Your first court appearance in Berks County after your arrest will be your Preliminary Arraignment. This is a time when you go in front of a Berks County Magisterial District Judge, are informed of the charges against you and your bail is set. If you’ve never been charged with a crime before then your bail will probably be set at ROR (released on your own recognizance) or an unsecured amount (no money needs to be paid to remain out of jail). You will also be given a date for your Preliminary Hearing. It is very important that you have an attorney with you for your Preliminary Hearing so it is in your best interest to contact our experienced DUI attorneys as soon as you are informed of your Preliminary Hearing date.
Your Preliminary Hearing will also be held in front of a Magisterial District Judge, but there will be more parties present for this appearance. Your attorney will be present along with a Berks County Assistant District Attorney and the police officer who filed the DUI charge against you. Any additional witnesses should also be present at that time. This is the time that the Commonwealth needs to establish that you committed the crime of DUI by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, it is 51% likely that you committed the crime. After consultation with your attorney you will decide whether to have your Preliminary Hearing or waive your right to a hearing. If you waive your right to a hearing or the charges are “bound over” following a hearing, your case will move to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas. Your Preliminary Hearing is also the time that you can apply for the DUI ARD program. For more details on what happens after you apply for the Berks County DUI ARD program, click here.
If you have applied for the ARD program then you will be given a court date in front of the DUI judge. If you have not applied for the ARD program then your next court date will be your Formal Arraignment in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas. Your attorney can help you waive your appearance at the Formal Arraignment which will save you a trip to court. After your Formal Arraignment, you will be scheduled for a status date in front of the Berks County DUI judge. All DUI’s in Berks County are handled in front of the same Court of Common Pleas judge.
Once your case is in the Court of Common Pleas, your attorney can request discovery. Discovery consists of the evidence that the police have compiled against you. This will include police reports, witness statements and lab reports. Our Reading, PA DUI attorneys will carefully examine the evidence against you to determine whether a pretrial motion should be filed in your case. Most often a pretrial motion would be filed in there was something wrong with the way that the police officer stopped your car, but there can be other reasons for a motion to be filed. It is best to consult with one of our experienced DUI attorneys to determine if the police handled your case correctly. It is possible for a DUI charge to be dismissed completely following a Pretrial Hearing, but if that doesn’t happen then you will need to decide whether you want to proceed with trial.
If you are charged with a first-offense DUI and you decide to proceed with a trial then it will be held in front of a judge instead of a jury. This is called a Bench Trial. In Pennsylvania there is no right to a jury trial for a first-offense DUI. If you are charged with a second or subsequent DUI then you will need to decide whether to have a bench trial or Jury Trial. You should only make this decision after discussions with your attorney. The decision to proceed with trial is one that should be taken very seriously and made only after consultation with an experienced DUI trial attorney. Because you will generally be facing a more severe DUI sentence if you are convicted following a trial.