California DUI case because that's the initial appearance in court related to your case.  If you've been arrested, you're going to be given a ticket, or you're going to post bail, and you'll be given something from the bail agency telling you to appear in court, the date, the time, and place. That's the initial appearance, which is the "arraignment."

Arraignment in a California DUI Case

I think it's essential to break that down because once people understand what they're up against, that puts them in a much better position.  When you make that initial appearance, or your attorney makes the initial appearance on your behalf, they have a couple of choices. 

They can either enter a not guilty and move it to another court, or they can continue the arraignment and leave it in the same court that it's in. 

You also have the option of going to court, reviewing the discovery, meeting with your attorney, and trying to resolve the case that day.  Usually, that's not advisable because you want to see the prosecution's evidence against you.

So, you want to get the initial appearance moved to another date so you can evaluate things and decide what you want to do.  Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will discuss this subject in more detail below.

California DUI Laws and Posting Bail for Release from Custody

California prosecutors use some primary DUI laws to file charges against someone for driving under the Influence. The first is Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC, which makes it a crime to drive under the influence of alcohol.  Next is Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC, which makes it a crime to drive with a BAC of .08% or higher. Most people are charged with both statutes.

Vehicle Code 23153 VC covers the crime of driving under the influence causing an injury. Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs.  This includes controlled substances, marijuana, and prescription drugs.

Posting Bail After DUI Arrest

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is defined under Penal Code 191.5(a). All commercial drivers are prohibited from driving with a .04% or higher BAC. Most DUIs in California are prosecuted as a misdemeanor but could be filed as a felony if either of the following occurs;

  • You have prior DUIs on your criminal record,
  • If someone was injured in a DUI accident.

After a DUI arrest, you must contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)  within ten days and request a DMV hearing. If you fail to do so, you forfeit your right to a hearing, and your driver's license will automatically go into suspension after 30 days.

Certain types of DUI convictions will carry jail time. Some will allow a defendant to drive still but will first be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID). On the issue of bail, many people don't realize that because the police let you go on your own recognizance, the judge could place a bail on your when you appear in court.

In most DUI cases, a judge considers many factors in determining bail. The primary factor often deals with how dangerous you were on the road, such as

  • Were you involved in a traffic accident?
  • Was someone injured as a result of you driving intoxicated?
  • How fast were you driving?

Further, a judge will review your blood alcohol level. The higher your BAC, the greater the judge's chances to require bail and take you into jail custody.

What Happens at a DUI Arraignment in California?

We will get back to the anatomy of that arraignment and look at what happens.  You're going to make the appearance.  Your attorney will get all the discovery related to the case – the police reports, other reports, or the prosecutors' evidence.  Sometimes we don't get everything. 

For example, we need a blood result, and they don't have that yet.  Sometimes we need video evidence. So, we will be looking for and asking about any other evidence they might have. 

That's also an opportunity for your attorney to meet with the prosecutor and talk to them about the case and see what their position is, at least at the outset – what they're thinking; what type of an offer to settle the case.

DUI Arraignment in California

Finally, you'll appear in front of the judge, who can set bail on the case.  That's another weird thing, you could be released on your own recognizance and then show up in court, and the judge can set a $50,000.00 bail, and you could be taken into custody and have to bail out. 

I'm not saying that's going to happen in each case.  I'm just giving you what could happen at the arraignment. Often, if somebody has a high blood alcohol level during their arrest, the judge may be tempted to raise the bail or order some bail, or the judge could say, I want your client to do a certain amount of AA meetings every week.

I think they've got an alcohol problem.  The AA meetings allow them to stay out on their own recognizance if they do.  I won't set a bail.  I won't take them into custody, but I want them to do the AA meetings because I want them to think about what happened. 

I don't want to see them again, especially when the case is pending in my courtroom.  So, bail is set sometimes at DUI hearings.  It is undoubtedly at least considered by every judge at every DUI arraignment.

Related content: What Happens at a San Fernando Court Arraignment?

DUI Negotiations with the District Attorney

Some negotiations sometimes take place between the prosecutor and the defense attorney.  Often, if I talk to the prosecutors about the case and what they might offer to settle it, I'll typically say, give me a chance to speak to my client about what you've indicated, and I'll get back to you.  Then we continue the case and pick a new court date.

DUI Lawyers Los Angeles

So, this gives you an idea of all of the moving parts during a DUI arraignment.  You want to hire an attorney who will work for you, who knows your situation and is fighting for you. 

You don't want to be in a position where you go to jail.  You don't want to be in a place where you lose your driver's license. So, pick up the phone now.  Make the call.  I've done thousands of arraignments over a 30-year career, and I certainly feel I can help you. 

I've worked for the DA's office; I've worked for the prosecutor's office; I've worked for people like you since the early 1990s.  If you want the best, make the call.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

The Hedding Law Firm is a top-rated criminal defense law firm in Los Angeles representing Southern California people. We offer a free initial case review by phone or by filling out our contact form.