If you plead guilty to a DUI in Pennsylvania without a lawyer, you can be left without the options you might have had if you had help from a lawyer who understands your rights and how to fight to protect them. For example, if you or your vehicle was illegally searched, you may need to file a pre-trial motion arguing that any evidence that was obtained during that search is not admissible in court. To properly file this type of motion, you will need to know if there is any legal precedent, prior case law, or civil procedure rules that apply and cite them accordingly. If you are not familiar with these aspects of the law, there may be evidence entered into trial that could have been excluded.
Pro Se Representation
Representing yourself instead of hiring a lawyer is called ‘pro se’ representation. While you are legally able to do this, all defendants are entitled to a lawyer who understands the charges facing them and knows how to craft an effective strategy that will protect their rights. It can be difficult to navigate the paperwork, deadlines, and terminology of the court on your own. A DUI lawyer knowledgeable of Pennsylvania state driving laws can help make managing all of these things easier.
Pleading Your DUI Case
The first thing to think about is whether you should plead ‘guilty,’ ‘not guilty,’ or ‘no contest.’ To determine the right answer, it is important to ascertain exactly what evidence the prosecution has against you. If the prosecution has a lot of evidence that is admissible in court, you may want to negotiate a plea bargain that will reduce the penalties you will face upon conviction. It is important to remember that it is up to the prosecution to prove their case in court; the burden of proof falls upon the state. A DUI lawyer can help with these negotiations and advise you about the risks and benefits associated with accepting a plea bargain or proceeding to trial.
Managing the Pre-Trial Phase
In many cases, motions are submitted to the court on issues that must be decided before the trial takes place. For example, if you believe that a search was conducted illegally, you will need to use strong legal arguments to make your case. An attorney who is familiar with Pennsylvania DUI law can help by making effective arguments on your behalf.
The Preliminary Hearing
The preliminary hearing usually occurs within 30 to 60 days from your arrest date. It is possible that some or all your charges could be dismissed or amended at this hearing. If you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible to apply for ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition), which is a two-year, pre-trial diversionary program for DUI offenders who haven’t caused serious injuries or death. After completion of the program, your DUI charge may be dismissed and your record expunged. A DUI lawyer can help you complete your ARD application within the necessary deadlines if you are eligible for consideration.
How to Prepare for the Trial
If you are pleading not guilty to DUI, you need to investigate the evidence the prosecution has against you. You may also need to interview, or depose, witnesses and review breathalyzer and other tests to make sure that the results obtained were legitimate. There are many rules and customs that you must follow and observe in court to avoid being held in contempt by the judge. A Pennsylvania DUI lawyer can help by collecting evidence, questioning witnesses, and representing your interests at trial.
How to Present a Case at Trial
There are two basic ways to present your case: you can create an affirmative defense, or you can question the prosecution’s evidence. You can use expert witnesses to testify as to the results of the tests. You can cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses to assess the truthfulness of their statements.
Lawyers have the education and training to prepare for and present DUI cases in court. Without the education and training, you may be at a disadvantage in a Pennsylvania courtroom, which may result in severe penalties, including jail time or a criminal record.
Hiring an Attorney
Having an attorney can help you pursue strategies to have your charges reduced or dismissed, which can be particularly valuable if your alternative is to plead guilty to a DUI in Pennsylvania without a lawyer. A lawyer will examine your case and look for mitigating circumstances that may help you get the charges reduced. If a conviction goes on your record, in many cases your attorney can help you get it expunged or removed.
Attorneys can also help you by:
- Determining the strength of your case
- Gathering evidence
- Deposing witnesses
- Getting expert witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Negotiating with the other side
- Taking your case to trial
Many judges do not look favorably on defendants who represent themselves and do not have a firm grasp on legal rules and procedures. This can result in contempt charges being added to your legal troubles.
Hiring a Lawyer Is Easy
If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, there is no need to go it alone. Call the team at McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. at 610-680-7842 today for a free case evaluation. We understand how the law operates, and we can help.