What You Need to Know About DUI Trials
If you’re like most people pulled over for drunk driving, your case will not go to trial. Instead, your case will probably get resolved in the early stages of the criminal justice process through a plea arrangement. But, if you’re in the minority, the DUI trial is where your fate will be decided. The trial has high stakes because it means that both the defense and the prosecution believe that the facts are in their favor and that it’s worth investing the time and money to litigate. Of course, this belief cannot be true for both camps, so the outcome often depends on the raw skill of the opposing attorneys.
If you are facing a DUI charge, contact a skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorney to take your case. You will want someone with experience negotiating with prosecutors as well as a trial veteran. Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 or use our online contact form.
What is the Pretrial Process in a DUI Case?
After your arrest for DUI, you may either stay in custody or get released on bail or on your own recognizance. When you’re in custody, you must be arraigned within two to three days, but if you get released, the arraignment may take place later. The arraignment may be your first appearance in court, but in some cases you may be asked to participate by video-call from your jail cell. In either scenario, at the initial arraignment the magistrate will inform you of the charges against you and your rights as a criminal defendant. At this point, you may be able to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
If you plead not-guilty, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled – usually within one to two months of your arrest date. At this hearing, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving that there is sufficient evidence to connect you with the crime. At this juncture, the prosecutor may also offer you a plea agreement, under which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence or a conviction for a lesser crime, like reckless driving.
It’s essential for you to have a good lawyer at the preliminary hearing. It’s the first opportunity to challenge the charges against you, and to make pretrial motions. Motions are a mechanism for asking the court to take action, such as rejecting illegally obtained evidence, ordering the police to produce the personnel file on the officers who arrested, you or even dismissing the charges against you where there is evidence of wrongdoing on the police’s part.
What Are the Alternatives to a DUI Trial?
By having a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer at the preliminary hearing, you may be able to resolve your case without going to trial. One good option could be a beneficial plea deal. A prosecutor’s first offer is almost never their last, and experienced attorneys know how to negotiate the best plea deal possible for their clients. In some cases, the charges may even get dismissed at the preliminary hearing if your lawyer spots a significant weakness in the prosecutor’s case.
Another alternative to a DUI trial is Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD. If you are a first-time offender who hasn’t caused any injuries, and you plead guilty, you can opt in to two year program of treatment and community service. If you successfully complete the program, your DUI conviction will be removed from your criminal record. The requirements for ARD vary from county to county, so you should ask your defense lawyer if enrolling in your local program is possible and beneficial to your case.
Taking a DUI Case to Trial
If you refuse to plead guilty, and the prosecutor convinces the judge magistrate that there is enough legitimate evidence against you, your DUI case will proceed to trial. To the surprise of many defendants, there is no right to a jury trial in most Pennsylvania DUI cases. This is because a DUI is classified as a petty offense (despite the severe penalties), and the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions have been interpreted as guaranteeing jury trials only for serious crimes.
So, unless your DUI case is being charged as a felony, such as when you kill someone or you have several prior offenses, your case will be heard and decided by a judge. Each side will present evidence, examine witnesses, and attempt to argue from established facts whether there is reasonable doubt that you drove while under the influence. If the judge accepts your defense teams’ arguments, you will be acquitted. If not, you will be convicted and sentenced.
Contact a DUI Lawyer If You’ve Been Charged
At every stage of the criminal justice process, the advocacy of a legal professional can greatly enhance your chances of obtaining a good case outcome. From the moment you are arrested, you can count on Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to defend your rights. If you are looking for a DUI defense lawyer with experience and determination, call (412) 281-2146 today for a free consultation or use our online contact form.