DWI Arraignment – The First Court Appearance

When you make your first court appearance on a DWI, whether you are held by the police to see a judge, or released on a desk appearance ticket, the process is the same.

  1. The judge will ask if you have an attorney, and if not, can you afford an attorney? If you can’t afford one, and qualify for assignment of counsel, you will be assigned an attorney.
  2. Your attorney, retained or assigned, will get a copy of the charges and your RAP sheet.
  3. If you have an attorney representing you, they will waive a reading of the charges, meaning that the judge won’t need to read the charges to you in open court.
  4. If the charge is a misdemeanor charge, your attorney will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf. If the charge is a felony, the court does not have jurisdiction to take a plea of not guilty.
  5. The DA may serve upon the court any statements made by you, or and out-of-court identifications that they intend to use against you at trial, which they have to serve within 15 days of your arraignment.
  6. The judge will suspend your drivers license (NYS licensed drivers) or your privilege to drive in NY State (license from another state). The way the judge suspends your license will depend on what you are accused of
    1. Alcohol DWAI (BAC .05-.07): no suspension
    2. Standard DWI: suspension pending prosecution – hardship possibility
    3. Refusal DWI: suspension pending DMV refusal hearing (within 15 days of arraignment) – no hardship possibility
    4. Drug DWAI: Can’t suspend without a lab report, unless judge suspends pursuant to VTL 510.30 – that you are a danger to other drivers based upon the circumstances.
  7. Your attorney may, or may not, be able to ask for a hardship hearing (not in refusal cases) if you can demonstrate that the loss of your license will cause an extreme hardship for you in getting to work, school or medical appointments. (Check out the hardship page on this site)
  8. The judge will ask for an alcohol or drug evaluation (OASAS evaluation), and can order that the evaluation be done through a monitoring agency (TASC). If you have an attorney prior to your first court appearance, they can set up an evaluation at a private OASAS provider.
  9. The judge will determine your bail status. Your release or the amount of bail that will need to be set, which will depend on: your prior criminal record, your prior warrant record, where you live, if you are employed, family ties to the area, and the circumstances of the case.
  10. The case will be adjourned for a few weeks in order for your attorney to try to negotiate with the DA, review the evidence, and for you to get the OASAS evaluation.