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DUI Booking and Bail

Many drivers charged with driving under the influence of alcohol have never been in trouble with the law before. The prospect of being taken into police custody, booked, fingerprinted, and placed in a holding cell can be overwhelming. Having a better understanding of the criminal arrest booking process and knowing what to expect can help motorists facing DUI charges. If you have any further questions, contact a criminal defense attorney for advice.

Most impaired driving arrests begin with a traffic stop. When a police officer believes they have probable cause that the driver committed a crime, they will place the suspect under arrest. The law enforcement officer may read the suspect their Miranda warning but it may not be required for a common DUI or DWI arrest. The suspect will be transported to the police station or sheriff's department for booking.

Booking Process

The time it takes to process and book DUI suspects can vary widely depending on how busy police facilities are at the time. Drunk driving suspects can expect to spend at least two hours answering questions, being fingerprinted and photographed, and submitting to chemical testing of the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC). A driver could end up spending a few hours before they are released, or it may take up to a couple of days.

Initial Questioning

Interrogations and police questioning you see on TV are generally not part of the questioning for drunk driving arrests. After a DUI arrest, the police generally believe they have enough evidence of impairment and the prosecutor can use the police officer's arrest report and blood alcohol readings to bring criminal charges. Law enforcement officers generally do not need a confession or admission of guilt. Instead, initial questioning involves intake information.

During the booking process, officers ask basic questions to fill out arrest reports and other paperwork. This may include personal information, like the suspect's name, address, and emergency contact info. If you respond to questions, you should answer truthfully. If you believe saying something could incriminate you, you may want to tell the police you will not answer any questions until you talk to your lawyer. You have the right to protect yourself against self-incrimination by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Background Checks

A police background check may begin during the traffic stop. The police officer may search your criminal record based on the information from your driver's license. Police records can show outstanding warrants or other recent police interactions. During booking, the police may conduct further background checks against state and federal law enforcement databases. Background checks may also include your driving record, to show prior related offenses, including drunk driving arrests in other states.

Fingerprinting and Photographing

As part of the arrest process, the police will take photographs or a “mugshot." The suspect will also have their fingerprints taken. The fingerprint records can be added to a national database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Taking photos and fingerprints are a standard process in any misdemeanor or felony criminal arrest.

Additional Toxicology Testing

Preliminary alcohol screening devices may not be very reliable and drivers have the right to refuse roadside breathalyzers. However, in an arrest for impaired driving, drivers have given their implied consent to submit a chemical breath or blood sample. As part of your driving privileges, you have to submit a breath sample or get a blood test as evidence of your blood alcohol content. If you refuse a toxicology test, you may have your license suspended and can still be charged with a DUI.

Arraignment and Release

An arraignment hearing is the first court appearance after an arrest. The judge reads the formal charges against the defendant and the defendant responds to the charges. If the defendant disputes the charges or needs more time, the matter will be scheduled for a future preliminary hearing. Depending on the charge, the judge may decide whether or not to keep the defendant in custody while the case is pending.

Most first-time DUI suspects who were not involved in serious accidents will not be kept in custody. DUI defendants are often released on their own recognizance. Defendants who do not pose a risk to the public and are not deemed a flight risk may be released and required to attend the next scheduled court hearing. This time will allow the defendant to find an attorney to handle their case.


Some states may require bail, even for drunk driving offenses. Bail is money that is put up to make sure the defendant appears in court. If the defendant does not show up to their court date, the money put up for bail may be taken by the state and a warrant will be issued for the suspect's arrest. A judge may determine the amount of bail during a bail hearing. The amount of bail may be based on a bail schedule that considers the seriousness of the offense, connections to the community, flight risk, and danger to the community.

Bail Bonds

Many people cannot afford to put up thousands of dollars in bail money. Bail bonds agencies have an agreement with the courts, that they will be responsible for the defendant appearing in court. In exchange, they take a fee from the defendant or the defendant's family, generally about 10% of the bail amount. The bail bondsman will keep the fee as payment for their services. The bail bond company may also require collateral if the defendant is a flight risk.

An experienced attorney can help you through the difficulty in a drunk driving case. Your lawyer will explain the criminal court process, help you understand your options, and defend your case in court. Your lawyer may also be able to negotiate a better plea bargain, to help you avoid jail time and get back on the road after an arrest. Contact a drunk driving attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.