You've been arrested for DUI. Now What?
You will receive several documents in the mail, including:
Police Criminal Complaint and Affidavit of Probable Cause
This states, with particularity, the offenses with which you have been charged, the statutes allegedly violated, the degree of the crime (Summary, Misdemeanor, Felony), and a short narrative about what happened, from the Commonwealth’s perspective.
Notice of Preliminary Arraignment
Usually scheduled with number 3 below, the Preliminary Arraignment is for the Magisterial District Judge to collect some very basic biographical information such as your place of employment, how long you have been employed, family in the area, how long at your present address, he or she uses to set bail. Bail is used to ensure you will appear at future court proceedings, without being incarcerated. Bail can be set ROR (released on your own recognizance); unsecured- you do not have to actually pay the money up front, like an unsecured loan; or secured at either the full amount or at 10% of the total- you actually have to deposit the money with the court. Most DUI’s if it is a first offense and nobody was injured result in ROR or unsecured bail. If the bail is secured, you can utilize a bail bondsman and pay him 5% of the total and he will post the bail for you. We have bondsmen on speed dial.
Notice of Preliminary Hearing
The date of the notice may very well be a “dummy” date, set by the Court without taking court schedules, or the schedules of the police, Assistant District Attorney, Defense Attorney etc into account. It is, however, vitally important to secure counsel before the preliminary hearing, so you are ensured all of your rights are protected. The preliminary hearing is used to determine whether the Commonwealth has enough evidence to move forward with the prosecution. The burden of proof is very low at this stage, what is called “a preponderance of the evidence” which equates to “more likely than not a crime was committed and the defendant is the one who did it” Most charges survive this procedure and the charges move forward, or are “returned to Court.”
Several things can happen at this stage. The charges can be "waived in" to court, where no hearing takes place and the defense essentially stipulates that the Commonwealth has enough evidence to move forward. It is NOT an admission of guilt. Or, the court holds a hearing and determines, based on the evidence presented, whether or not the Commonwealth has met its burden. The vast majority of cases are returned to court at this stage.
If you were not processed on the day of arrest, you will receive an order which provides you with a window of time to report to The Pennsylvania State Police for processing, which includes having your photo taken and fingerprinting.
Well, hell, what I am I supposed to do with all this stuff? Good question, I’m glad you asked.
FIRST TIME OFFENDERS
If this is your first contact with the criminal justice system, you may qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. This is a pretrial diversionary program, run by the district attorney in each county, to give the offender an opportunity to avoid prosecution. The applicant must take responsibility for his or her actions, complete required classes and possibly counseling if there is a drug or alcohol problem, complete community service, and stay out of trouble for a year. If the program is successfully completed, there will be no conviction and the charges can later be expunged from the defendant’s record. Most importantly, the offender’s driver’s license is suspended for a far shorter period of time than with a conviction or guilty plea.
Admission into the ARD program is NOT guaranteed. Disqualifying factors may include, but are not limited to: an astronomical blood alcohol level, accident with injury to a third party, and/or children under the age of 14 in the car at the time of the offense.
To apply for ARD, you must meet certain criteria and your attorney must take certain steps within a specified period of time, so do not to wait to address these issues. Retaining counsel can make this process much easier and alleviate concerns and stresses.
SECOND TIME/MULTIPLE OFFENDERS
If you have a prior DUI charge, either resolved via ARD or not, chances are you will not be afforded the ARD opportunity again, and you will need to take a vastly different course of action in defending the charges. Multiple DUIs carry mandatory prison sentences that escalate with every successive charge.
It’s your liberty at stake. Don’t take it into your own hands, hire a competent defense attorney.