Have you been charged with driving under the influence in Bucks County, Montgomery County, or the neighboring Pennsylvania Counties? Are you concerned about what to expect at the preliminary hearing in your case? Read this blog post to learn the 5 successful strategies for your DUI preliminary hearing.
1. Hire an Experienced DUI Lawyer
It is extremely risky to try to represent yourself at a preliminary hearing for a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Moreover, at a preliminary hearing for DUI, you need to understand the rules of evidence, chemistry, court procedures, and proper evidentiary motions.
It is also essential for someone facing a DUI charge to be familiar with state and local police officers, district judges, and prosecutors. Unfortunately, most people do not have the background and experience required to represent themselves in a DUI case in a competent manner. Making the wrong decision with your case can have disastrous consequences.
Therefore, you must hire an experienced local DUI attorney once you are under investigation or charged with DUI. Finally, a skilled DUI lawyer can often get the DUI charges dismissed or reduced instead of a conviction.
2. Challenge the DUI Witnesses in Court
Unlike a judge or jury in a criminal trial, the district court judge is not permitted to consider the credibility of witnesses who testify at a DUI preliminary hearing. Despite this, it is not unusual for a preliminary hearing witness to slant their testimony or otherwise provide false testimony under oath during the driving under the influence preliminary court proceeding.
Therefore, it is crucial for your DUI lawyer to aggressively cross-examine prosecution witnesses to expose their bias and untruthfulness. Surprisingly, many witnesses will admit they have changed their story or given prior inconsistent statements about the DUI incident.
Other witnesses may be less believable because of a prior criminal record or other types of misconduct. A skilled DUI defense attorney can establish the foundation for a successful DUI trial defense by exposing a witness’s perjury or lack of credibility during the preliminary hearing.
3. Apply for ARD if Your Legal Defenses are Limited
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is a pre-trial diversion program available to most first-offense DUI offenders in Pennsylvania. The Bucks County and Montgomery County District Attorney’s Offices require that ARD applicants waive their right to a preliminary hearing in exchange for being considered for the first-offender program.
Admission and successful completion of the ARD program ensures that the driving under the influence charges get dismissed and eventually expunged. Taking advantage of the Pennsylvania ARD Program may be the best option in cases where the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to convict you of the DUI charges.
ARD applicants must submit a formal application to the district judge on the date of their preliminary hearing. In some instances, your lawyer may submit additional information to the district attorney to bolster your chances of acceptance in the ARD program. That additional evidence may include character letters and other information indicating community support for your admission into ARD.
In many cases, entry into the ARD pre-trial diversion program offers the best resolution of the DUI case. I can advise you if the ARD Program is the best strategy to resolve your DUI case.
ARD Disqualifying Factors
- The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office will not consider your case for ARD admission under any of the following circumstances:
- You did not possess a valid license, registration or insurance at the time of your arrest, or
- You had a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 14 at the time of your arrest; or
- Your DUI incident resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of another person; or
- You have criminal record for a misdemeanor of felony conviction.
In certain cases, an attorney may reach an agreement with the prosecutor at the preliminary hearing to withdrawal a disqualifying offense.
4. Get the DUI Charges Dismissed
The police and prosecutor are expected to have their evidence and witnesses available on the date of your preliminary hearing. Your lawyer should request a dismissal of the DUI case at the preliminary hearing under the following circumstances:
- The arresting officer fails to appear for the preliminary hearing
- The arresting officer does not bring the lab report for chemical testing to the preliminary hearing
- The police use a non-approved laboratory for chemical testing for DUI
- The police officer who conducted the breathalyzer test is not certified to perform the analysis
- The breathalyzer device used for blood alcohol (BAC) testing was not certified for accuracy
5. Develop Your DUI Trial Defense
Conducting a preliminary hearing can help build a successful legal defense against a DUI charge. The preliminary hearing process allows you, through your DUI attorney, to test the strength or weakness of the prosecutor’s witnesses through forceful cross-examination.
During the preliminary hearing, witnesses will often change their version of events and add additional facts contradicting the evidence. A skillful DUI defense lawyer can highlight these inconsistencies and falsehoods during a DUI trial to prove that the witnesses’ testimony is entirely unreliable.
The preliminary hearing also allows your lawyer to cross-examine the arresting police officer about the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest. These areas of questioning may include:
- Did the police have a legal basis to pull you over?
- Did the police follow proper procedures in conducting field sobriety testing?
- Did the police have probable cause to arrest you for DUI?
- Did the police conduct the blood draw or breathalyzer test according to state regulations?
Under proper questioning, the arresting officer will often concede facts about the DUI vehicle stop and arrest that a DUI defense attorney can use to suppress the evidence or to gain an acquittal of the charges.
It is important to be fully educated about the preliminary hearing court process if you are charged with driving while impaired in Pennsylvania. Secondly, you will need to decide on a legal strategy before the preliminary hearing. Some cases can be successfully resolved by employing an aggressive legal defense before a jury or a judge. Other DUI charges can be diverted into a first-offender program to avoid a criminal record.
Contact me for a Free DUI Consultation
I have over a decade of experience providing skilled representation to individuals charged with DUI in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County, Northampton County, and Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends. Call today for a free consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.