What happens in court and do I have to appear?
Lawrence Taylor describes the procedures that take place after a person is arrested for a DUI, including the notices that the person receives and hearings that take place. After a person is arrested and booked they will receive their temporary license, a notice of suspension of their license, and a notice to appear in court. In Southern California, the first hearing starts roughly thirty days from the notice to appear in court at a hearing called the arraignment. At the arraignment the arrestee will enter a plea after the prosecutor charges the arrestee by producing the complaint. The arrestee is not required to be at the arraignment. If the arrestee enters a plea of not guilty, the next hearing is called the pre-trial hearing. At this hearing, the defense attorney can make several different types of motions to discover evidence or suppress evidence. Most often at the pre-trial hearing, the prosecutor and the defense attorney discuss the possibility of entering into a plea bargain. Again, the arrestee is not required to be at this hearing either, unless they wish to be there or their defense attorney has asked them to be there for such things as providing their sworn testimony. Ultimately, an arrestee’s case ends with a plea of guilty, a plea bargain, or a jury trial.
When you are arrested and shortly after that, when you are booked, you’re going to receive not only the temporary license and notice of suspension of your license, but you’ll also receive a notice to appear in court. Typically in Southern California, and it varies by jurisdiction, it’s going to be roughly thirty days after the arrest. At that hearing, and it’s called an arraignment, the prosecutor will produce the complaint charging you with the offense and probably there will be two offenses, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with 0.08 percent alcohol. He will also turn over the officer’s arrest report, and you will enter a plea, presumably if you are represented by a competent attorney, of not guilty. You do not have to be at that arraignment. Now after that, and presuming a plea of not guilty, there will be another hearing, called a pre-trial hearing, that may be for a number of different reasons: a motion by your defense attorney to suppress evidence, a motion to discover evidence such as calibration, maintenance and usage logs of the breathalyzer that was used, there are a number of reasons, plea bargaining goes on commonly during these pre-trial hearings. There may be a half a dozen of these pre-trial hearings before the case is finally resolved. Again you do not need to be there, unless for some reason you wish to be or your testimony is needed by your attorney. The case is finally resolved, when either you plead guilty, presumably when you’re representing yourself or a plea bargain is worked out between your attorney and the district attorney, or lastly, the matter, it goes to jury trial.