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What To Know About The DUI Court Process In Pennsylvania

As a result of the COVID-19 changes, DUI Central Court, which has been handling all DUIs in Lancaster County for the past three years, is being dismantled. Preliminary hearings will be returned to the District Magistrate where the charges originated.

Are you looking for more information on how your DUI case will be handled in court? We’ve listed the steps below to help you understand how the DUI court process works. If you have additional questions, contact Chieppor & Egner LLC to discuss them during an initial consultation.

Typically, in Pennsylvania, your case will go through the following process:

  • Arrest – After you’ve been arrested, you’ll be taken into police custody and then released after processing and testing. You will receive your preliminary arraignment/hearing date in the mail, which is called a summons. The summons will explain your charges and may also have the results of any chemical tests.
  • Preliminary arraignment – If you are arrested and detained, you may be taken to have your bail set by a local magistrate. While most first-time drivers are released the same night and arraigned at the preliminary hearing, if you are from out of state or have other charges in your past, you may be detained until your bail is set and posted.
  • Preliminary hearing – This hearing is held so that the state of Pennsylvania can prove that they have some evidence to prove that you probably committed a crime. If the hearing is held, you will get to listen to testimony from the police and other witnesses who will be cross-examined by your attorney. You do not have to say anything. You may also choose to waive this hearing, which means that you agree that the charges will advance to the Court of Common Pleas.
  • County court arraignment – This is the next court date, which will be set by the Court of Common Pleas. You can typically expect it to occur 30 to 60 days after the preliminary hearing. If you are represented by an attorney, he will enter his appearance to represent you so you do not have to go to the arraignment. Your attorney will request the police reports and have the case listed on the next pretrial list. In July 2013, Lancaster County is accelerating its arraignment so that it will be held the same month as your preliminary hearing.
  • Pretrial hearings – The purpose of a pretrial hearing is for the court to be up-to-date on any developments in your case. Meetings with the prosecutor may be held at this time, which may entail discussing a plea. If an agreement is reached, you will enter it on the record in front of a judge.
  • Suppression hearings – Suppression hearings are where your attorney may decide to raise a particular defense. For example, your attorney may file a motion to suppress chemical test results or other evidence that was found without probable cause. During the hearing, your attorney will be able to cross-examine police officers as well as other witnesses in addition to being able to call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
  • Trial – A jury trial would typically only occur if you had a prior DUI and/or if you had a BAC of .16% or higher. The state of Pennsylvania does not allow jury trials for first-offense DUI cases. Instead of a jury trial, a bench trial may take place. During a bench trial, a judge will act as both the judge and the jury.
  • Sentencing – If the verdict is guilty, the judge will impose the sentence. If the verdict is not guilty, the case will be dismissed.

Don’t Face The Legal System Alone – We Can Help

Based in Lancaster, Chieppor & Egner LLC serves clients throughout the surrounding areas. To schedule your initial consultation, call (717) 393-1400 or reach out online.

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