States vary as far as automatic penalties for a first DUI offense and for subsequent offenses. Some states require jail time even for first offense. Unlike other criminal charges, it is possible that you will have to spend some time in jail before having the opportunity to post bail.
Once arrested, the police will take the driver into custody. The police will take fingerprints, check criminal history, and record the field sobriety tests and other evidence from the traffic stop. This process is called booking.
Depending on the number of DUI offenses on your record, and depending on state law, you should be able to post bail. Bail is an amount of money which you have to give in order to guarantee your return to court for your scheduled hearing. The amount of bail is determined case by case but there are guidelines which help speed the process of getting people out of jail, at least until the hearing.
The arraignment is the hearing where the judge will read the charges against you and will ask if you plead guilty or not guilty. He will also ask if you are represented by an attorney or if you think you qualify for government-appointed representation. The judge will then set the date for the next hearing and may revise bail.
Most states require you to schedule a hearing with the Motor Vehicle Department for you state. Usually you only have a short time after the arrest to schedule a hearing—10 to 15 days is common. If you do not schedule a hearing, your license may automatically be suspended. Each state has its own laws regarding the timing and the penalties brought by the MVD/DMV. It is important to remember that the penalties brought by the MVD/DMV are separate from the criminal charges against you and there will be separate hearings for each.
Plea bargains are rare for DUI given the strong public policy against drinking and driving. Most prosecutors will not consider a plea bargain unless they have no other choice. An experienced attorney may be able to help you get a plea bargain based on the details of the arrest and the testing. If there is some way to invalidate the results of the testing upon which the prosecutor rests its case, an attorney may be able to plea bargain for you. Most states do not allow plea bargaining with unrepresented people, so if you want a chance at a plea bargain, you will need an attorney representing you.
Every state offers a person charged with DUI the right to a jury trial. In a jury trial, a panel of people will listen to your case and will determine whether you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury must agree unanimously so if only one person thinks there is a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence, then the charges against you will be dismissed. A jury trial means you will have to face the jury which will be made up of citizens in your community.
If you would prefer to avoid the possible embarrassment of a jury trial, you can have a judge only trial. A judge only trial is a trial held without a jury and the judge makes all decisions after listening to the evidence and the testimony of the witnesses. A judge will carefully consider whether proper procedures were followed and whether extenuating factors affect the viability of the charges. An experienced DUI attorney can help you decide what is best for your particular case.