What is an arraignment? An arraignment is the initial appearance in a criminal case typically where the defendant is advised of the charges, the potential penalties for those charges, and asked enter one of three pleas. In Ohio, three pleas are guilty, not guilty, and no contest. In most DUI cases we waive a formal reading of the charges and we waive a formal explanation of the penalties by the court. The reason we do this is simple–it’s the attorney’s job to advise the client of what he or she is charged with as well as what the potential penalties are and to review that information with them and answer any questions they might have. It’s unnecessary for that information to be provided again in open court. As a practical matter, the arraignment in a DUI case really focuses on two issues–the administrative license suspension known as the ALS and limited driving privileges.
ALS – Administrative License Suspension
In most criminal cases, an arraignment may be held several weeks after the arrest, in a DUI case the arraignment must be held within five business days. The primary purpose of holding the arraignment within five business days is to allow the court to address the ALS (Administrative License Suspension) that was likely imposed. More information about the ALS can be found on our page dedicated to it. However, to summarize: a person is placed under an ALS for one of two reasons. The first reason is that they refused to take a chemical test: blood, breath, or urine, after being arrested for DUI. The second reason a person is placed under and ALS is for taking a chemical test but being over the prohibited level. This is most typically seen– almost exclusively seen–in a breath test case. The reason for this is simple, a urine test or a blood test result are not available from the lab within five days. Sometimes lab results can take up to, or even over, a month to come back.
Each court is different on how they address the ALS at the arraignment. Some courts will afford the attorney wide latitude in presenting information as to why it shouldn’t be imposed or what it should be stayed while the case is pending.
For example in Butler County Area Court, if the officer has failed to properly fill out the paperwork, it’s not uncommon for the judge to either stay or terminate the administrative license suspension. Contrast that with Hamilton County where the magistrates who handle the arraignments are under direct orders from the judges to not address the administrative license suspension. This is particularly troubling since the purpose of the five-day hearing is to address issues with the ALS and we have a court with thousands of DUI defendants a year who are being deprived of the ability to address the ALS because the magistrates have been told not to.
If there is a case in Hamilton county where there is a major defect with the ALS and it should be terminated, it’s important to have an attorney who knows how to get that issue before the judge as quickly as possible. Since ALS suspensions aren’t addressed by the magistrates, having the attorney continue the arrangement or set the matter for a pretrial weeks after the arraignment occurs is not going to be in that client’s best interest.
In Clermont County the arraignments occur before judges. Currently it’s Judge Pattison, Judge Miles, or Judge Brock. The advantage of having an arraignment occurred before a judge instead of a magistrate is the ability to deal directly with ALS defects.
In Warren County, the three busiest courts are Mason Municipal, Lebanon Municipal, and Warren County Court. Again, the arraignments in Warren County whether in Lebanon or County Court occur before a Judge. This gives you the opportunity to address any ALS defects. In Mason, the arraignments occur before the Magistrate.
Whether the arrangement is for a DUI charge in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, or Warren County the attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC are intimately familiar with each of the judges and how they will address objections or problems with respect to ALS suspensions and the granting of driving privileges.
Driving privileges are another major component of what makes up an arraignment. On a first offense within six years there is a waiting period of 15 days before you’re eligible for driving privileges if you’ve taken the chemical test and tested over the legal limit. If you refuse the chemical test, there is a waiting period of 30 days before you’re eligible for driving privileges. Both of the waiting periods begin running on the day of the arrest.
If the client has taken the chemical test and tested under the legal limit or in the case of the urine or blood test there are no results back yet, there is no administrative license suspension. It is extremely common to see a police officer placed someone under the administrative license suspension before they have a blood or you’re an test result back. This is one of those critical issues that should be addressed at the five-day hearing.
A common mistake that we see made in physical control cases is where the officer imposes the administrative license suspension on an individual who took the breath test and tested over the legal limit. In physical control cases there is no pretrial suspension if you take the test. If you refused, then there is a suspension. It’s also important to know the details about the particular magistrate or judge that is conducting the arraignment in order to address the particular concerns that judge has before requesting limited driving privileges. Some judges, for example Judge Campbell in Fairfield, will not give any driving privileges on a refusal case. However, there are certain things that can be done in order to put you in a light most favorable to give you the best chance of having of driving privileges granted.
The arrangement is an important first step in a DUI case. It holds opportunities for challenging the administrative license suspension when it’s improperly or ineffectively imposed. Having an attorney who knows not only the law as it deals with the administrative suspension but also the particular quirks and policies of the judges is extremely important.