In Spokane, Washington the criminal case for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) normally begins the next business day after the arrest. The initial court appearance for a DUI charge is a First Appearance Hearing. This hearing begins with roll call to see who is present. The judge will then advise everyone of their constitutional rights and the potential consequences of a DUI conviction. These consequences may include jail time, house arrest, fines, loss of driver’s license, ignition interlock device, SR-22 insurance and alcohol/drug treatment.
Next the judge will call each person individually to come up the counsel table. If you have an attorney she/he will speak on your behalf. The judge may ask if you understand the charge and if you received a copy of the citation. The prosecutor will then summarize the police report to establish probable cause. The judge is required to evaluate probable cause to verify there are sufficient allegations for the case to proceed: is there some evidence you had been driving or in control of a vehicle, is there some evidence you were impaired and is there some evidence this happened in Spokane City or County.
If the judge finds probable cause, you will be asked if you would like to enter a plea. In Spokane your First Appearance can also be your Arraignment for the DUI charge. By entering a plea of Not Guilty you preserve all of your rights including the right to go to trial, if you so choose. Also, pleading Not Guilty at your First Appearance will avoid a separate Arraignment Hearing about two weeks later. Lastly, pleading Not Guilty will allow you and your attorney to review the evidence against you, investigate suppression of evidence and allow time to attempt to negotiate a resolution which could avoid the mandatory penalties required upon a conviction for DUI.
After the Arraignment portion of your First Appearance the judge will set Pre-trial Release Conditions. These are restrictions on your behavior pending a final resolution of your case. A violation of these conditions could result in the judge ordering you back to court and perhaps being booked into jail while the case is pending.
At the end of your First Appearance the judge will schedule your next court appearance called a Pre-trial Hearing. Your first Pre-Trial Hearing will be approximately one month after your First Appearance. Most DUI cases have several Pre-trial Hearings and they occur in monthly cycles.
Remember most people accused of a DUI in Spokane, Washington will have two separate cases: the criminal case in court and a separate Department of Licensing matter. Fighting both cases will give you the best chance for the best resolution!