What is the criminal process for a DUI offense in Pennsylvania?

If someone is arrested in the state of Pennsylvania for a DUI, then they must go through the criminal process. Basically, this obviously begins with the DUI arrest. That evening, usually someone is driving and is arrested for DUI. The officer usually will pull somebody over because of a traffic violation; speeding, swerving, running a red light. The officer will approach the vehicle, and then his observations, he will conclude that that person is under the influence of alcohol or prescription medication or an illegal narcotic.

That officer will then make notes on his police report that he might have a – there might be a strong odor of alcohol coming from the driver. He might be observing red, bloodshot, glassy eyes from the driver, slurred speech. Then take him out of the vehicle to do field sobriety tests, also then take him – place him under arrest and take him to the hospital to do a blood test or to the police station for a breath test. Then the report is given to the district court, the magistrate court, and then paperwork will be sent out to the defendant, to the individual. When the individual receives the paperwork, he is notified that he must appear at a preliminary hearing, which is the first step in the court process.

At the preliminary hearing, which is usually at the magistrate court, there will be a magistrate district judge. The first thing the magistrate district judge will do is set a bail for the individual, because this is a criminal offence and bail must be set. Usually bail will be set for either ROR, which is to release the person on his own recognizance, or an unsecured bail. Unsecured bail, there will be a monetary amount given, usually around $2,000.00 to $3,000.00, and that person can sign for that monetary amount, meaning he will not have to come up with the money for the bail. He is promising through his signature that he will report at future court dates.

At a preliminary hearing, the judge will then look for three things in a DUI case. Number one, was there reasonable suspicion to pull the person over, or did the officer have to investigate an accident in which the person was involved in. Number two, was there probable cause to arrest the individual for DUI. Number three, was the proper implied consent warning given to the individual, where he went ahead or – to take the test or did not take the test, whether it’s a blood test or a breath test.

Then if all those criterias are met, the district court judge will then what we call bind the case over to the Court of Common Pleas. The next hearing would be an arraignment. That’s usually when the attorney will appear and plead not guilty for the defendant on that date. After that will be a pre-trial conference and then a trial date, and those are usually the last steps in the criminal process. If the person can get into the first offender ARD program, then of course an expungement hearing will take place after the person completes the first offended hearing. That is usually the steps to the criminal process in someone getting arrested for DUI in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.