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What Happens At A DUI/OVI Arraignment in Ohio?

Court Room
Your arraignment is your first appearance in court after you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Ohio. The Supreme Court of Ohio requires that you be arraigned within five days of your arrest. If you remain in police custody, your arraignment hearing will probably occur the next day after your arrest. Generally, the only exceptions will be if you were injured or otherwise incapacitated. However, if the prosecution waits longer than 5 days to arraign you without any acceptable extenuating circumstances, this unjustified delay in holding your arraignment hearing can be used by your attorney as grounds for moving to have your DUI charges dismissed. At your arraignment hearing, you will be present with your attorney if you have already hired one. You will be facing a judge, or a magistrate, but there will be no jury present at this hearing because this is only an arraignment hearing and not your trial itself. If you have hired an attorney, you may not actually have to be present at your arraignment because your lawyer may be able to enter your plea for you. However, your attorney will discuss the decision of whether to be present at your arraignment with you.

At your DUI arraignment, the charges against you will be read to you, including your charge for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as any possible additional charges such as if you caused a car accident or injured another person. The state of Ohio, represented by the prosecuting attorney will be present to formally charge you with DUI/OVI and any additional charges, which also requires the judge to read the actual Ohio criminal statute under which you are being charged. This statutory reading may be waived but only with your consent. While the prosecutor does not use any actual testimony or present any actual evidence at your arraignment hearing, the judge may still ask the prosecutor to discuss and explain in broad, general terms the evidence that the prosecution will be using to support charging you with the offenses you are accused of. After the charges against you have been read, you will be given the opportunity to enter a plea, or if you have hired a lawyer, the lawyer will enter a plea for you.

You will have three pleas to choose from:

(1) “Guilty” which means that you are admitting that you were guilty of driving under the influence and that you will not be fighting the charges against you and are thus forfeiting your right to trial and your presumption of innocence. You should never plead guilty to a criminal offense unless your lawyer advises you to do so.

(2) You may plead “Not Guilty” which means that you intend to fight the charges against you and are preserving the right to do so.

(3) Finally, you may choose to plead “No Contest” which means that while you are not openly admitting guilt, you will also not be fighting the charge. Essentially, this plea means that while you do not dispute the facts of charges, you do not admit that those facts meet the elements of the crime alleged. In most cases, if you choose to plead “No Contest” or “nolo contendere,” you will be convicted of the charges and sentenced just as if you had been found guilty or pled guilty.

Once you have entered your plea, the arraignment hearing will be over, and the judge will set a date for your pretrial or trial, if you plead “Not Guilty,” or will set a date for your sentencing or sentence that day, if you chose to plead “Guilty” or “No Contest.” You have a constitutional right to a speedy trial, which means that the judge will usually set your initial trial date no later than 90 days after your arraignment unless you waive the right to a speedy trial. You can waive this right through mutual agreement with the prosecution, typically for unforeseen emergencies. Your attorney will use the time between arraignment and trial to create a strong defense, sift through the discovery material, make motions, negotiate with the prosecutor for lesser charges, or seek to dismiss the charges against you if there is not enough evidence or there was some impropriety on the police or prosecution’s part.

At your arraignment hearing, your attorney will also file discovery requests, which ask that the state provide you with all of the evidence against you, including police reports; any tests that were conducted; materials pertaining to the maintenance, calibration, and use of any breathalyzers or equipment used to test you; any manuals or information concerning field sobriety tests and the training of police officers to properly administer the tests; and any dash cam, body cam, or other footage of your DUI stop and arrest. Your attorney can use this evidence to potentially claim that the field sobriety tests were improperly administered by the arresting officer, the breathalyzer or other equipment was improperly calibrated or maintained, that the officer had no reasonable cause to stop you, or other defenses that could result in the charges against you being reduced or even dismissed. Your attorney will also request a stay on the automatic administrative suspension of your driver’s license by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) while at your arraignment or may be able to persuade the judge to grant you limited driving privileges so that you are still able to go places like to work or school.

You should never appear in a court hearing or proceeding without qualified legal representation. If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI/OVI offense in Ohio, it is critical that you speak to an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. While you will likely be assigned a public defender for your arraignment if you have not yet hired your own attorney, you should hire an attorney who is experienced and qualified to defend you against DUI charges in Ohio. You will be facing some very negative consequences that will impact your life. Some of these consequences include having to pay fines, jail or alcohol program time, have your driver’s license suspended, your vehicle potentially forfeited, difficulty finding or holding onto a job, potential treatment programs and costs, and other negative consequences. It is highly advisable that you speak to an experienced Ohio DUI defense attorney before your arraignment so that your attorney can attend with you. The criminal process for DUI offenses can be very complicated and is governed by strict procedural rules which make it imperative to have a qualified attorney represent you through this process. This is why you should use the time between your arrest and when you are actually arraigned to find an experienced defense attorney to advise you of your options and represent you at your arraignment and moving forward through the criminal justice process.