An arraignment is a court hearing at which someone charged with a crime, known as the defendant, is advised of his or her rights and enters a plea. Arraignments in Montana may be held in person or by video. The judge must first advise the defendant of the charge against him or her. Usually, the judge reads the criminal complaint out loud to accomplish this objective. If the defendant does not have a copy of the complaint, the judge must provide one. By law, before a plea is entered, the judge must also advise the defendant of his or her legal rights. These include the right to assistance of counsel, the right to a jury trial, the right to remain silent, the right against self-incrimination, the right to plead not guilty, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. All of these legal rights are important because they support the American criminal justice system, in which a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Also at arraignment, the defendant must be told the possible punishment for the offense charged. After the defendant has been fully apprised of the crime, his or her rights, and the potential penalty, a plea may be entered. While a defendant at arraignment may plead not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere, which means "no contest," it is imperative that a defendant seek the advice of counsel prior to entering a plea. If a defendant is unable to seek the advice of counsel prior to entering a plea, the defendant should enter a not guilty plea, preserving all the defendant’s legal rights, until the defendant is able to consult with an attorney. Once a defendant enters a plea of not guilty, the judge will set the case for an Omnibus hearing and potentially other pre-trial dates. Further, the judge will set bond and bond conditions. In a DUI case it is not uncommon for judges to require the defendant refrain from ingesting alcohol or other intoxicants and to stay out of bars and casinos while the case is pending. Additionally, in DUI cases there has been a rise of judges requiring defendants to participate in alcohol monitoring, such as providing twice daily breath testing or wearing a constant alcohol monitoring unit. If you have been accused of DUI, it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney about your options. If you are unable to see an attorney prior to your arraignment, you should plead not guilty and make arrangements to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The law firm of Tipp & Buley provides quality DUI defense to clients across Western Montana. To schedule a confidential consultation, please visit our website online or call 406-549-5186.
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