If you have been arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania, you may find the subsequent court process physically and emotionally exhausting as well as needlessly convoluted. This may be especially true if you enter it for the first time. This article deals with the various stages you will go through and why you should hire a Pittsburgh DUI defense lawyer who has helped countless clients navigate the DUI court process.
What Happens if I Get Arrested for a DUI?
If a police officer in Pennsylvania has probable cause to arrest you for being intoxicated at the time of driving, they will take you back to the police station. There, they will give you the option of taking a blood, breath, or urine test. Each police department has its own specific equipment for analyzing your breath test.
If you, the person arrested, opt for a blood test, the police will take you to a hospital or clinic where a phlebotomist will need to draw blood. It will take approximately three weeks for the blood test results to return.
Unless they suspect that you were driving under the influence of drugs, police officers will not usually ask you to provide urine tests.
If the police request a blood, breath, or urine test, you do not have the right to refuse. A refusal to submit to chemical testing will bring its own set of penalties regardless of the outcome of the underlying DUI case.
What is the Preliminary Hearing?
Most often, a person arrested and released for a DUI will receive a complaint in the mail and a summons with a date to appear in Court. Failure to appear at the date and time could result in the issuance of a bench warrant and, subsequently, your arrest.
In the local district court where your DUI took place, the preliminary hearing is perhaps the most important step in the entire DUI court process. Overseen by a local magistrate, the prosecution will have to prove they have a case against you by showing the Court that a DUI occurred and you were the perpetrator. Unless they prove this, the case will be dismissed.
At this point, your lawyer will fight to have some, if not all, of the charges against you, dismissed.
What Happens at a Formal Arraignment?
Should the prosecution prove they have a case against you, they will formally arraign you. This procedure takes place at the Court of Common Pleas, where the charges against you will be read aloud and entered into the record. Then, you will enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. The Court will assign your case to a judge.
At this stage, you and any legal representation will be able to view the police records from the day of your arrest and any results from blood, breath, or urine tests. This information may form the foundation of your defense and help your lawyer determine if you would be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition. The information may also convince your lawyer to negotiate a plea deal.
What is Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD)?
ARD is a method of receiving reduced sentences and fines. Furthermore, this program allows PennDOT to expunge ARD records after ten years as long as the Court did not revoke your driving privileges because it considered you a habitual offender or you were a commercial driver charged with DUI. You are eligible for the program if:
- This is the first time the Court has placed you in the program
- You did not kill or seriously injure anyone during your DUI, and
- Prosecutors had not charged you with other serious vehicle violations when you received the DUI charges
What is a Pre-Trial Conference?
The Court will schedule a pre-trial conference before your case moves forward to the actual trial. At this point, your lawyer may enter motions on your behalf to improve your chances of a favorable outcome. For instance, they may petition the Court to suppress some of the evidence against you because it was obtained illegally. Your lawyer may analyze the evidence and request that the Court reduces the charges.
The pre-trial conference is a prime time to discuss a plea deal with the prosecution. If your lawyer has managed to negotiate a more equitable deal with the prosecution than they believe you would receive if your case went to trial, they may use this stage to finalize the deal.
When Will My Trial Date Be?
If your case is bound for trial and no plea agreement has been reached, you will have to proceed to trial. However, one of several things can happen on this date:
- You can proceed to either a non-jury or jury trial
- You might negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor
- The case might be postponed because one of the parties is unable to attend the trial on that date
- The prosecutor or judge will withdraw or dismiss the case, respectively, because the Commonwealth has not been able or willing to proceed with the case.
What Happens during Sentencing for a DUI in PA?
In the event that the judge or jury convicts you or you plead guilty, you will have the right to:
- To ask the Court for a pre-sentence report that will postpone sentencing for approximately ninety days, or
- Waive your right to the pre-sentence report and ask the judge to impose a sentence immediately
Given the severity of DUI laws in the Keystone State, you may face significant penalties and other consequences, including fines, jail time, and losing your driver’s license. If this is not your first offense or you have an exceptionally high blood alcohol content, you will face harsher mandatory minimum sentencing.
Contact a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Today
Anyone faced with DUI charges should retain the services of competent legal representation because a conviction could upend your hopes and dreams for the future. Contact the Law Offices of former prosecutor George Heym immediately if you require quality legal services.