Written by attorney Shamoon Aziz Budhwani

How do I Determine if I Should Plead Guilty or Not Guilty at my DUI Criminal Arraignment?

If you have been arrested and charged on suspicion of having violated a provision of the California Penal code, the ticket the police officer gave you the day of your arrest will list a date and time for your criminal arraignment.

This first appearance is referred to as an Arraignment. At the arraignment you will be explained what charges are being brought against you, you will be advised of your rights, and the Judge will ask you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Appearance at this arraignment date is critical. Failure to appear in court for the arraignment can result in an arrest warrant. However, you do not have to appear at the arraignment yourself. California Penal Code 977 allows an attorney to represent an individual at all misdemeanor appearances. This means that our experienced Orange County DUI attorneys at Core Law Group can represent you at the arraignment and at all stages of your misdemeanor DUI case without you present.

At this first arraignment hearing a prosecutor will present the charges against you stemming from your DUI arrest. Typically the charges for a first time DUI are California Vehicle Code 23152(a) and 23152(b). Once the charges are presented and the judge provides a formal reading and advisement of your rights you will be asked to make a plea. The options would be “guilty," “not guilty," or “no contest. Pleading “guilty" or “no contest" will conclude your case and you will be sentenced the consequences the Prosecutor has offered. In general an individual will not have the best offer at this stage as neither the court or the prosecutor can offer anything lower than the “statutory minimum sentence" allowed under the law.

You also have the option to plead not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the Judge will set another court date referred to as the Pre-Trial. The Pre-Trial will usually be before another Judge and in another courtroom.

This is a very big decision, as it can determine whether or not a criminal charge remains on your permanent criminal record. How do you know which decision to make, and whether it is the right one? It is an incredibly stressful situation because you do not know what your chances are of winning your case if you plead not guilty, and you do not know if pleading guilty will save you unnecessary expenses and time if you are going to be convicted at the end of trial.

Another significant issue to remember is that the offer made by Prosecutors at your arraignment will be taken off the table if you plead not guilty, and another will be offered at Pre-Trial. The second offer may not be as generous as the first offer, but it may also be a lot better. Therefore, the decision is a difficult one and must be made with plenty of knowledge and experience.

This knowledge and experience is best found by consulting an experienced Orange County Criminal attorney who can advise you from experience whether the facts of your case would benefit from pleading guilty or not guilty.

Oftentimes the facts of the case will dictate whether the case should be reduced or dismissed and does not rise to the level of a conviction. In those situations, a professional attorney at Core Law Group would advise that you plead not guilty and push the case to trial. In contrast, if there are facts that strongly lean towards a conviction, it may be best to plead guilty and accept the lowest possible sentence available instead of risking a higher penalty at trial.

Regardless of which way your case leans, one thing is for sure, consulting with a knowledgeable Orange County Criminal lawyer at Core Law Group will help guide you towards the right decision!

Additional resources provided by the author

To learn more about DUI’s visit Core Law group’s blog at or call one of our attorneys at 888-652-5529.

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer