submitted by Caterina Saile, Saile & Saile Attorneys at Law, LLC, Newtown
Though many Bucks residents were adhering to quarantine orders, surprisingly the number of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests during the COVID-19 crisis climbed steadily from early spring through early summer this year.
According to Pennsylvania State Police, during the week leading up to Governor Wolf’s stay at home order that went into effect on March 19th, 2020, there were 447 DUI arrests.
DUI arrests did decrease for a period of time thereafter, but during the last week of June, Pennsylvania State Police reported arresting 407 people for Driving Under the Influence, despite the fact that restaurants and bars were then, as now, operating at limited capacity with strict guidelines for serving alcohol.
These numbers do not include arrets made by local police departments.
Many DUI arrests include first time offenders, who have no knowledge of what the criminal process entails.
An initial police stop may be the result of a traffic violation or even an accident.
If suspected of DUI, an officer will initiate sobriety tests to assess your level of impairment.
You will most likely be asked to submit to a blood test as well or risk losing your driving privileges for a year or more.
Following your arrest, you will receive a Criminal Complaint.
This document details your arrest and the charges filed against you. This packet will also include other pertinent information, such as your first court date – your Preliminary Hearing.
A Preliminary Hearing is your constitutional right.
At this hearing, the Commonwealth must present a “prima facia” case for your charges to continue onto the Court of Common Pleas.
This is not the same standard as a trial.
The prosecution must only show sufficient evidence that a crime was committed, and that the person charged is most likely the person who committed the crime.
If this burden is met or you chose to waive your hearing, you will be ordered by the court to have a drug and alcohol evaluation by a court approved agency and your bail will be set.
An Arraignment follows the Preliminary Hearing.
This is when the court discusses charges filed against you, advises you of your rights, and then asks you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
In the months leading up to your final court appearance, or Trial, the prosecution must supply the Discovery (evidence, police reports and recording, etc.) they have regarding your case.
Your lawyer may then write Motions (requests to the court to have certain evidence excluded) based on these findings.
The Trial date will be your last court appearance.
At this final appearance, you will either accept a plea or go to trial on all the charges you are facing.
This trial may be a jury trial or a trial by judge, depending on your charges.
If you are convicted by trial or accept a plea, you will usually be sentenced immediately.
This entire process is lengthy and costly. Being charged with a DUI has the potential to affect your livelihood and will most likely result in license suspension.
It is always recommended to consult with a local, experienced DUI attorney.