Significance of the first appearance in a DUI court


In this article I’ll be referring to the term “initial appearance” in a generalized sense for that first time you appear in a court after being charged for a DUI/DWI offense.


As different procedures for initial appearance are being followed by every state, county, city and court, I’ll be covering the subject in general. Make sure that you acquire the related information on the first time appearance and other relevant DUI procedures of the state, county, city you are arrested in and contact a local DUI lawyer.


The time of your first appearance in a DUI court may vary in different scenarios, if held overnight in jail it may come on the following morning, in other instances it may come after you are arrested and released or it may be in answer to a felony summons after an indictment.


In general, initial appearances are meant to inform you of the severity of the charges against you, impaired driving is a serious charge in the US and may result in potential or mandatory jail time even for first offense.


Initial appearances are not to be taken lightly, preferably have an attorney representing your best interests on the first court date for you to


  • 1. Get the best possible deal, offered by the prosecutor’s office (some times during the first court date).
  • 2. Assess the deal for accepting or rejecting.


Make sure you dress properly when appearing for the first time in court reflecting your seriousness in response to the charges against you, this will influence the thinking of the judge to set bail or ask you to report to a probation department while your case is pending, and to your chances of fleeing or committing a crime while on release without bail.


Your lawyer mostly does the speaking for you but you may be asked to stand up and answer to the charges or you may be asked as to how you plead.


Some courts schedule your entire case and give you court dates in advance to follow, while in some courts only the next court date is given but you will be required to sign a promise to appear at your next date in either case.


In order to make certain your first and second appearance in court, some courts may require you to attend AA meetings, get an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, wear a SCRAM device, check in with a probation officer, restrict your travelling or ask you to get permission whenever you leave the state or county. It depends on your lawyer to convince the judge to minimize the need for the above measures or even possibly get through with doing without them.


Gathering information about your case is important, some courts help you with the process of getting information from the prosecutor’s office about the evidence they have against you.


The initial appearance is the first very important opportunity for your lawyer to ask the judge to order the prosecutor to preserve the evidence for independent testing and to assert other important rights. It’s important to know what to ask; in case you omit something it might not be much help to your case. Exhaustive checklists of things that needs to be asked are used by DUI lawyers to minimize such risks.


It’s only at the first appearance (in some courts) where you can tell the court that you want a jury trial instead of a judge trial otherwise you lose the right to a jury.


By Richard Jacobs

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