Getting charged with a DUI in West Chester might sound like a worst-case scenario, especially if it’s your first offense. But understanding the typical steps after a DUI charge can help you better prepare and potentially minimize the consequences. From the initial arrest to court proceedings, you can make informed decisions to protect your rights.

Traffic Stop Protocol

Most DUI charges stem from traffic stops. However, police can’t just pull you over for no reason and hope they catch you drunk behind the wheel. They must reasonably suspect that you violated the law before stopping you. They’ll look for signs of impaired driving such as swerving or speeding. Even traffic violations, such as having a broken taillight, can provide reasonable cause for a stop.

After you’re pulled over, police will look for further signs of impairment, such as glazed eyes or slurred speech. At this point, you may be asked to complete a roadside field sobriety test or a breathalyzer. You can decline the field sobriety test, but Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws compel you to comply with a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine.

Refusing a chemical test can lead to harsher consequences and an immediate license suspension. Breathalyzer devices can be inconsistent, so it’s better to blow and let your attorney contest the results later.

Arrest and Booking Procedures

If you’re arrested and charged with a DUI after being stopped, you’ll be transported to the West Chester police station and likely held responsible for the cost of having your car towed. You’ll be booked at the station and must provide your personal information. This process can take hours, especially if the offense is your first. You’ll have a mugshot and fingerprints taken as well.

After booking, you might be required to remain in jail or be released on your own recognizance depending on the facts of your case. At this point, you will be allowed to contact an attorney, which you should take advantage of to protect your rights and fight for a dismissal or reduction of charges.

You may not always be charged right away after being arrested. In fact, it is common to receive your summons or notice to appear for a preliminary hearing at the Chester County Justice Center in the mail some days after the arrest. A skilled DUI lawyer can ensure you fully understand the requirements of the summons and the charges against you before you appear in court.

Preliminary Hearing

At the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor must establish enough evidence to proceed with the case. This is not where your guilt or innocence is determined. At this point, your case could be dismissed or thrown out if there is not enough evidence or if your attorney can prove you were stopped or arrested unlawfully.

Potential Penalties and Other Outcomes

If the court determines the case can move forward and proceeds all the way to a trial and sentencing, you could face penalties such as:

  • Fines from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
  • License suspension depending on factors such as BAC level, and the number of prior offenses (if any)
  • Installation of an ignition interlock for certain DUI offenses.
  • Probation where you must complete requirements such as regular check-ins and mandatory counseling.
  • Completion of an alcohol education and treatment program, particularly for repeat offenders or cases involving high BAC levels.
  • Jail time, including mandatory minimum jail sentences for repeat offenses or cases involving aggravated factors.

If you’re convicted, a DUI on your record can impact your life in other long-term ways. For example, you can face increased insurance premiums, professional license suspension, or a drivers’ license suspension that can make it difficult to get to work.

By working with an experienced DUI defense attorney, you could avoid these penalties of have your charges dismissed altogether. Your lawyer can review the evidence against you, challenge your arrest or chemical test results, and negotiate in your best interests in court.

Charged with a DUI in West Chester? Call Skinner Law Firm Today

You might feel like your life is over if you’re charged with a DUI in West Chester. However, know that you have options to fight for your freedom, and being charged doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll face the worst penalties.

Attorney Mike Skinner has years of experience fighting DUI charges in the West Chester area. Attorney Skinner knows the ins and outs of the local court systems and Pennsylvania state law. No matter the circumstances of your DUI charges, Skinner will fight hard to secure the best possible outcome for your case.

Call the firm today at (610) 436-1410 or reach out online to schedule a free initial consultation.

Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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