What happens at a Michigan DUI arraignment?

Soon after being arrested, a Michigan OWI defendant must attend an arraignment, a process during which the defendant is told the charges against him or her and asked to enter a plea. Bond may also be set at the arraignment.

In Michigan, the crime of driving while intoxicated is referred to as OWI or “operating while intoxicated” (it’s also commonly referred to as DUI or “driving under the influence”). Soon after being arrested, a Michigan OWI defendant must attend an arraignment, a process during which the defendant is told the charges against him or her and asked to enter a plea. Bond may also be set at the arraignment.

The charges

Initially, at a Michigan arraignment, the defendant is charged with an OWI offense. The charges brought against a Michigan OWI defendant at arraignment may be:

  • Operating While Intoxicated (a first offense, straight-up)
  • Operating While Intoxicated with a high BAC (blood alcohol content of .17 or higher)
  • Operating While Intoxicated, second offense.
  • Operating While Intoxicated, third offense (a felony).

(Keep in mind that Michigan has no “look back” period and that all previous OWI offenses count as prior offenses)

Explaining the penalties

At the arraignment a judge or magistrate will explain the consequences and penalties of each charge. For instance, the judge or magistrate will indicate the maximum jail time that you face along with the fines, court costs, and probation a defendant will face. Finally, the judge or magistrate will explain the licensing sanctions along with the driver responsibility fees.

Bail/Bonding

The next item at an arraignment is setting the bond for the defendant. A defendant posts this money not only to get out of jail, but as a pledge to return to court for future court appearances. If that defendant fails to return to court for the appropriate dates, the bond is generally revoked unless there is a good excuse

In addition to the bond, the restrictions that courts impose include alcohol and drug testing. In more serious situations it could require an alcohol tether or alcohol testing to be done on a daily basis.

Range of bond costs

My experience with the bonding process in the metro Detroit area is that it ranges from a personal bond (no money required) to up to $500 if it is a misdemeanor. In the more serious cases, bond can be anywhere from $500 to $1,500. Until 2014, there was one district court in Wayne County that would require a $50,000 (ten percent cash bond) in order to be bonded out for a third offense drunk driving. In such extreme instances most defendants would need a bail-bonding agency in order to get bonded out.

Advice of Rights

The final portion of the arraignment regards the reading to the defendant of the Advice of Rights. After the Advice of Rights is read, the defendant signs an acknowledgment form. Among the most important features of the Advice of Rights Form is that the defendant has:

  • a right to a lawyer
  • a right to a trial by judge or jury
  • a right to call witnesses on ones behalf
  • right of the defendant to not have to testify at trial.

Advantages of hiring an attorney

Many defendants never go through a formal arraignment process if they retain an attorney. Most attorneys will chose to waive the process of arraignment with their clients and simply combine it with the pre-trial date (after having gone through the arraignment process with their attorney). If you can’t afford to get an attorney ask the court for a court appointed attorney. This is your right in the Advice of Rights. Attempting to handle the OWI process alone can result in life-long adverse consequences.

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