Van Sant, 54, was arrested the night of Dec. 21 near the city center. Police said he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent, more than double Oregon's limit of 0.08 percent.
An officer saw that Van Sant's headlights were not on, Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said. Van Sant had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, smelled of alcohol and failed sobriety tests, Schmautz said.
Van Sant was not required to appear at the arraignment in Multnomah County Court. He was represented by attorney Richard Oberdorfer.
The February hearing will help determine whether the Portland filmmaker enters a diversion program, which could eventually remove the charge from his record.
Judge Leslie Roberts imposed the standard conditions that while the case is pending, Van Sant must avoid alcohol and not drive without a license or insurance.
Several of Van Sant's movies have been set in Oregon, including "Elephant," about a high school shooting, which won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003. He has been shooting "Paranoid Park" in and around the city.
His films also include "My Own Private Idaho," "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Finding Forrester."Click here for FOXNews.com's Celebrities in Trouble center.