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Joseph Paletta

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I Got a DUI charge. Now What?

It’s sinking in. You’ve been arrested for Driving Under the Influence, and you don’t know what lies ahead.

The good news is that you’ve taken the first step to managing your situation: you’re doing the research into DUI, and just as importantly the research into DUI Defense Attorneys, ignoring the “Ads” and looking for the best qualified defense lawyer to guide you through this process to accomplish the best possible outcome.

A D.U.I. prosecution is a multi-step legal process, and you can benefit in a variety of ways by having a qualified DUI Defense Lawyer represent you as early in the process as possible. In other words, you should not try to navigate these steps on your own.

If you’re not sure where you are in the process, the following guide, or “Flow Chart” will define what each step is, and what happens.

Arrest:  Following a vehicle stop, Field Sobriety Tests and chemical testing of breath or blood, a DUI prosecution can begin with handcuffs and processing through the Allegheny County Jail.  Or you can be released from custody and the prosecution can begin by the mailing of official paperwork in the form of a Summons.

Preliminary Arraignment:  You will 1) receive a copy of the charging document, the “Police Criminal Complaint”; 2) a Magisterial District Judge will set your “Bond” to assure your appearance at all the following steps in the prosecution process; and 3) you will be notified of the date of the next step, the Preliminary Hearing.  Regarding the Bond, you can simply be released on your promise to appear at all future Court hearings (R.O.R.), or a monetary Bond can be set that you will be required to post before you can be released from Jail.

Preliminary Hearing:  The first Court hearing where evidence is presented, witnesses testify, and argument made by your lawyer, perhaps even for dismissal of the prosecution.  This Hearing can be also be “Waived” in order to proceed to trial in exchange for amendments to the charges.

Formal Arraignment:  In Allegheny County, this step is usually administrative wherein additional paperwork is received and application for “Discovery” is made.  However, if Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (A.R.D.) is an option in your case, this deal can be concluded at this stage.

Pre-Trial Conference:  In Allegheny County, you and your attorney appear in the trial courtroom and select a trial date in the case.  In addition, this is a first opportunity for your lawyer to meet with the District Attorney assigned to your case in order to discuss charges and possible Plea Bargains.

Trial:  The time at which your D.U.I. prosecution is resolved on the basis of a Jury Trial, Non-Jury Trial or negotiated Guilty Plea.

Sentencing:  Sentences in D.U.I. prosecutions are to a significant extend determined by the Pennsylvania legislature in the form of “mandatory minimum” sentences.  You can see what your sentence will be by looking at the D.U.I. Sentencing Matrix by looking for the number D.U.I. You receive your sentence as set by the judge.

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