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What to Expect at Court in DC

When a person is released from a police station with a citation to appear for their DUI arraignment date, that citation contains information about when their court date is and what courtroom their arraignment will be held. The DUI arraignment dates are usually about three to four weeks after the arrest date and are heard at the DC Superior Courthouse in courtrooms 115, 116, and 120. It is advisable to have a DC attorney present with you at your initial court appearance and any subsequent hearings.

The citation to appear for an arraignment date will also provide the time of the person’s arraignment and the location of the DC Superior Courthouse. For subsequent court hearings after an arraignment, a person must sign a promise to appear before their subsequent court hearing. That promise to appear will indicate the courtroom that the person has to appear in, the date of the following appearance, and the time the person would have to appear for their court hearing. It is important to hang onto the promise to appear in until they have finished their court appearance.

Changing the Court Date

Even after a person has signed a notice to appear for a court hearing, it is possible to change the court dates if an intervening event takes place and makes the person unavailable to appear before the court on the scheduled date. The easiest way to change the court date is by having the DC lawyer file a request to change the date with the judge. If the person does not yet have a lawyer, the defendant can fill out a date change request on the 4th floor of the DC Superior Courthouse at the
Criminal Information Office.

Plea of Not Guilty

The standard plea at the initial court appearance is for a defense lawyer is a plea of not guilty. This is because the defense lawyer has not yet had the opportunity to see all the evidence against their client from the prosecution nor had a chance to discuss any possible negotiated resolutions.

By entering a plea of not guilty, the defense lawyer is then entitled to receive the prosecutor’s evidence, which is referred to as initial discovery. The defense lawyer then has the opportunity to discuss that evidence with his client and with the prosecution. This can result in a better plan of action to either seek out a favorable negotiation resolution to put the defendant at an advantage, or discuss better informed and more likely trial strategies to take the case to trial.

Preparing Yourself

If a person has an upcoming court appearance, it is always a good idea, even if they’re facing just an initial arraignment date, to seriously consider hiring a lawyer to represent them in their case. Even if a person decides to have a court appointed lawyer, discussing their case with a privately hired lawyer can help them decide if they would like to change lawyers and give them an opportunity to consider their options.

Prior to any court date, it is a good idea for a defendant to discuss with their lawyer what to expect at their next court appearance. That can include discussing with their lawyer any possible pre-offers that have been extended, any alternative options from moving forward on the case, and any cross-strategies and making sure that you understand the next steps in the case.

Those next steps could include entering a guilty plea, going to a trial, or anything else that may happen in the case. Understanding the purpose of the court date and what the possible result of the court appearance could be is very important for every defendant to understand.

Attorney Discussions Before the Court Date

Before an initial court appearance, a lawyer may advise a DUI client of several things that the client can do to place them at an advantage prior to their initial court appearance. That could include having their client enrolled in alcoholic education treatment program prior to the first court appearance. It could also include having their client obtain a driving record from their home state and any other state where the person was a frequent driver in the past 15 years.

A defense lawyer can also advise their client as to what to expect of their initial court appearance and expectations moving forward so a defendant is not caught off guard by some of the requirements they may face through the remainder of the case. Prior to subsequent court hearings after the arraignment, it is the responsibility of the defense lawyer to discuss with the client possible defense strategies and help the client understand the evidence against him. A defense lawyer could also discuss possible negotiated agreements that may be made available to their client prior to subsequent court hearings or prepare a client for the possibility of taking the case to a trial.

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