If you have been charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DUI) in Lancaster County, you need to be aware of some significant changes in the Court system. Beginning October 1, 2015, all new DUI cases will be handled under a new system. The explanation that has been provided for the change is to allow for more efficient prosecutions of these cases by the Office of the District Attorney.
In August 2015, President Judge Dennis E. Reinaker signed an Order establishing a DUI Central Court for all DUI cases in Lancaster County. This new DUI Court aims to streamline the prosecution of DUI cases by scheduling all preliminary hearings at one time at the Lancaster County Courthouse. If you have been charged with a DUI offense, you will be required to appear at DUI Central Court to address the allegations made against you.
As currently planned, DUI Central Court will be held every other Thursday in Courtroom A of the Lancaster County Courthouse. Various court departments, including the Office of the District Attorney, Bail Administration, and Adult Probation and Parole will be present to assist in expediting your case.
If you intend to waive your preliminary hearing in order to apply for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD), you will be expected to complete the necessary application on the date of your hearing. You will also be screened at that time to determine if you meet the requirements for acceptance into the ARD program.
If you are ineligible or unwilling to participate in ARD, you will be expected to make a decision regarding how you wish to proceed with your case. For example, you may waive your hearing, allowing your case to proceed to the Court of Common Pleas for ultimate disposition. In certain circumstances, you may avoid the applicable mandatory jail sentences by pleading guilty to your offense at DUI Central Court at your first court appearance. This option is not available in all cases and should never be chosen without the advice of an attorney. Once you plead guilty to a crime, your decision could have far-reaching consequences you did not anticipate.
If you choose to exercise your right to a preliminary hearing, your case will be rescheduled for two (2) weeks after DUI Central Court. All necessary witnesses will be required to attend that hearing and you and your attorney will have the opportunity to challenge the allegations contained in the criminal complaint.
Although the stated purpose of the DUI Central Court is to streamline DUI cases and to allow such cases to move more quickly through the court system, you should make sure you understand the ramifications of decisions made before entering the courtroom that day. You should seek the counsel of an experienced DUI Criminal Defense Attorney who can advise you of the potential consequences and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney.