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What to Expect at Your First DUI Court Appearance?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Oct 12, 2022

After you were arrested for driving under the influence in Los Angeles, the arraignment hearing is the next legal step to deal with in the California Vehicle Code 23152 VC DUI court process.

You should hire a lawyer before your arraignment. Many people will go to their arraignment believing they can argue their case in court and possibly get the charges dismissed, but this is not the purpose of the DUI arraignment.

What to Expect at Your First DUI Court Appearance?

Instead, the arraignment is where you are informed of the criminal charges that have been filed against you, your legal rights, and your bail status. You will also be asked to enter a plea on the charges against you, such as no contest, not guilty, or guilty.

Prosecutors have two primary statutes to charge someone for driving under the Influence.  Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC defines driving under the influence of alcohol. Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC defines driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. Vehicle Code 23153 VC defines driving under the influence as causing an injury.

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC defines the crime of driving under the influence of drugs, including controlled substances, marijuana, and prescription drugs. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is described under Penal Code 191.5(a). All commercial vehicle drivers are prohibited from driving with a .04% or higher BAC.

The court arraignment will usually occur within a few days if you remain in custody but will be set weeks later if released from jail. When you appear in a DUI case, you are going to expect to go in front of the judge, who will deal with the following:

  • any bail issue,
  • released on your own recognizance, or
  • go into custody.

Many times, if it's your second DUI or beyond, the judge will set bail, or the judge will make you do AA meetings while your case is pending if you want to be left out on your own recognizance and not go into custody. Our Los Angeles DUI attorneys will examine this topic more closely below.

Protecting the Public

Even on first offense cases, when you appear in court, if you've had a high blood alcohol level, or you got in an accident, or you're someone considered dangerous out on the road, the judge can make you post bail or they could make you do AA meetings while you're out.

Judges Protecting the Public in DUI Cases

If you're particularly dangerous, they can make you put a scram device on your ankle that detects alcohol and orders you not to drink while on probation.  Of course, they're doing this to protect the public.  That's what these DUI cases are all about. 

So, when you go to that first appearance, you better go there with an attorney, who better be prepared with all of the information related to your case to keep you out of custody and minimize the damage to your criminal record and minimize the potential that you could lose your freedom and go into custody.

Most California DUIs are prosecuted as misdemeanors but could be filed as felonies if either occurred: 

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

After you are arrested for DUI, you must contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days and request an administrative hearing. If you don't, you will forfeit the right to a hearing, and your driver's license will automatically go into suspension after 30 days.

Some DUI convictions will carry jail time, and some allow defendants to drive still, but they will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID).

What Happens at Your DUI Arraignment?

I've been doing this now for 30 years.  I've handled thousands of DUI cases.  So, if you need the best, pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. 

We will talk step by step in addition to bail being set.  At your first appearance:

  • They're going to show you want the charges are;
  • They'll also give your attorney all of the discovery in the case, meaning what evidence they have;
  • Do they have police reports? Typically, yes;
  • Is there any video evidence?
  • Blood alcohol level results.

Often, if someone has a high blood alcohol level during their arrest, the judge could be tempted to raise the bail or order some bail, or they could order you to attend a certain amount of AA meetings weekly.

If there's anything else related to your case, they're supposed to give that to your attorney – the blood result, the breath result – all of these things are turned over, and typically what I tell my clients is now that we have everything, contact my office. 

We're going to email it to you.  Please review it, and now we're going to sit down after you've looked at everything, and I've looked at everything.  Now we've got all of the pieces of the puzzle.

Can You Negotiate with the DUI Prosecutor?

I will talk to the prosecutor at that first court appearance and find their position, and then we'll sit down and talk and get a game plan together to handle your defense.  I can learn what they're thinking; what type of offer to settle the case.

Negotiate with the DUI Prosecutor

Is it going to be a case where we fight it?  It is a situation where we negotiate it.  These are the things that occur at your first DUI appearance.  The bail is set.  You're given the charges.  You're given the discovery and paperwork in the case, and your attorney starts to make the moves to put you in the best possible position. 

In my opinion, having done this for a long time, you better hire an attorney right away.  Let the attorney deal with the first court appearance.  Let your attorney deal with the DMV. 

Don't be a dummy and think you're just going to show up; everything will work out great for you.  You potentially, depending on the circumstances, could get taken into custody.  You could get a horrible offer because your attorney is not there to fight for you.

So, pick up the phone now if you need the best.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Los Angeles-based Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation by phone or use the contact form.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about DUI law issues in California and throughout the United States.

I'll privately discuss your case with you at your convenience. All consultations are free, discreet, and confidential. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.