Individuals released from the police station with a citation to appear in court must appear in one of the three DUI courtrooms on the first floor of Superior Court Building at 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC in courtrooms 115, 116, and 120. When an individual is arrested and held by the police to appear before the judge the next business day, that takes place in Courtroom C10 in the basement of the DC Superior Courthouse. If you have been charged with a DUI in DC, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can review the important details of the initial appearance for DC DUI charges.
An initial appearance for DC DUI charges is called an arraignment. It is not a contested hearing, so there are usually no witnesses at a DUI case arraignment. The chief witnesses for the government are police officers. Sometimes, civilian witnesses may appear in court when there was an accident. However, the witnesses do not appear at the arraignment. Only the person charged with a DUI, their lawyer, the prosecutor, the judge, and the court staff attend the arraignment.
The hearings are public, so friends and family members of some defendants are present. Cameras are not allowed in the courthouse so even if a high-profile case takes place; there are no TV cameras or photographers inside the building. In that sense, a person need not worry that while they are in court they might appear in photography or film by the media.
The judge sets release conditions such as release on personal recognizance or release with some kind of conditions. For example, the person may be required to report to pretrial services agency, in person or via telephone, or ordered to do drug testing which is done initially by the court. The defendant may be required to submit to a urine test or drug alcohol tests.
The role of the judge an initial appearance for DC DUI charges is to set release conditions and handle any legal issues that are present. Typically at an arraignment, the most important thing is setting the release conditions and setting the next court date, the status hearing.
In a DUI case, the judge might preside over the remainder of the case. Usually, an arraignment for non-DUI non-traffic cases occurs in Courtroom C10 in the basement. If someone is arrested for possession of cocaine or other drugs, they appear in Courtroom C10 in front of a magistrate judge who only does arraignments in C10. The person does not appear before that judge again.
However, with traffic cases like DUIs, a person charged with a DUI who is released on citation appears before the magistrate judge. The magistrate can be the judge who actually presides over the case through the entire process if the person waives their right to go to an associate judge. In each case, there may or may not be good reasons to keep the case with the magistrate judge or invoke the right to have the case transferred to an associate judge.
The District is unique in many ways in regards to an initial appearance for DC DUI charges. For example, there is no bail in the DC criminal justice system. No bond is imposed in criminal cases in DC, which is a surprise to people who appear in court for the first time. In some felony cases, the statute requires that an individual remains in custody for the first few days if the government requests a hold because the court cannot set bond. Thereafter, the person can be released with specific conditions should the court decision to release them.
The conditions range from as little as a promise to appear at the next court date, also known as release on personal recognizance, to a high-intensity supervision program. In the high-intensity supervision program, the person is required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, have a curfew, is placed on home arrest, or put into a halfway house. If a person is going to be held in custody because their offense is quite serious; there is no possibility for a bond. DUI penalties can have very harsh penalties, so if you are facing penalties due to a DUI charge it would be in your best interest to consult with a skilled DUI lawyer.
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