Many people who are facing drunk driving charges in Pennsylvania have no prior arrests and, therefore, do not know what to expect of the criminal court process that awaits them. If you choose to hire an attorney, they can walk you through each step of the DUI court procedure and attempt to make sure you are prepared for what comes next.
Many DUI cases start with a police officer stopping a driver for a traffic violation, administering various field sobriety tests and arresting the driver for a DUI. Once an officer tells a driver that they are under arrest, they are officially in police custody, even if they are not in handcuffs.
Once you have been arrested, you may be brought to police headquarters and held in custody. You will then go through a bail hearing, during which the judge will set the bail amount based on your criminal history, DUI record, ties to family and employment and seriousness of the offense. You will need to post bail in that amount to be released from custody.
Once you have posted bail, you may go to court for your preliminary arraignment, where you will plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Generally, the next step will be a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is not a trial, but just an opportunity for the judge to determine whether there is enough evidence against you to move forward. If the court decides that there is enough evidence to go forward, you will go to your formal arraignment.
At this stage, many different things can happen. If it is your first DUI and there were no injuries or death, you may be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD. If you apply to and successfully complete the program, your charges can be dismissed altogether. Your case may also be settled via a plea deal negotiated outside of court, and no other court appearances will be needed. If you are not eligible for the ARD program and no plea deal is reached, your case will go to trial. It is important to plan a defense strategy to attempt to reach the right result in your case.