The Arraignment: The first court hearing is called the arraignment. The citation will tell you to contact the court not less than 5 days and not more than 14 days. This is preprinted on the citation forms all over Utah. However, if you are booked into jail, many times the releasing agency will give you a court date. Further, if you use a bail/bonding company to bond out of jail, the bonding company may give you a court date. TRUST NO ONE. Call the court daily to determine your court date. If you fail to appear on the court date that the court schedules, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. If you hire a DUI attorney, the attorney will take steps to help you through this process.
Hiring a DUI Attorney: When you hire a DUI Attorney, the attorney will enter an appearance, which is a letter to the court telling the court that you have retained the attorney and that you enter a plea of not guilty. Most of the time, with the letter from the attorney, the court will cancel the arraignment and set the case for the next hearing called a pretrial conference.
Purpose of Arraignment: The first initial appearance, the arraignment, is for the court to ask how you plea and set further proceedings. Your choices are guilty, not guilty, or no contest. It is advisable to always plea not guilty at the first hearing. If you enter a plea of guilty or no contest, the case is over and you will be sentenced. You have just waived your right to challenge the evidence and to make the prosecution prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. A no contest plea is essentially treated as if you entered a plea of guilty. It means that you are not contesting the charges. Once you enter a not guilty plea, this would be the time to tell the court that you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer and would like an attorney appointed to represent you, or to tell the court that you plan on hiring your own lawyer and would like time to do so.
When should I hire a lawyer? It is best to hire a lawyer as soon as possible so that evidence can be preserved and collected. The sooner you hire the lawyer, the easier the process will go. The lawyer will set court dates with the court, request discovery and videos from the prosecution, prepare motions, and prepare the best possible defense.