One of the most nerve-wracking parts of being a defendant in a criminal case is the trial process – especially if you’ve never been arrested before or seen the inside of a courtroom except on television. DUI is indeed a criminal charge, and we will try to demystify the criminal trial process in Pennsylvania with a step-by-step explanation of the typical criminal / DUI trial.
First Step: The Preliminary Arraignment
In most DUI cases, you won’t go through your preliminary arraignment until you arrive at your Preliminary Hearing (step 2). A preliminary arraignment is when you are brought before a Magisterial District Justice to have a bail set. Bail is set for the purpose of ensuring that you as the defendant appear for any future court dates. Sometimes a defendant is released on their own recognizance (i.e., their ‘word’ that they will show up) and sometimes they have to post money, otherwise, they go to jail until their court hearing. In most DUI cases in Pennsylvania, the police will merely release you the next day to a sober person, and you will get a summons in the mail. But if you are taken before a Magistrate while you are in custody the night of, or usually the day after you are arrested, this is why.
In most cases, you will receive paperwork in the mail at your home advising you of your first court date, the Preliminary Hearing. You should hire an attorney to represent you at this hearing.
Second Step: The Preliminary Hearing
At the Preliminary Hearing, either an Assistant District Attorney or the police officer who arrested you will present your case to a District Magistrate. The Magistrate Judge will then decide if there is enough evidence to bind the case over to the next higher court, the Court of Common Pleas, and put you on trial for DUI. The burden of proof (the amount of evidence the Commonwealth needs to show in order to win) at the Preliminary Hearing is much lower than that of a trial. However, there is still a possibility that the charges against you can be lowered or even dismissed at this point. That’s why it’s extremely important to have an experienced and aggressive DUI lawyer at your side at your Preliminary Hearing.
If you’ve been accused of DUI and have been given a date for your Preliminary Hearing, don’t delay. Contact Bompadre Law today for your free case evaluation and your trial could be over before it even begins.
Third Step: Formal Arraignment
Thirty days after the Preliminary Hearing, you will be ordered appear before the court to hear charges against you and be advised of your rights. At this hearing, the court will provide you with your charges formally in writing in a document issued by the District Attorney called a “Criminal Information.” This is the official charging document against you in your case. While this hearing is primarily a formality, this hearing can be attended by your attorney in your place or can be waived outright, so that you do not have to attend. The date is still very important, because the time clock on certain trial rights you have as a defendant begins ticking as of the date this hearing was held.
Fourth Step: Discovery
After the Formal Arraignment, the Commonwealth is required to give copies or otherwise make available all of the evidence they plan to use against you to your attorney. This evidence can be anything from detailed police reports, chemical test results, photographs, statements from witnesses, and other forms of evidence. Your lawyer should pour over this evidence in excruciating detail to ascertain any weaknesses or illegalities in the Commonwealths’ case so he can use these facts to construct the best possible defense for you.
Bompadre Law can employ the some of the top experts, along with private detectives when necessary, to give you a top-notch defense. Contact us today put our experience to work on your case.
Fifth Step: Pretrial Motions
If during the Discovery process, if there are issues with the evidence that leads your lawyer to believe that the police or prosecutor were guilty of any procedural or legal irregularities in the administration of your arrest and prosecution, your lawyer will file a Pretrial Motion. This motion is a request from you asking the Court to look at your case and make sure that none of your civil rights and no state laws have been violated. Specifically, the Court will be asked to consider:
- Whether the traffic stop and your detainment was legal
- Whether there was sufficient Probable Cause to arrest you
- Whether the chemical test was administered legally
- Whether the results of the chemical test (or a report of your refusal to take one) are valid
- Anything other appropriate legal argument
This is another point in the trial process where your attorney will work to uncover a reason to have your case dismissed, the evidence against you suppressed or your charges reduced. Attorney Bompadre is a highly-trained DUI attorney who can spot when your rights have been violated during your arrest. Don’t let a golden opportunity to possibly have your case dismissed pass you by. Contact us today.
Sixth Step: Trial
If your case proceeds to trial, the Commonwealth will present its case against you to a judge or jury, and your attorney will present witnesses and evidence to counteract the Commonwealth’s case, cross-examining the Commonwealth’s witnesses, including the arresting Police Officer, and doing everything possible to help you obtain the best possible result; a “Not Guilty” verdict.
Attorney Bompadre is a fierce litigator, with no fear of the courtroom. I always promise to fight aggressively for you, your rights, you license, and your freedom. Contact us for your free case evaluation.
While the trial process is complex, it also offers several separate opportunities for you to achieve a favorable result. Your best chance of making that happen is to hire the right attorney to advocate on your behalf. Bompadre Law stands ready to give you the representation you deserve. Contact us for more information on how we can help guide you through the trial process.
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