DUI Case Court Process
If you or a family member has been arrested for driving under the influence, the case will work its way through Pennsylvania’s criminal court system. The process can be confusing but an experienced defense attorney can help you make sense of the different steps.
The first time you appear in court will be at your preliminary arraignment. The charges against you will be read at that time and you will have the chance to enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. The date for the next step in the process, the preliminary hearing, will be scheduled.
Philadelphia conducts its arraignments through closed circuit TV. The magistrate judge is actually located in a basement courtroom of the Criminal Justice Center and you will be videoconferenced in so they can see and hear you.
Your preliminary hearing will be held in front of a magistrate judge and it is the most important hearing on your case. Its purpose is to protect you from unlawful arrest and detention. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the burden of proving a prima facie case — that the crime of DUI was committed and that you were probably the one who committed it. At this stage your lawyer may be able to get some or all of the DUI charges against you dismissed or dropped in exchange for a hearing waiver.
If the prosecution does meet its burden of proof and the magistrate judge decides there was probable cause, your DUI case will be scheduled for an arraignment in the Court of Common Pleas.
Formal arraignment and ARD
At the time of your formal arraignment, when you enter your plea, you will probably see the police reports covering your DUI arrest.
A key part of the process can take place either just before or after your arraignment. If it is the first time you have been charged with DUI, and you did not cause an accident that resulted in injury or death, you can be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD. If you qualify, your lawyer will help you apply to ARD at this point.
ARD is a diversionary program, and you will be enrolled for two years. After complete the program successfully, your charges will be dismissed and can be expunged from your record.
After your formal arraignment, your pre-trial conference is the next stage. Each county in Pennsylvania has its own local procedures for handling cases in a pre-trial conference and they vary from county to county.
In most counties the pre-trial conference is an opportunity for issues to be resolved before a trial is held. At this time, your attorney can make discovery requests. He or she will ask for information from the police and the DA. They will obtain the lab reports with the analysis of your BAC blood or breath test.
Your lawyer may also use this time to negotiate the best possible plea bargain with the prosecutor.
If your case hasn’t been resolved either through a plea deal or by you entering ARD, a trial is the next step in the process. The results of the trial will determine whether you are innocent or guilty of DUI. After the jury delivers its verdict and announces it in court, the judge will sentence you if you were found guilty.
How A Lawyer Will Help
When you are up against DUI charges, you need an attorney who will stand by you every step of the way, work hard to discredit any evidence – and work with you to determine your best course of action.
Pennsylvania DUI Law
DUI is described and defined under The Pennsylvania Code under Title 75, Chapter 38. Read the code here.
Questions? Contact us today.
Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to get your DUI charges dismissed or lowered. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.