Many of the people who get pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Philadelphia are first time offenders who have never had legal trouble in the past. The feeling of being detained and then arrested can be traumatizing and disorientating because of how unfamiliar you are with the rest of the process.
Knowing what is about to happen can minimize the stress and tension that you experience after a DUI arrest. Here are the initial court appearances that you will face, after a DUI arrest in Philadelphia.
The Arraignment Hearing
Within 72 hours of being arrested and booked, you will face the first court appearance of your case: The arraignment hearing. Here, the judge will state what you are being charged with and your rights to an attorney. The judge will then schedule a preliminary hearing in the near future – typically around a week – and set bail.
For many DUI cases, especially those involving a first time offender, the bail is set on your own recognizance. This means that you will not have to post any money to spend the time between your arrest and subsequent trial in jail. Instead, you are swearing, under oath, that you will be present at your future court dates.
The Municipal Court Arraignment
For DUI cases in Philadelphia involving misdemeanor charges only, the next step in the Philadelphia criminal court process after the preliminary arraignment is the Municipal Court arraignment. The Municipal Court arraignment, unlike the preliminary arraignment, will require the appearance of the defendant in person at the Criminal Justice Center, located at 1301 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. The Municipal Court arraignment takes place at 10 AM Monday through Friday in courtroom 404. The arraignment is not presided over by a judge, but rather, a "Trial Commissioner" who will exercise many of the same powers of an elected judge.
Most Philadelphia DUI cases will involve misdemeanor charges and not felony charges. Even cases involving accidents will often only involve a misdemeanor "Recklessly Endangering Another Person" charge, also known as "REAP", and/or "Criminal Mischief". Misdemeanor DUI offenses can be burdensome enough for the average person, so it
The Preliminary Hearing
The first of these subsequent court dates is the preliminary hearing. There, the prosecutor will present the outline of their evidence against you to the judge, in order to convince the judge that there is enough to warrant the case going forward. This is a very low standard to overcome, so it is very rare for the judge to dismiss cases at the preliminary hearing.
However, the preliminary hearing is a valuable one for you and your attorney, as you get to see what kind of case the prosecutor will pursue and what evidence he or she will rely on. The preliminary hearing is also the place where your attorney and the prosecutor will first be able to discuss possible plea deals.
The Formal Arraignment
Within two months of the preliminary hearing, you will have your next court appearance: The formal arraignment. There, you will receive a formal copy of the charges against you and will be put in the spot where you either plead guilty or not guilty.
However, in Philadelphia, there is another option: You can pursue the city's Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program. This program diverts your case out of the criminal justice system and into probation.
You apply for ARD around the time your arraignment is scheduled. If accepted, the DUI charge will be stayed, pending your completion or failure of the program.
Joseph D. Lento: Philadelphia's DUI-Defense Attorney
Having a basic understanding of the initial court appearances after an arrest for DUI can help you cope with the stress and anxiety of facing criminal charges, especially if you have never been arrested before.
Having an attorney at your side can also be a huge help, as well. Contact Joseph D. Lento, Philadelphia's DUI-defense attorney, online for legal help.