Seeing those flashing red and blue lights in your rear view mirror, pulling to the side of the road and waiting for the officer to approach your driver’s side door is enough to give most people severe anxiety. However, if you have been drinking and driving, your anxiety is most likely shooting through the roof.
Not only is the initial arrest and charge stressful, but the process of defending a DWI is confusing and daunting. The moment you are placed under arrest for a DWI you must immediately ask for your DWI attorney and refrain from speaking to anyone until your DWI attorney is with you.
AT THE SCENE
Your DWI attorney cannot be with you at the scene of your arrest, but they would tell you to remain silent, except for asking for your DWI attorney. Remain calm and silent. You may be arrested on the scene and taken to the city or county jail to be processed or you may be given a ticket with a court date on it that you and your DWI attorney will attend. Remaining calm, cooperative, and silent and asking for your DWI attorney immediately are the most important first steps.
AT YOUR ARRAIGNMENT
Your arraignment is the first appearance you will make in your case in front of the judge. Your DWI attorney will be present and will assist you through your first appearance. If you do not have a DWI attorney yet, that is OK, you will want to let the judge know when it is time that you need time to hire a private attorney still.
The judge will begin by reading you your rights and what you are charged with; you will be given copies of documents that pertain to your case as well. The rights that will be read to you are as follows:
- You have the right to plead guilty or not guilty
- You have the right to have an attorney present or one appointed to you
- The district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges
- You have a right to a bench trial or jury trial
Next is when the judge will ask if you have representation. If you do, your DWI attorney will introduce themselves at this time. It is best to come to this first appearance prepared and with your DWI attorney. If you need more time to secure a DWI attorney the judge will typically grant you a “continuance” for a certain number of weeks so that you can hire one.
Then, the judge will ask you to enter a plea. A DWI attorney will always tell you to plead “not guilty” because you want enough time to research the case, inspect the evidence, and evaluate the district attorney’s arguments. If you do not have a DWI attorney, it is best to enter a “not guilty” plea until you can hire one.
If the district attorney offers you a plea that you do want to take, your DWI attorney will advise you to enter a plea of “no contest” because although this still appears as a guilty verdict on your criminal record, it does not reflect a guilty verdict for civil case matters. For example, if you are found guilty of a DWI, the family in the car you may have hit can sue you in civil court as well.
Your bail amount will also be addressed at this first appearance. Bail may or may not be set and if an original amount was set, your DWI attorney may be able to lower or eliminate that. Your driver’s license can also be confiscated at the scene or later and may be suspended for a period of time.
Lastly, the judge will set an amicable future court date with you and your DWI attorney. The future court date can be any one of the following:
- Pre-trial conference
- Pre-trial motions
- Preliminary hearing
Having a DWI attorney from the very beginning is imperative to a strong defense. They will point out important evidence, construct an effective defense, and take away a lot of the stress and confusion a DWI charge can create. Call your DWI attorney the moment you are able to right after your arrest to ensure your rights and position are preserved.
NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.