Are You Free To Leave After a DC DUI Arraignment?

In the majority of DC DUI arraignments, a person is released on their personal recognizance and asked to come back to court for a status hearing about 4 weeks later. A person is free during that time to go where they want and do what they want, but is still subject to any release conditions imposed by the judge.

Importance of Having Lawyer to be Released

In most DC DUI arraignments, a person will automatically be released while their case is pending.  However, it is important to have a lawyer to advocate on your behalf and to argue for the least restrictive conditions of your release. As an example, if a judge wants to consider imposing a condition upon you that is very difficult for you to comply with, then your lawyer can advocate for the removal of that condition or to minimize that condition.

In the event that you go into your arraignment without a lawyer, then it’s always advisable to have the court-appointed lawyer speak on your behalf. It’s never a good idea to say anything except for your name or to answer yes or no to questions addressed directly to you. Anything you say can be used as evidence against you, so you always want to have a lawyer speaking on your behalf rather than speaking up yourself.

Flight Risk in DUI Cases

In the overwhelming majority of DUI arraignments, judges will release defendants on their own personal promise to return for their next court hearing. This is called release on personal recognizance.

If, however, the defendant has another pending criminal matter when they get arrested for their DC DUI, then the judge could consider the defendant’s criminal history to determine whether he might be at risk of not appearing for future court dates if released on personal recognizance. If judges see a history that indicates a defendant may fail to report to court, then he or she may consider that person to be a flight risk and consider holding the defendant in jail while his or her DUI case is pending. The judge will hear arguments from both the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney before deciding whether to release a defendant in these situations.

Bonds And How Can It Affect Your Release

Washington, DC laws eliminated bonds in most situations. Bond is a system where, after a person has been arrested, they would be required to put up a certain amount of money in exchange for securing their release while their case is pending. Many, if not most, jurisdictions still have a system of bond or bail where a person will have to pay money in exchange for their release while their case is pending.

In Washington, DC, however, most defendants are released from custody during their case purely on their personal promise to come back to court, except in a few very specific situations that are outlined in the DC laws. These situations include if the person is charged with a dangerous or violent crime, in which case the judge will be required to hold them for a certain period of time until a more extensive detention hearing can be held.

In the event that a person is arrested while having other pending criminal charges, then the judge has discretion to detain the defendant if she determines he is a danger to the community or at risk of not returning to court. Defense lawyers in these situations can make arguments to convince the judge that there are conditions of release, such as regular check-ins with the court or GPS monitoring, that can ensure his client will return to court if released from custody.