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Do I Need a Lawyer at My DUI Arraignment?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 16, 2015 9:59 AM

You've been arrested for a DUI, your arraignment is coming up, and you're itching to tell your side of the story. Maybe you weren't drunk, or you think the breathalyzer was broken, or you shouldn't have been pulled over in the first place. All you have to do is explain this to the judge, and everything will be all right.

Not so fast, my friend. While an arraignment might be your first court appearance, it's not a full-blown trial. And while you may not be able to win your case at arraignment, you could lose it. So here's why you might want a lawyer by your side at your DUI arraignment.

Arraignment ABCs

An arraignment is a court hearing when a judge reads the formal charges against a defendant. In case of a DUI, you will be notified of all the charges against you, and ask how you plead. You can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. You may have even already been offered a plea bargain by the prosecutor on the case.

Based on your plea, the judge will set your case for further proceedings, whether that is a trial and associated pre-trial proceedings, or further hearings or appearances related with a plea of guilty or no contest. If you've been in custody since your arrest, the judge may also alter your bail amount or release you on your own recognizance.

Putting the Defense in DUI

This may all seem very straightforward, but DUI arraignments can be complicated. While you're not required to have a lawyer present at arraignment, you have a legal right to one, in part because courts recognize the importance of arraignments in the criminal process. For instance, most DUI defendants don't know whether the plea deal they've been offered is a good one or not, or how to argue for reduced bail. And once you've entered a guilty plea, it's difficult to withdraw.

You don't have to go through a DUI alone, so why try? An experienced DUI attorney can advise you on your rights, assess the merits of your case, argue for your release, and even plea bargain on your behalf. If you've been charged with DUI, you should contact a defense lawyer about your case, preferably before your arraignment.

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