After you have been arrested for and charged with a DUI by the police, you will enter into the criminal process for DUI offenses. Many people who are charged with DUI offenses have never been in court facing criminal charges before. This means that many DUI offenders do not know what to expect and find the process confusing and frightening. At DiCindio Law, we can help you to understand what to expect so that you can anticipate what might happen next and what happens during the different phases of a DUI case. Here is what you need to know about a DUI arraignment in Pennsylvania.
After your arrest: The preliminary arraignment
After you have been arrested and taken into custody on suspicion that you have committed a DUI offense, bail will be set in your case. Some people may be released on their own recognizance while others may have bail set in a cash amount. If you are able to post a bond or are released in your own recognizance, you may be given paperwork upon your release that lists your next court date and that explains your charges.
At a preliminary arraignment, the court will advise you of the charges against you, ask you if you have an attorney, and tell you other rights that you have. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you from the public defender’s office. The court will then schedule a preliminary hearing for you in the local district court where you were arrested. Sometimes, if you are arrested and the charges are sent to you via summons – as is the case in many DUI matters – the preliminary arraignment and the preliminary hearing occur on the same day.
The preliminary hearing
The preliminary hearing is an important hearing for you when you have been charged with a DUI. It is a good idea to have an experienced attorney to represent you at this hearing. The court will review the evidence against you in your case. If the court finds that there is prima facie evidence to believe that it is more likely than not that you committed a DUI offense, your case will be bound over for trial. If the court instead finds that there is no probable cause/prima facie evidence to support the charges against you, the charges will be dismissed. An experienced lawyer can challenge the police officer’s probable cause/prima facie evidence to believe that you committed the DUI offense at the preliminary hearing. If there is a finding of probable cause/prima facie evidence, your case will be bound over for in the Court of Common Pleas.
The formal DUI arraignment
At the formal DUI arraignment, you will again be advised of the charges against you. The court will also inform you of your rights, the potential penalties for the charges, and ask you whether you want to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or stand mute. The prosecuting attorney may make a plea offer to you. It is important for you to be represented by an attorney at your formal arraignment hearing.
In most cases, it is not a good idea to enter a plea of guilty at your formal arraignment. This is because when you plead guilty, you will not have a chance to challenge the basis for your DUI charge. If you enter a plea of not guilty, your attorney will have the opportunity to file motions in your case to seek suppression of some of the evidence that is being used against you in your case. There will also be some deadlines for some of the motions that can be filed after your formal arraignment. Having a lawyer present with you can allow him or her to meet the deadlines imposed by the court.
At the formal arraignment or another time, depending on the county of your arrest, you may be given the opportunity to enter the ARD program. The ARD program stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, and it is available to some first-time DUI offenders.
If you are eligible for the ARD program, it is an alternative that may allow you to resolve your DUI charge. This program allows the DUI to be expunged from your record if you are able to successfully complete a probationary program. There are restrictions concerning who can enter the ARD program that varies between the counties and some are written in the state statutes. Your DUI attorney can advise you about ARD, your eligibility, and whether it might be a good idea for you in your case.
Contact an experienced DUI lawyer
Being charged with a DUI offense can be frightening and confusing. If you have been charged, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced DUI attorney at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by filling out our online contact form. Someone will get back to you shortly so that you can learn more about the rights that you might have in your case.