OWI Procedures

The procedures in your case can vary depending on the court where your charges are pending. Listed below is a summary of the general proceedings in a misdemeanor case. It is subject to change from court to court, and is provided for general reference:


An arraignment may be scheduled in your case to inform you of the charges, the maximum penalties, ask how you plead, and to set bond. In OWI (intoxicated or impaired or drugs), cases, this is often done on the morning after your arrest. If not formally done, your attorney can many times waive this procedure and avoid an extra day in court.

Pretrial Conference

In most OWI cases, a pretrial is scheduled to determine whether a plea to a reduced charge will be offered and whether you will accept this plea. If offered and accepted, you may appear in front of the judge, or you may have a plea and sentence scheduled on a later date. Ask your attorney for the expected procedure in your court.


If there is no plea following the pretrial, then your case will be scheduled for trial. You may choose a jury or "bench" trial. (e.g., one tried by judge and not the jury). On the date for trial, you may still consider the plea offered, if any.


Whether convicted by plea or after trial, state law requires a "screening." This procedure involves your meeting with the probation department and preparation of a report about your background with respect to drinking, and a recommendation about sentencing. You will review the screening report with your attorney prior to sentencing.


The court will impose penalties consistent with the goals of sentencing: punishment, protection of society and rehabilitation. You will be required to attend at least one alcohol awareness class. Some courts impose an awareness weekend, AA classes, counseling, reporting probation, a tether, community service, random testing and vehicle immobilization. License sanctions are imposed by the Secretary of State. (see drunk driving license suspensions.) You should be prepared to pay all fines and costs imposed. (Typically $750 to $1,800 for a first offense.)