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Arraignment: The First Court Date In Criminal Cases

The arraignment is often the first court hearing in any criminal case, including drunk driving cases in San Diego. During the arraignment, the court advises you of your constitutional rights. They include the right to have an attorney represent you, the right against self-incrimination, the right to a jury trial, and the right to confront the witnesses against you and produce your own witnesses and evidence in your defense. The judge then reads the complaint which is the official charges pending against you.

You are then given an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no content and bail issues may be addressed. In addition, if you do not enter a guilty plea, another future court date is usually set. If your case is charged as a felony, the next court date is the preliminary hearing. If the case is filed as a misdemeanor, the second court date is the pretrial or readiness hearing.

If you are in custody, you must be arraigned within 48 hours of the arrest. This does not include weekends and holidays. Therefore, the worst day to be arrested on is the Friday night of a court holiday weekend. If you are unable to post bail, the prosecutor does not have to file charges and do the arraignment until Wednesday, the second court day after the arrest.

If you are cited and released, released on your own recognizance, or bailed out, the arraignment will be “without unnecessary delay,” which can be weeks after the arrest. When released, the defendant is given a notice to appear on a specific date, time and location. That first appearance is the arraignment.

As of the date of this blog, out of custody drunk driving defendants are being arraigned approximately 30-45 days after their arrest. With budget cuts effecting the court’s ability to push the cases, readiness hearings are being scheduled 30-45 days after the arraignment.

Felony cases require the defendant to be present at the arraignment and at all other proceedings, unless the judge accepts your waiver of appearance. In misdemeanor cases, you will have to appear unless you have retained an attorney to represent you and you waive your presence. Retained lawyers can appear on your behalf unless the case involves domestic violence, violations of a protective order, and certain driving under the influence cases, (usually where bodily injury is involved).

The above blog is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may change and may not apply to your case. For the latest information or to get legal advice, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.


If you have been charged with DUI, speak to the Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman today about what to expect through the steps of the criminal process. Call 619-260-1122 or fill out the “Contact Us” form on this page for a free telephone consultation.