Pennsylvania DUI Court Process
Navigating the criminal court system after a Pennsylvania DUI arrest can be a confusing experience without a knowledgeable and appropriately aggressive PA DUI defense lawyer at your side. The Pennsylvania DUI attorneys at Zachary B. Cooper, Attorney at Law, P.C. can help you with every aspect of your PA driving under the influence case and will fight to protect your rights throughout the court process.
Your first court appearance after a Pennsylvania DUI arrest will be at an initial arraignment, or usually at a "preliminary hearing".
At the arraignment, the charges against you will be read and you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you're still in custody, you must be arraigned within 48 to 72 hours. If you were released on your own recognizance (O.R.) or posted bail, your arraignment can occur at a later date.
When you are released after your arrest, you will usually be given paperwork showing the charges against you. Sometimes, the charges are mailed to you. These papers will also list the date and location of your Preliminary Hearing.
The Preliminary Hearing will occur in the local District Court where you were stopped and arrested. This hearing usually occurs within 30 to 60 days from the date of your arrest. A local Magistrate Judge presides over the Preliminary Hearing.
This initial hearing is a critical stage of the process, and it is important to have qualified counsel representing you at this hearing. It is possible to have some or all of the charges dismissed or amended at the Preliminary hearing.
If the Magistrate Judge finds probable cause for the charges, the case is sent to the County Court of Common Pleas for an Arraignment Hearing. The Arraignment usually occurs within 60 days of the date of the Preliminary Hearing.
If you are a first alleged offender, and are eligible for ARD, Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, and depending in which County your case is heard, application to ARD is made before or after Arraignment.
At or just after Arraignment, the police reports and other information about your arrest and the charges against you should be made available.
Your Pennsylvania DUI attorney may submit pretrial motions at your arraignment, or more likely at a later court appearance called a Pre-Trial Conference. Pretrial motions that may be employed in a Pennsylvania DUI case include discovery motions, motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss, and other motions "in limine", or motions regarding the evidence. All pretrial motions by the defense are designed to improve your prospects in your Pennsylvania DUI case.
In some Pennsylvania DUI cases, it may be possible to negotiate a favorable plea bargain. A plea agreement should be a good deal for both sides - you receive reduced charges and/or punishment in exchange for pleading guilty and sparing the district attorney from taking your case to trial. Your Pennsylvania DUI lawyer will review your case and help you to determine whether a plea agreement is possible and whether it will be in your best interests.
Another possible option in resolving your Pennsylvania DUI case without going to trial is a pre-trial diversionary program called A.R.D., or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. If you successfully complete the two-year program, your Pennsylvania DUI charge will be dismissed and can be expunged from your record. This program is available only to first-time Pennsylvania DUI offenders who aren't accused of causing serious injury or death. Other restrictions on entry to the program may vary from county to county. Your Pennsylvania DUI attorney can advise you about the availability of the A.R.D. program in your case and whether it could provide a favorable outcome to your PA driving under the influence charge.
If your Pennsylvania DUI case isn't resolved with a plea, a plea bargain or A.R.D., it will go to trial. The trial process starts when your defense attorney and the district attorney select a jury. Once the jury is seated, both sides will deliver opening statements, call witnesses, present evidence through the witnesses, and deliver closing arguments.
Once your defense attorney and the district attorney have finished presenting their cases, the judge will instruct the jury on how to apply the law to the facts of the case. The jurors will be sent to the jury room to deliberate. If the jurors reach a unanimous agreement on your guilt or innocence, they have a verdict that will be announced in court. The judge will then determine your sentence if you were found guilty.
The thought of going to court to face your Pennsylvania DUI charge may seem daunting, but an experienced and appropriately aggressive Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer should be at your side throughout the process. A Pennsylvania DUI lawyer at Zachary B. Cooper, Attorney at Law, P.C. is ready to do everything reasonably possible to help you fight your driving under the influence case and safeguard your rights. Please contact us today for a free consultation.