Frequently Asked Questions About PA Criminal Laws, Procedures, and Defense
I’ve been arrested, or believe I’m about to be charged with a crime. What should I do?
- You have the right to remain silent. Use it! Do not speak to the police or anyone about your case. It’s absolutely true that anything you say can and will be used against you.
- Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The earlier you have an attorney working for you, the more legal defense options you will have. And you need to have that buffer between you and the government so that you case can move forward without you risking implicating yourself over and over. Anytime you speak about your case without your attorney present, you risk giving the government evidence it can use against you.
What are the Stages of the Pennsylvania Criminal Judicial Process?
- Preliminary Arraignment – The defendant is provided with a copy of the arrest/complaint, advised of his rights, and ordered to appear at the scheduled preliminary hearing.
- Preliminary Hearing – The Commonwealth must establish that a crime was committed, and the defendant is likely to have committed it.
- Formal Arraignment – Defendant is advised of his rights for pretrial pleadings. Motions and discovery must be issued within 30 days.
- Pretrial Conference – Defendant, his attorney, and the DA appear before the judge. Pretrial matters are resolved. Defendant may plead guilty or move forward with a trial.
- Trial or Plea Disposition – Defendant may elect for a jury or non-jury trial, and a disposition will be arrived at.
What happens at a Preliminary Hearing?
See our preliminary hearing page.
I am ready and willing to plead guilty to the charges and move on with my life. Do I really still need a lawyer?
Yes, it would probably be in your best interest. A good attorney can be an advocate for you in plea cases, too.
The fact that you want to accept responsibility can help get a reduced and arguably more fair sentence. Getting a charge reduced down from a aggravated assault to a simple assault, for example, or working out a deal for the bottom range or minimum penalty can save you potential jail time or significant fines.
There are often serious problems you can avoid that you wouldn’t be aware of when pleading guilty on your own, from driver’s license suspensions to a whole host of other potentially unintended consequences. There’s no reason not to call for a consultation, and see if we think we can help you to make sure to get a fair deal.
And if you try to do it on your own, you’ll never know if you got a good deal. Wanting to plead out and accept responsibility is a noble impulse, and sometimes the only practical option. But there is no reason for your punishment to be more severe than the average person, just because you didn’t negotiate well, and the prosecutor was difficult or in a bad mood that day. You deserve a fair deal, especially if you are willing to plead guilty and save the court the time and expense of a trial.
When is the best time to negotiate a deal?
It depends on the facts of the case, but in most cases it is right at the beginning of a case at a preliminary hearing. But we’ve also seen plenty of cases where the best offer comes near the end of the case when the prosecution realizes how weak their case is, and that they are likely to lose at trial.
Can I get a work license after a DUI charge?
Yes, PennDOT allows for an Occupational Limited License, or OLL. You must serve 2 months of your license suspension period before you are eligible for an OLL. (or 12 months out of an 18 month for a second offense breath test refusal suspension). See the PennDOT OLL fact sheet for more info.
What is an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)?
It is an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD for short. It is a common plea agreement in first offense DUI cases, and is a possible alternative to discuss with your attorney. License suspensions for accepting an ARD are 30 days for a .10-.16 BAC, and 60 days for .16 and above, or a refusal.
What is a CRN?
CRN stands for Court Reporting Network. It is an assessment of your drug or alcohol use and possible abuse. The CRN is an evaluation presented to a judge before an ARD or other sentencing.
What is an Alcohol Highway Safety School (AHSS)?
The AHSS is an education program mandated by the Pennsylvania law for first or second offense DUI offenders. It teaches about alcohol (and drug) use and driving.
If I am arrested on a drunk driving charge in Pennsylvania, should I agree to take the breath test?
Probably, yes. Refusing the breath test will get you an immediate 1 year suspension of your driver’s license, and the refusal can be used against in you court.
If I am arrested on a drunk driving charge in Pennsylvania, should I agree to perform the field sobriety tests?
With regard to the field sobriety tests, such as touching your nose, standing on one foot, or walking a straight line, you should refuse these tests. Refusing to perform field tests can’t be used against you in court.
Call for a free consultation if you’ve been arrested or accused of any crime in Pennsylvania. There’s no obligation, and the consultation is strictly confidential.