Here Is How You Can Expect The Pittsburgh, PA DUI Court Process To Go.
Have you been charged with a DUI in Pittsburg, PA? If so, you probably have a lot of questions. Questions like, “what happens now?”, “will I go to jail?”, and “who do I call?” The Wyland Law Group is here to help answer some of these questions. Knowing what to expect makes the long process easier to go through. It also makes it easier to defend your rights.
Penalties Can Be Harsh
While it is not pleasant to think about, the unfortunate reality is that Pennsylvania has strict laws against drinking and driving. If convicted, you will likely be facing some harsh penalties. For instance, a first-offense DUI in Pittsburgh, PA can carry a maximum fine of $5,000, on top of a maximum prison sentence of 6 months (you could also be facing a license suspension).
Generally, DUI penalties in Pittsburgh, PA are based on 2 factors: the number of prior DUI convictions on your record, and your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest. Pennsylvania uses a 3-tiered system to determine penalties for BAC. The higher your BAC – and the more prior convictions you have – the stiffer your penalties will be.
Penalties can also increase if there was a DUI accident involved, especially an accident with injuries. Pittsburgh, PA drivers who caused serious injuries or death as a result of driving under the influence may have their charges upgraded to aggravated assault or vehicular homicide, respectively. In Pennsylvania, these are both felonies and typically result in prison sentences.
There Are No Penalties For A DUI Charge
Before we go any further, we need to clear up a common misconception: there are no penalties for a DUI charge itself. Many Pittsburgh, PA residents believe that they will face jail time or a license suspension simply because they were booked on a DUI charge. Such penalties – while very real – only occur after your conviction. The only exception to this rule is if you refused a BAC test upon your arrest. Because Pennsylvania is what is known as an “implied consent” state, refusal of BAC testing results in a one-year license suspension from PennDOT.
Your DUI Preliminary Hearing
The Pittsburgh, PA DUI process starts with a preliminary hearing. This usually occurs within 3 to 10 days after your arrest. You will receive a summons in the mail with the date of your preliminary hearing. This preliminary hearing will take place at the magisterial district court. At this hearing, the court will read the charges against you.
It is important to note that failure to attend this hearing will likely result in even harsher penalties. This is true even if you are planning to plead guilty. Those who aren’t residents of Pennsylvania can send a lawyer (such as an attorney from Wyland Law Group) to attend the hearing and plead on their behalf.
We recommend having an experienced Pittsburgh DUI defense attorney at your side during this hearing. A lawyer can advise you on how to plea. An experienced lawyer can also help you deal with having to face your arresting officer in the courtroom (in Pennsylvania, the arresting officer is present at the preliminary hearing). During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor must prove that you committed a DUI.
At this point, many DUI cases are dropped due to a lack of evidence. This is also the stage where your Pittsburgh. PA defense attorney can negotiate lesser charges. In both cases, it helps to have an experienced law firm like Wyland Law Group behind you.
The Formal Arraignment
The next step in the Pittsburgh, PA DUI court process is the formal arraignment. This is when you will see the police reports pertaining to your DUI arrest. This is also the point in the process where you can request to be accepted into Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program by the District Attorney.
This is a program that allows first-time offenders to potentially expunge certain misdemeanors (like DUI) from their record. Your attorney from Wyland Law Group can provide more information on the benefits of joining this program.
The Pre-Trial Conference
After the formal arraignment comes the pre-trial conference. The way the pre-trial conference is conducted differs according to what Pennsylvania county you are in. A Pittsburgh, PA DUI lawyer at Wyland Law Group can explain how the pre-trial conference is handled in your Pittsburgh-area county. No matter what county you’re in, the pre-trial conference gives your attorney the chance to ask the district attorney and arresting law enforcement officers for information regarding your arrest. Your lawyer can also examine lab reports and BAC tests at this stage.
The next step after the pre-trial conference is the trial itself. This is the stage where the jury will deliver a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty” and the judge will hand down a sentence (if you are found guilty). While a guilty verdict and harsh sentence are discouraging, the verdict can be appealed. During the appeal, a higher court in Pennsylvania will review your case to see if there were any errors or discrepancies during the trial.
If there was an error at any point during the Pittsburgh, PA DUI court process, your case could be retried or even dismissed altogether. Your attorney will let you know if an appeal is advisable, and will guide you through the process if it is.
The Best DUI Defense
If you are reading this and have not been charged with a DUI, don’t let it happen. The best defense against harsh DUI sentencing is to take precautions to ensure you never get charged in the first place. These precautions include calling a taxi or bringing a designated driver when you go out. If you are reading this because you have been charged with a DUI in the Pittsburgh area, your best defense is an experienced capable attorney. The attorneys at Wyland Law Group will defend you through every step of the process.