Arraignment in Montana DUI Cases

Arraignment is the proceeding where the defendant may plead guilty or not guilty to the charge. Before accepting the plea, the judge must advise the defendant of all the rights listed in 46-12-210 and 46-7-102 MCA. The arraignment may be conducted with the defendant physically present before the Court or by two-way electronic audio-video communication pursuant to 46-12-201(4) MCA.

At the arraignment, the Court must inform the defendant of the charge and should do so by reading the complaint aloud to the defendant. The judge should explain that the defendant is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or driving with .08 or more AC, and that the charge is not what is traditionally known as “Drunken Driving.” The Court should ask if the defendant has a copy of the complaint. If not, a copy of the complaint must be given to the defendant.

The possible punishment specific to a first or subsequent violation must be explained to the defendant.

The Court is required to inform the defendant of the following constitutional and Statutory rights:

  1. the right to counsel and to have counsel appointed if the defendant cannot afford one (See Section II Part A “Initial Appearance”);
  2. the right to trial by jury, in either the limited jurisdiction court or at the district court level, or a trial before the judge;
  3. the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses;
  4. the right to subpoena witnesses on behalf of the defendant;
  5. the right to remain silent throughout the proceeding;
  6. the right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
  7. a guilty plea may result in deportation for an alien; and
  8. that a plea of guilty may waive the right to trial and appeal.

Additionally:
(9) the defendant has the right to a reasonable time before entering a plea. At least one day must be given to the defendant on request. If the Defendant remains in custody, (10) then the right to secure bail to be released from custody must be explained to the defendant.

Once advised of his rights, the defendant may plead guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere to the complaint. If he refuses to plead, the Court must enter a plea of not guilty.

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