First offense Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases are filed as misdemeanors in Alabama.

The first court date in a misdemeanor case in Alabama, and most other US states, is called an “Arraignment.” Generally, a misdemeanor Arraignment date is set at the time of the defendant’s release from police custody after arrest. Usually, the Defendant is personally served with written notice of this Arraignment date by an officer at the time of release.

The Arraignment in a DUI case is not a trial, it is a procedural appearance. At a misdemeanor Arraignment, the court reads the charges and the Defendant’s constitutional rights. The criminal court then expects the Defendant to enter a plea, which tells the court how the Defendant wants to deal with the case.

The Defendant has several options at Arraignment. The Defendant may plead “Not Guilty” and demand a trial date. The Defendant may plead “Guilty” and be sentenced on the spot.

Do other options exist? Yes. The Defendant may ask for more time to hire a private attorney.

When a Defendant does not appear in person or by Attorney at the DUI arraignment, the Court will generally issue a bench warrant for the Defendant. This warrant instructs the County Sheriff (or local equivalent) to serve the warrant on the Defendant personally, and take them into custody. The court will also set a “bail” for the warrant – which is an amount of money the Defendant can pay to avoid jail UNTIL THEIR NEXT COURT DATE which is where the warrant will be addressed by the court with the Defendant present.

Sadly, people do it every month. Do not be one of them.

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