One of the most confusing parts of fighting a DUI is wondering how the “whole thing” will go – especially if you’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom. In this six-part blog series, “Driving Through the DUI Process,” we aim to present a step-by-step explanation of the typical DUI court proceedings in Pennsylvania.
Step 3. The Preliminary Hearing
The third step is the Preliminary Hearing. This is where the police officer who is filing the complaint against you first presents the case to a Magisterial District Judge.
During the DUI preliminary hearing, there is a chance of getting the charges dismissed or reduced. This can happen by agreement with the DA or the officer or through the hearing process. If there is an agreement, then there will be no hearing. However, most of the time, any agreement that is made at the preliminary hearing is really not worth taking. Many officers or DAs do not have the authority to make a meaningful deal at the preliminary hearing.
If there is no meaningful deal, then it is our universal advice to take a preliminary hearing.
At the hearing, the officer and other government witnesses will testify. At first the prosecutor will ask them basically what did they see and what did they do. Then, the defense will have the chance to cross-examine the witness(es). A skilled cross examiner will come in with a plan of action and carefully crafted questions to advance his or her theory of the case. At the conclusion of the hearing, both the prosecution and defense will present arguments. The defense (you and your lawyer) may argue against the evidence presented in order to argue that the prosecution’s case is not strong enough for trial.
The point of the preliminary hearing is for the court to decide if there is enough evidence to move forward and try you for DUI. At the Preliminary Hearing, the “burden of proof” – the amount of evidence the state needs to show to move forward – is lower than it the amount of proof needed to convict you. However, there is still a possibility that the charges against you can be lowered or even dismissed at this phase.
If you’ve been accused of DUI even if you do not have a hearing date yet, don’t delay. Contact The McShane Firm today for your free initial consultation and your trial may be over even before it begins. Call 1-866-MCSHANE so we can discuss how to tackle your case.