Arraignment on a DUI charge

The arraignment hearing is generally the first appearance before a judge for a DUI charge. At the hearing, the judge will review the police reports to determine if there is probable cause for the charge to go forward. Assuming the judge finds probable cause for the charge, the judge will also set conditions of release. The defendant (the person charged with DUI) will enter a plea of not guilty, and the court will set the first pre-trial hearing. While technically, a person can plead guilty at arraignment, the judge will typically do their best to persuade you not to.

For a person with no criminal history and relatively straight forward facts (no collision or high BAC), the court will typically release the defendant on their personal recognizance (which means they do not have to post bail). Under CrRLJ 3.2 their is a presumption of release (unless it is a death penalty case). However, if the court believes it is likely the defendant will commit a violent offense (and DUI is considered a violent offense by the court), or if the court thinks you will fail to appear at your future court hearings, the court can set conditions that will help insure the defendant will appear and be law abiding while the case is pending.

In the DUI context, if the person has prior DUIs or other criminal history, or the facts of the case are ugly, the court may elect to set bail, or other conditions. If the court sets bail, the person can post the bail amount themselves, or go through a bail bondsman, who typically require a non-refundable fee (10% of the total bail amount) and collateral for the remaining amount. The advantage of posting bail yourself is at the conclusion of the case, you will get your money back where as if you go with a bail bondsman, you will not get your 10% fee back.

While bail was historically popular, what is more common today is alcohol monitoring devices, such as an ignition interlock device or a SCRAM device (an ankle bracelet that detects alcohol through the sweat of your skin). An ignition interlock device can be more than $100 a month where as a SCRAM bracelet can be $12 a day or more. So the fees can add up fast.

If a person has a prior DUI offense ever in their life (even a DUI that was reduced to a charge such as Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving First Degree) RCW 10.21.055 requires the court to impose an ignition interlock device at arraignment. Depending on the circumstances, this law can be pretty harsh. For instance, a person could be charged with DUI when they were 17 years old, get their charged reduced (based on a breath test well under .08). If that person then goes on to get arrested for DUI when they are 65 years old, RCW 10.21.055 would require the interlock device before the person is even convicted of the offense. This would be true even if, in the second DUI, like the first, their BAC is under .08 (which happens more often than you think). There is an argument that the correct interpretation of RCW 10.21.055 limits the time period for the prior to the last seven years. Talk to an attorney for more info on this argument.

Because conditions of release are set at the arraignment hearing (bail, ignition interlock device, or SCRAM) it is always advantageous to have an attorney retained prior to the hearing (particularly if the person has prior history). If you do not have an attorney at arraignment, the court will typically appoint a public defender to assist you at the hearing and allow you to screen to see if you qualify for a public defender to represent you on your entire case depending on your financial information.

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