Like many people in Pennsylvania, you find your self in a situation you never thought to be in. You have just been arrested for a DUI. You think to yourself “how could this happen to me” or “how will this affect my family”. It is important to understand what your rights are when you are arrested and what your options are moving forward. The first thing that you need to understand is the criminal process in Pennsylvania, specifically when it comes to DUI.
After a person is arrested for a DUI, the first significant step after that is the preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing the Commonwealth must show that there is enough evidence to hold this case over to the Court of Common Pleas. Usually in a DUI case the blood or breath report is typically enough to achieve this goal since the standard at this level is VERY low. Many times rather then have a hearing an attorney may advise their client to just waive the charges to the next level. One reason this may be is because in order to be admitted into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition https://www.pennsylvaniaduilawyers.com/a-r-d-accelerated-rehabilitative-disposition.html or “ARD” some counties require a person to waive their preliminary hearing. If an individual is NOT eligible for ARD having a hearing so the affiant or police officer takes the witness stand and testifies to what ALLEGEDLY happened is a very good idea. After a hearing it is then up to a District Judge to make a determination as to whether there is enough evidence to hold the charges over to the next level.
The next phase after the preliminary hearing the case moves up to the Court of Common Pleas in each individual county. For instance in Montgomery County that would be Norristown, in Delaware County it would be in Media, Chester County would be in West Chester, and Bucks County would be in Doylestown. If a person has applied for ARD and eventually accepted, an ARD hearing will be scheduled in which both client and attorney will have to appear in order to be admitted into the program. If on the other hand a person is not going into ARD their case will be assigned an Assistant District Attorney as well as an assigned Judge. At this point an individual arrested for DUI is entitled to ask for all the discovery or evidence that the Commonwealth has. This is done through an attorney filing a request for discovery with the district attorney’s office. Discovery can include reports, videos, physical evidence or really just about anything the Commonwealth has in their possession that they intend to use to prosecute at the time of trial. A qualified DUI attorney will then file any appropriate motions to make sure their client is getting the absolute best result. One of the most common motions to file is a Motion to Suppress if for instance the police stopped a vehicle illegally.
An individual has the absolute right to either go to trial or accept a guilty plea. One thing a person should know when it comes to a Pennsylvania DUI is that even for a first offense DUI there are MANDATORY minimum sentences that must be imposed. If an individual has a first offense DUI and is not eligible for ARD they could be facing a minimum 48-72 hours in jail and a 1 years license suspension depending on their Blood Alcohol Level. So if you find yourself in this position it is important to go over all your options and possible defenses with a qualified DUI attorney because there is a lot at stake. An attorney may be able to look over the discovery and point out problems in the case to the district attorney and work out a better deal that could help avoid jail time as well as a license suspension.
Hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in the world. If you find yourself arrested for a DUI make sure you have an attorney on your side that is aggressive and will fight to make sure not only your rights are protected but that you get the best outcome so you and your family can move on with your lives.