DUI Arraignment

After an arrest for driving under the influence, there is a process in place that takes the defendant from time of arrest through the court system. The state of Illinois can charge someone with driving under the influence if he or she has a blood alcohol level (BAC) above 0.08 percent. Illinois also mandates stiffer sentences for those with a BAC level of 0.16 or higher. After the arrest and booking, the defendant’s next step is the DUI arraignment in front of a judge.

The Basics of a DUI Arraignment

The arraignment is the first time that the defendant goes in front of a judge in a courtroom after the entire arrest process is over. At that time, the defendant will enter a plea of no contest, guilty, or not guilty. During the arraignment, the judge will first read the charges against the defendant. After the defendant replies with his or her chosen plea, the judge will then instruct the court as to the next steps, which will vary depending on whether the state has charged the defendant with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony DUI

The details of the arraignment will depend on the severity of the crime. The state will likely charge the defendant with a misdemeanor for a first offense if there was no bodily injury to another party. In a misdemeanor, the court will likely not need to set bail and the case often does not go to trial. While the process varies according to the circumstances of each misdemeanor case, the defendant will also likely gain release from custody on his or her own recognizance without needing to pay bail.

In Chicago, the state will commonly charge a DUI as a felony for a second, third, or fourth offense or for a DUI offense involving bodily injury or death to another party. The judge will advise that a defendant charged with felony DUI has a Constitutional right to an attorney. The court might assign a lawyer to the defendant if the defendant is unable to afford legal representation. The judge may also set a bail amount. The defendant’s attorney will generally receive discovery documents such as the police reports and breathalyzer results in the particular case.


During the arraignment hearing, the judge sets conditions which the defendant must follow while he or she has a pending court case. Those conditions depend on the type of DUI charge. Illinois courts do not allow probation for defendants who have more than two DUIs on their records. The conditions can be information about bail or release without bail, as well as include instructions to not drive or to only drive under specific conditions. Once the court informs the defendant of any conditions, the defendant must sign a document acknowledging the terms of the document and noting the next scheduled court date.