If you've been arrested and charged with DUI, you may be feeling confused and miserable. You've been charged with a crime that could mean serious punishment if you are found guilty. While a defense attorney is a must-have, you may also be curious about the judicial process. Before you even have a chance to speak to an attorney, you may face an arraignment. Read on to learn more about this event and what it may mean to your DUI case.

What is the purpose of an arraignment? You have the right to know what crime or crimes you've been charged with, and an arraignment is just that occasion. You will be allowed to let the judge know how you are pleading, and you can plead:

  1. guilty
  2. not guilty
  3. no contest (also known as nolo contendere)

What happens at an arraignment? Here, you will stand before a judge (it may be before a camera, but it is broadcast live to the judge) and hear your charges. You will have to enter a plea at this time, either guilty, no contest or not guilty, and since this meeting often occurs before you've had time to "lawyer up" you may be uncertain as what to say. You should just relax and plead "not guilty" since your plea can always be changed later on.

This is also the time to ask for legal representation. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be assigned to you from the public defender's office. If you accept this offer, you must later submit proof of your financial situation demonstrating need. Sometimes, you are questioned about your job at the arraignment.

If you have already procured legal help, you will meet with them to discuss your case in detail after your release.

Will you be released? Another important event covered by an arraignment has to do with the issue of your release. It's vital that you get out of jail quickly; the less disruption to your life and your job the better. The judge has two choices:

1. Offer you bail so that you can be released once the amount is paid or you are bonded out.

2. Release you on your own recognizance (OR). For first-time offenders, OR is very common. With OR, you agree to appear for future court dates and stay on the right side of the law from that time forward.

DUI cases are seldom simple; they will involve your attorney probing the details of the stop, the field sobriety tests and the arrest carefully. Be sure to get good representation for this critical situation. For more information, contact a lawyer like Gonzales, Joe D.