DUI Courtroom Procedure

Are you wondering what the procedure is for a DUI in Arizona?

The procedures that follow a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge depend largely on the type of arrest – for example, this could be your first DUI, a DUI combined with another charge, or an aggravated DUI. Depending on your situation, you may go through one or all of the following court room procedures. In DUI/DWI cases you will probably have to deal with other governmental agencies in addition to courtroom procedures. For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and other law enforcement agencies may be involved.1


An arrest is defined as being in police custody where you no longer feel free to leave such custody.2 The arrests for a DUI/DWI take place after you have been stopped in traffic or found in a vehicle you have physical control over and after a field sobriety test shows you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over 0.08. Any lawful traffic stop can lead to a DUI/DWI arrest, but an arrest can also come from a police officer having probable cause to suspect any criminal activity.3 You should be aware of what constitutes a lawful arrest. The police will need probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed in order to stop your car. Further, the police should let you know about your Miranda rights, or the rights to remain silent and to be represented by a lawyer, once you have been taken into police custody.

Book and Bail

After a DUI/DWI arrest, you will typically be booked. This means the police officer will take you into police custody and ask you questions such as your date of birth and physical records, followed by taking  records of your crime, a record search of your background, fingerprints, and photographs.4 If you are placed in a holding cell or local jail, you can be released on bail by paying money in exchange for release.5 Of course, bail costs and legal fees can add up. An Arizona DUI attorney may be able to ease the costs and lost wages during this trying time.


An arraignment means you enter into a plea agreement and can include scheduling the next proceeding for your case.6 You are entitled to represent yourself or hire a lawyer in front of the court. Arraignments typically happen within a few days of the arrest.7 The bailiff will give you a copy of formal charges so you will know what charges you face.8 You will then be asked if you plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty.9 You will then be given a date for your next appearance in court to determine whether you are guilty or not.10

Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing can give you another plea opportunity where you will be allowed to see a judge, enter a plea agreement, and be sentenced.11 If you reject a plea agreement and do not want a preliminary hearing, you can waive into a trial.12


Since a DUI/DWI charge is a criminal charge, the jury will examine evidence to decide whether you committed the crime in question “beyond a reasonable doubt.”13 There are multiple factors involved with a trial that will most likely require the representation of counsel – such as decisions about whether or not you should testify.14


If you have been convicted at trial of a DUI/DWI, that does not mean it is the end of the road. You can appeal the case to overturn your sentence or at least modify your terms. If you lost your civil rights during your conviction they may sometimes be restored with the guidance of an experienced DUI/DWI attorney.15

[1] David Brown, The DUI Arraignment, nolo.com, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/beat-ticket-book/chapter8-3.html (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).

2 DUI Arrest, dui.findlaw.com, http://dui.findlaw.com/dui-cases/dui-arrest.html (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).

3 Id.

4 Id.

5 Id.

6 David Brown, supra note 1.

7 DUI Arraignment, DUIcharge.org, http://www.duicharge.org/duiarraignment.html (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).

8 David Brown, supra note 1.

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 Brian Sloan, Arizona DUI Defense Attorney Guide to a DUI Arrest – Step 15 – Preliminary Hearing / Grand Jury, avvo.com, http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/arizona-dui-defense-attorney-guide-to-a-dui-arrest—step-15—preliminary-hearing–grand-jury (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).

12 Id.

13 DUI Arrest, supra note 2.

14 See Brian Douglas Sloan, Your DUI Trial: What Can You Expect from Judges in Arizona?, arizdui.com, http://www.arizdui.com/your-dui-trial-what-can-you-expect-from-judges-in-arizona/ (Oct. 28, 2014).

15 Post Conviction Issues/Appeals, dmcantor.com, http://dmcantor.com/post-conviction/ (last visited Oct. 28, 2014).