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What to Expect at a DC DUI Initial Court Appearance

If you find yourself facing DUI charges in DC, an experienced DUI defense attorney can help you prepare for your initial appearance in DC DUI courts, as well as build a defense. The legal system can be confusing at best, overwhelming at worst. Having a lawyer familiar with the jurisdiction and local laws to guide and advise you throughout the process will be an invaluable asset.

In a DUI case, the person is usually released by the police with a citation to appear in court. The citation tells them the date, time, and specific courtroom in the DC Superior Court at 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC for their initial appearance in court.

In certain cases, the police hold the person overnight to appear in front of the judge the next business day. The judge releases them and sets the release conditions. That becomes their initial appearance in the DC court.

Initial Court Process

At the initial appearance, the clerk of the court informs the person of the charges filed against them by the prosecutor. It is important to note the difference between the citations given to a person by police officers versus a complaint filed against the person by the prosecutors.

Police officers write a citation with the charges they believe are pending against the person and what laws they violated. However, if the prosecutor reviews the police report and other documents about the case, they may have a difference of opinion from the police as to the proper charges to file.

For example, some police may cite an individual with leaving after colliding in addition to a DUI charge. The prosecutor may look at the situation and determine that the evidence does not support a leaving after colliding charge, so they opt to not file that charge.

At the initial appearance, a person is informed of the charge filed by the prosecutors in the case. In a DUI case, the prosecutor is the Office of the Attorney General.

Role of An Attorney

The person’s attorney pleads not guilty for their client, asserts their constitutional rights, and makes a demand for all discovery in the case. Discovery includes any documents or evidence that applies to the case including any evidence the government intends to use against the person, and evidence the government has in its possession that could be helpful to the defense.

For example, they must provide the defense with video footage from body worn cameras from the police officers or video footage from the police stations that they have ready at the arraignment. At the initial appearance, the defense makes the demand that the government preserves and presents that evidence to the defense when they do have it.

The court sets release conditions for the person. For a first offense DUI without an accident, and without anything particularly egregious, the person can expect the court to order the person to not drive after consuming alcohol or drugs, not drive without a valid driver’s license, and give a urine sample after court for a drug test.

The person must meet with pre-trial services to do an assessment to see if they have a drug or alcohol problem that should be treated immediately instead of waiting to see how the case is resolved. Finally, the court and the parties examine their calendars and set the next court date, usually about 30 days later.

Time Frame

When the individual is given a citation and released from the police station; the initial appearance called the arraignment takes place two to four weeks later depending on the court calendar.

If the individual was kept in custody by the police and brought to the court the next business day, that initial appearance must occur within 48 hours of the person’s arrest.