A driving under the influence (DUI) charge is serious and can be life changing for the accused, particularly if they are convicted. Missteps in the process can create even more problems for them as well, as New Jersey has strict rules, so knowing what is expected of you is critical. In New Jersey, the person charged with a DUI has an arraignment, which is their first appearance in court. The arraignment is a formal court proceeding where the judge informs you of the charge and you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. You are required to be at the arraignment unless your lawyer was able to get your arraignment waived and entered a plea on your behalf. There are situations where the person charged misses this required court appearance. If this happens, there are some decisions that the judge can make right away:
- The judge issues a failure to appear notice. There will be instructions on the notice, and those need to be followed to allow you an opportunity to defend yourself on the charge.
- The judge issues a bench warrant for your arrest. If you are stopped by the police again, they can take you into custody. It also makes it tougher to defend yourself. The DUI charge does not go away because you did not go to the arraignment.
- The judge suspends your driver’s license. This often has already happened when you were charged with a DUI. However, if you still have driving privileges, they may be lost due to your failure to appear.
What Can I Do if I Miss My Arraignment?
If you do miss your arraignment, there are a couple of steps you want to take right away to minimize the impact on your case. If you do not already have a lawyer, now is the time to get one. Your lawyer may be able to convince the judge to lift your bench warrant, or if you still had driving privileges before the arraignment date, restore them. Your lawyer might be able to excuse your absence and reschedule a future court date by requesting a continuance. You need to provide a good reason for not appearing in court, such as:
- You never received court date notification. This is difficult for courts to accept in most cases because the arraignment date would appear on the traffic citation.
- You had a family or personal emergency.
- You had an accident or injury.
- You had a death in the family.
There are several reasons people give for failure to appear that are not generally accepted by the courts:
- Running late.
- Car problems.
- Unable to get a ride.
- Feeling sick.
- Forgot the date or time.
There are misconceptions about DUI charges that you should avoid, such as:
- I can avoid problems if I do not drive in the state where I was charged with a DUI. States can easily access records from other states. Being charged with a DUI in a state you visited can mean problems when you get back to your home state as well. The charges need to be handled.
- If I avoid driving until the statute of limitations is up, I will be okay. If you are arrested for DUI, you can be brought into court 10 years later for the charge. The statute of limitations is designed to keep people from being charged with a crime after a certain amount of years has passed, however, in the case of a DUI, you were already charged. The arraignment was an opportunity to have the judge explain the charge and allow you to make a plea.
- I did not know where or when to show up, so it is not my fault. Since your ticket or citation lists the date, time, and place for the arraignment, it is your responsibility to show up.
South Jersey DUI Lawyers at Agre & St. John Can Help You if You Have Missed Your Arraignment
Our South Jersey DUI lawyers at Agre & St. John understand that everyone makes mistakes, and we can help you if you missed your arraignment due to no fault of your own. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County. Call us at 856-428-7797 or fill out our online form to schedule an initial consultation.