In this series we take an in depth look at the legal processes and proceedings which take place after a person is charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania. Today’s post deals with the formal arraignment.
A formal arraignment is when the government, in this case the Pennsylvania County in which the accused was arrested, informs the accused of the details of the charges against him/her. It is the who, the what, the where and the when. This is also when the defendant offers his or her plea of “guilty” or “not guilty”. At the McShane Firm, we do not enter “guilty” pleas in DUI cases at Formal Arraignment.
Our strategy is always to plead “not guilty” and request a jury trial. There are many benefits to this approach:
If you plead guilty you will be found guilty 100% of the time. After examining the seriousness of these charges (please see our series “Why fight a DUI in Pennsylvania”) it is worth fighting the charges and working towards a more positive outcome. This plea gives us room to negotiate from a position of strength. Some prosecutors will offer a significantly better deal just avoid going through a lengthy jury trial. We get more time to examine the evidence. We might find out later on that there were some significant discrepancies in the blood alcohol tests for example. Sometimes, for example, police officers and key witnesses are not available and the prosecutor is forced to drop charges rather than present a flimsy case in court. Many times, even a seemingly strong DUI case, with blood tests and witnesses can simply blow up in front of a jury, leaving the judge to dismiss the case or the jury to find the defendant “not guilty”.
The date of the formal arraignment is important. Not so much in the event itself but in the time-line that is attached to it. There are certain very important motions that need to be filed by specific deadlines after the formal arraignment.
- A motion for a bill of particulars must be filed within seven (7) days after the formal arraignment. This is a request for the Commonwealth of PA to provide more details about the Who, What, Where, and When of the case. This is particularly important in more serious and complex cases. For example if someone was charged with a DUI that lead to serious injury or death, these details would be very important to defending that case.
- An informal request for discovery must be made within fourteen (14) days of the formal arraignment. An informal request for discovery is a request to obtain all of the police reports, videos, and test results collected by the police.
- An omnibus pretrial motion must be filed within thirty (30) days of the formal arraignment. An omnibus pretrial motion is a motion to suppress or dismiss charges due to a violation of rights or a substantive violation of due process. For example, if the police did not have sufficient legal reason to stop your vehicle, we would file an omnibus pretrial motion claiming that error. If the Court agreed with us, then the stop would be ruled illegal and all after acquired evidence, meaning the field tests, the BAC result and anything else that happened after the stop would not be permitted into evidence.
- In many counties in Central Pennsylvania, these deadlines are followed to the tee. Therefore, it is very important to file these motions in a timely manner and follow up with them properly.
-Justin J. McShane, Esquire, Pennsylvania DUI Attorney
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