Philadelphia DUI? Steps You Should Take Before Going to Trial

by ValerieC on September 2, 2013

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Philadelphia DUI? Steps You Should Take Before Going to Trial


dui driver arrested with cops

Being arrested can be a particularly harrowing experience for first-time defendants. Without a careful and considered approach to managing one’s legal affairs, innocent parties can be baited into making incriminating statements and the less innocent parties may have their rights violated. Anyone arrested for any offense should invoke his or her right to remain silent and his or her right to legal counsel.

Driving Under The Influence (DUI) In Philadelphia

If you are arrested for DUI in Philadelphia, you will be taken to the station and tested for intoxication. From there, you will be booked into jail, provided with a preliminary hearing, arraigned, and eventually tried for the alleged offense. This process occurs only if you want to take the case to trial; in most cases, the prosecutor will offer some type of favorable plea bargain.

The potential penalties for DUI in Philadelphia hinge greatly upon the level of your intoxication and any prior convictions that you have. Pennsylvania DUIs are a misdemeanor, but high levels of intoxication mean that you may be sentenced to as much as five years imprisonment. You are also likely to face fines and a license suspension. You will also be required to take an alcohol highway safety course and enroll in an alcohol treatment program.

Invoking Your Fifth Amendment Rights

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in part, that, “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This is explained to arrested persons while being Mirandized as the right to remain silent. Defendants are not required to provide testimony or make any statements that may be used to incriminate them later.

Most Philadelphia DUI lawyers will advise their clients to invoke their rights to remain silent and decline to make any statements to police of any nature. Some defendants fear doing this under the mistaken theories that the police officers will become belligerent or that their silence may be used against them later. In the United States, the fact that a defendant has invoked his or her right to remain silent may not be used against him or her.

Once you have invoked your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, remain silent and decline to answer questions pertaining to the incident. Officers may ask leading questions or questions only tangentially related to the incident; do not answer them. If the police engage in actions or use words that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the defendant during a custodial interrogation, the statement and the fruits thereof will be suppressed later.

Spontaneous statements made by defendants do not fall into that category since they often do not stem from words or actions on the part of the police. This is of concern during arrests, as there may be extended periods where defendants sit while the officer does paperwork or transports the defendant to the station or to jail. Many defendants will attempt to fill this void of time with proclamations of innocence, but such statements are unwise. Claiming that you did not have “much” to drink is an admission that you consumed some level of alcohol, which can negatively affect your ability to challenge the officer’s perceptions and the test results later.

Hiring An Attorney

Once you have invoked your right to remain silent, retain an attorney. You may hire an attorney on your own and retain him or her or you may use the services of a public defender. Private attorneys are usually a safer bet as clients have a wide pool of potential attorneys from which to choose and clients can rely upon having the attorney’s relatively undivided attention. You may seek out the most experienced and reputable attorney in the area or simply turn to a random page in a phone book and hire a random lawyer who handles DUI cases.

If you cannot afford legal representation, you may be appointed a public defender from the Defender Association of Philadelphia. At the preliminary hearing, you may ask the judge to appoint a public defender. You must pass a means test before a public defender will be appointed to you. If one is appointed, the public defender will meet with you if you are in custody or at the public defender’s offices if you are not in custody.

Once you have invoked your right to remain silent and have legal representation, direct all questions to your representative and follow his or her advice closely. If you have questions regarding the propriety of your attorney’s conduct or the wisdom of a particular course of action, ask another attorney. Do not be afraid to ask about alternatives to any particular course of action. The attorney will assist you in achieving the best possible outcome for your situation.

Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches how individual states deal with DUI issues. She has found that The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis, Philadelphia DUI lawyers, have a high rate of success defending DUI cases in Philadelphia.
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Freelance Writer/Editor/Linkbuilder at VaughnTiff Communications
Valerie Stout Cyrus is a professional writer with over 20 years of experience in various industries. She provides online business management to small businesses which includes writing guest posts, posting to various social media sites and updating website content.

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