Preliminary Hearings in PA: What you need to know

What is a Preliminary Hearing?

The first legal step after a person is charged with a DUI is the preliminary hearing. This is held at a Magisterial District Court. For example if you were arrested and charged with a DUI in Harrisburg, your hearing would be held at one of the MDJ’s located throughout Dauphin County.

The preliminary hearing is not a trial and is held before a Magisterial District Judge without a jury. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to protect individuals against wrongful detention and prosecution. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has to technically prove a prima facie case meaning that a crime, in this case a DUI, was probably committed and that they have enough evidence to link the person accused with this crime (often expressed as more likely than not). If the government can prove that they have a legitimate case, the case will then be moved to the Court of Common Pleas.

Can I be convicted at a Preliminary Hearing?

No. The purpose of the Preliminary Hearing is to see if the Commonwealth has a legitimate case against you. Convictions happen at the Court of Common Pleas, not at a Preliminary Hearing.

Another attorney recommended that I waive my Preliminary Hearing. Is this sound advice?

At The McShane Firm, our default position is to take the Preliminary Hearing because there are many benefits that we can get from this:

  • The Preliminary Hearing is our first opportunity to see and hear the evidence against you.
  • At the Preliminary Hearing the police officer testifies under oath and this allows us to lock the officer to this testimony. If the officer tries to change their testimony later on in the process, we have a record showing the contradictions.
  • If the government is insufficiently prepared or the evidence does not hold up, we may be able to get the charges dismissed.

Can my charges really be dismissed at a Preliminary Hearing?

We have helped many citizens get their charges dismissed at the Preliminary Hearing. Keep in mind each case is separate and different so we cannot guarantee any particular outcome but here are some reviews from clients whose cases were dismissed:

Attorney Barrouk was very professional in handling my case at the MDJ hearing. He was particularly skilled in his questioning of witness testimony in order to expose the full truth of my case. In the end the charge was dismissed and I can now move forward with this unfortunate circumstance behind me.


My overall experience has been exactly as every review I have read on your website. Very experienced knowledgeable staff, eager to take on what I thought was impossible. From initial consultation to the preliminary hearing, it has been an exceptional experience. Seeing him (Attorney Barrouk) in action was jaw dropping and very incredible to see and knowing he was beside me, representing me, put me at ease. Tim was amazing from start to finish and only looking out for my best interests which to me is everything.

DA (DUI: Highest Rate w/ Accident)

I called at midnight the night before my hearing and spoke with Attorney Barrouk for almost an hour. He attended my hearing and got my charges dismissed.

T.M., Harrisburg

Tier 3 Dui. Sixteen lawyers told me it was a lost cause. Mr. Jefferis got my charges dropped. And I was able to keep my CDL and my job. I recommend you guys to everyone. Definitely the best!!!!


I hired Jason to represent me for my preliminary hearing. We meet a few days before to talk about the case and he was very attentive and took notes and came to court ready. Which allowed for my charges to be dismissed and gave a really good cross argument and was very knowledgeable about what he was trying to prove.


I was referred to Attorney Fahnestock. From the initial consultation he was professional, and knowledgeable. I was facing serious charges, and pretty nervous about the situation. Corey made me feel at ease, and that he was fighting for the best outcome. He got back to me in a timely manner to address any concerns, and remained attentive and professional throughout this whole process. Corey ultimately got my most serious charge dismissed. He refused to settle until we reached agreeable terms. I could not be more pleased. I highly recommend Attorney Fahnestock.


What should I do now?

Preliminary hearings are very important and we highly recommend that you have a trained DUI attorney at your side. We can use the preliminary hearing to put your case in the best possible position. This can save you a lot of grief, distress, and money in the long run. Please call 1-866-MCSHANE for a free, detailed case consultation and put the power and experience of The McShane Firm to work for you.

Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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