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Preliminary hearings and DUIs

Some people in Pennsylvania who are facing DUI charges and who have pleaded not guilty might wonder what will happen next. What follows is known as a "preliminary hearing".

The purpose of this hearing is for the judge to decide if there is sufficient evidence for a trial. The judge will listen to arguments from both the prosecution and defense to determine whether there is enough evidence. The prosecution can introduce evidence and call witnesses. The defense can cross-examine these witnesses. The defense can also raise doubts about the strength of the evidence in order to try to convince the judge to dismiss the case.

However, DUI cases often do not have a preliminary hearing because people charged with DUI often plead guilty during arraignment. There may be strong evidence of impairment such as a Breathalyzer test. A person might also work out a plea bargain before the preliminary hearing although this is rare.

Drunk driving charges may have both legal and other types of consequences. For example, depending on a person's job, there could be career repercussions. For students, access to certain scholarships or types of financial aid could be affected particularly if there are multiple DUIs. Legal penalties could include license suspension and fines. An attorney may consider how the person was taken into custody, whether any testing was done accurately and whether the person's rights were observed. If the attorney is able to call into question the accuracy of the evidence or the legality of the process, the case could be dismissed. In other cases, a person might still face charges and penalties, but the charge could be downgraded from DUI.

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