In 2021, according to statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, there were about 21,624 misdemeanor and 3,757 felony DWI arrests statewide. In New York State, motorists are prohibited from operating a vehicle while intoxicated, ability impaired, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
DWI Arraignment – the First Court Appearance
The DWI arraignment is the first court appearance you attend after you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence.
The DWI Arraignment Process
When you make your first court appearance on a DWI, whether you are held by the police to see a judge or are released on a desk appearance ticket, the process is the same.
The judge will ask whether you have an attorney, and if not, whether you can afford one. If you can’t afford to pay for a lawyer and you qualify for the assignment of counsel, you will be assigned an attorney.
Your attorney, retained or assigned, will get a copy of the charges and your RAP sheet.
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.
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.
The DA may serve upon the court any statements made by you and/or out-of-court identifications that they intend to use against you at trial, which they have to serve within 15 days of your arraignment.
The judge will suspend your driver’s license (NY 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:
Alcohol DWAI (BAC .05-.07): no suspension
Standard DWI: suspension pending prosecution – hardship possibility
Refusal DWI: suspension pending DMV refusal hearing (within 15 days of arraignment) – no hardship possibility
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.
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 extreme hardship for you in getting to work, school, or medical appointments. (Check out the hardship page on this site)
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.
The judge will determine your bail status. Your release or the amount of bail that will need to be set will depend on your prior criminal record, your prior warrant record, where you live, whether you are employed, family ties to the area, and the circumstances of the case.
The case will be adjourned for a few weeks in order for your DWI attorney to try to negotiate with the DA, review the evidence, and get the OASAS evaluation.
How Can a DWI Attorney Help With the DWI Arraignment?
During the DWI arraignment, you will either be assigned a DWI attorney or attend the arraignment with your attorney. Your attorney will represent you in court. As a rule, your chances are better if you hire your own attorney than if you go with one the court assigns to you.
As part of the DWI arraignment process, your attorney will give a “not guilty” plea. Even if you believe you’re guilty and the case against you is straightforward, pleading not guilty forces the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty. The right attorney will give you the best possible chance of being found not guilty.
DWI Arraignment and License Suspension
Depending on the charges against you, your license may be suspended for a time. License suspension takes place during the DWI arraignment process. The length of time your license will be suspended varies, depending on the charges against you.
If your license is suspended and this would create an extreme hardship for you, you may be eligible for a hearing to appeal your suspension. During the DWI arraignment, your DWI attorney may be able to move for a hearing to be scheduled. You will have to be able to demonstrate that going without your license would cause extreme hardship for you.
Bail Status in The DWI Arraignment
As part of the DWI arraignment process, the judge will set your bail status. Your bail amount depends on a variety of factors, including your criminal record, your warrant record, your place of residence, employment status, family relationships, and the particulars of the case.
Once your bail status is set, you will either be released or you will have to get the bail amount covered in order to obtain release. A DWI attorney with experience in this area may be able to provide reasons why you should be assigned a lower bail amount than you’d otherwise receive.
Adjournment of The DWI Arraignment
The arraignment will come to an end with an adjournment. The next court date will be set, and the defense and prosecution will go their separate ways to prepare their respective cases.
While the case is adjourned, your attorney may negotiate with the DA and work to prepare your defense. After the DWI arraignment takes place, your case will move forward. If a hearing on a hardship exemption from license suspension has been scheduled, that will take place. Your case will go forward, and a lot will depend on the quality and ability of your DWI attorney.
Since 2014, the Law Office of Michael D. Litman has been representing the criminal defense needs of the citizens of White Plains, Westchester County, and the New York Metro area. With Westchester criminal defense attorney Michael Litman defending his clients since 2007, we have the knowledge and the experience to help with all your DWI charges.
If you have questions or need to set up a consultation, contact us online or call us today at (914) 268-6855. Our firm will work with you from the arraignment all the way through the trial.
If you find yourself facing drug charges in Westchester County, New York, or its surrounding areas, it's important to be well-informed about your legal rights and the legal process. The Law Office of Michael D. Litman, PLLC is here to provide honest, trustworthy, and collaborative legal counsel to help you navigate this challenging situation.
An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) is one of the best outcomes that can be offered in a plea bargain, aside from a complete dismissal. If you are offered an ACD, you will be able to resolve the case without entering a guilty plea.