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What to Expect When Arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania

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 Fiffik Law Group, 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 either at an initial arraignment, or 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 were arrested and you're still in custody, you must be arraigned within 48 to 72 hours. If you were released on your own recognizance (R.O.R.) or posted bail, your arraignment can occur at a later date.

When you are released after your arrest, you will receive paperwork listing the charges against you. Sometimes, the charges are mailed to you. These papers will also list the date and location of your Preliminary Hearing. It is important to note that you must attend each hearing in the process. Your failure to appear can result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest.

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 an experienced DUI attorney representing you at this hearing. It is possible to have some or all of the charges dismissed or amended at the Preliminary Hearing. Having charges dropped at this stage can save you significant money and suspension of your driving privileges. Do not overlook the importance of this stage of the process.

If the Magistrate Judge finds probable cause for the charges, the case is sent to the County Court of Common Pleas for a Formal Arraignment. The Arraignment usually occurs within 60 days of the date of the Preliminary Hearing.

If you are a first alleged offender, you may be eligible for A.R.D. (“Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition”), and depending in which County your case is heard, application to ARD is made before or after Arraignment. More on ARD below.

Prior to the Formal 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 in a Pennsylvania DUI case include discovery motions (to obtain information that the police or district attorney have about your case such as witness statements, videos and tests), motions to suppress evidence, motions to dismiss some or all of the charges, and other motions "in limine", or motions regarding the evidence. All pretrial motions 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 agreement. 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 a given amount of probation – typically six to eighteen months - 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 are not accused of causing serious injury or death and have no recent prior criminal record. 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 agreement or A.R.D., it will go to trial. You have a right to be tried within 365 days from when the criminal complaint was filed against you. This trial can either be before a jury or it can be brought solely before a judge. An experienced PA DUI attorney can advise you on which would be more beneficial to your individual case.

If you proceed with a non-jury trial, the judge will act as both the fact-finder, as well as make decisions of law. If you proceed with a jury 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 aggressive Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer should be at your side throughout the process. The attorneys at Fiffik Law Group are ready to do everything possible to help you fight your driving under the influence case and safeguard your rights. Please contact us today for a free consultation.


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