Typically, the first court date for a DUI charge is the "arraignment." At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the official charges and certain rights. The judge might also appoint an attorney for the defendant, unless the defendant opts to hire a private lawyer.
But what happens if the defendant doesn't bother to show up for the arraignment? Here are some of the possible things that could happen if you miss your first DUI court date.
When a defendant misses a court date, the judge generally issues a "bench warrant." A bench warrant gives police the authority to arrest the defendant. A DUI isn't the most serious crime a person can be charged with. So, police typically aren't going to go looking for someone with a DUI bench warrant.
On the other hand, if a defendant who has a bench out for his or her arrest happens to make contact with police (during a traffic stop, for instance), chances are the defendant is going to jail. Once in jail, the defendant will stay put until posting bail or being ordered released by the judge.
However, there's more than one way to resolve a bench warrant. And going to jail is certainly the hard way. But a defendant can generally get rid of a DUI bench warrant without spending time behind bars. If a defendant with a bench warrant voluntarily comes to court to deal with it, the judge will likely "recall" the warrant and set a new court date for the arraignment. Of course, this process is likely to go more smoothly with the help of an attorney.
When a judge sets the bail amount for a defendant (or decides whether to release the defendant without bail), one of the considerations is the likelihood the defendant will come back to court. When a defendant misses a court date, the judge might take that as a bad sign and set the bail at an amount that's higher than normal. However, if it's just one missed court date, and the defendant takes responsibility or has a good excuse, the judge might not feel the need to require or increase bail. But again, an experienced attorney is best situated to navigate this issue.