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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

What to Expect during Your First OWI Court Appearance

Appearing in court after an OWI arrest is one of the most intimidating parts of the entire experience. Despite having to go through the arrest process and spending time in a jail cell, many people who have been arrested for OWI report they were most uncomfortable standing in a courtroom speaking to a judge. Standing in a room full of people having to justify your actions would make just about anyone squeamish.

What can you expect during your court appearance and what can you do to make it a little less stressful?

You’ll likely be required to make more than one appearance in court following an OWI arrest. The first will be your initial appearance when the arraignment occurs. In most cases, you will not be the only person making a court appearance at this time, so chances are you’ll have an opportunity to observe what other people are doing before you have to do it.

When it’s your turn, the judge will call your name and you’ll stand in front of him or her as your identity and address are verified. You’ll be read the charges against you and informed of the maximum possible sentence you could receive as a result of those charges. You’ll then be asked if you already have an attorney or if you need time to find one. Finally, you’ll be asked your plea and your bail conditions will be explained. There might be small variances from judge to judge, but in general, this is what you can expect during your first court appearance.

Though it helps to have an attorney at your side during your arraignment, it’s not necessary. Try to contact someone to help you, but if you’re unable to do so, the most important thing you need to remember at your arraignment is to plead “not guilty.” This is what an attorney would advise you to do because it ensures you’ll get an opportunity to fully plead your case.

What Happens If I Plead Guilty at the Arraignment?

Now, you might be thinking “But I did what I’m accused of doing. I had a few too many drinks and drove my car. Why shouldn’t I say I’m guilty?”

If you say you’re guilty at arraignment the entire process is over. You’re sentenced by the judge immediately and given no further opportunity to plead your case. This means if any mistakes were made by law enforcement during your arrest – including the claim that your BAC was much higher than it actually was – you’ll still pay the ultimate price.

You should never admit to guilt at your arraignment because it removes your opportunity to reduce the charges against you and give yourself a fair shot at pleading your case. Remember, even first time DUI and OWI charges can result in a jail sentence.

For more information on the penalties associated with drunk driving, check out this information from Michigan’s Department of State.

The best thing you can do at your arraignment is to plead not guilty. This gives you time to discuss your case with an experienced OWI lawyer and weigh all of the evidence against you. It might be in your best interest to plead guilty later in the process, but initially, a not guilty plea buys you time.

Having an attorney at your side during the arraignment and throughout the entire OWI process can make a big difference not only in the outcome, but in the stress and anxiety you experience. Your attorney will offer guidance and advice, and help you present a confident and believable case. For more information or to speak to someone about your situation, contact Andrew W. Kowalkowski, PLLC at 248.974.9594.

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