What is the Legal Process for a DUI Charge in Pennsylvania?

Information on the DUI Court Process in Pennsylvania 

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County, you may be nervous and concerned for your future. To make matters worse, you may have never been charged with a crime before and are unsure of how the DUI court process works in Pittsburgh.

Knowing the process and what you are facing is helpful in being able to fight for the best possible outcome and keep your rights and freedom. Penalties for DUI in PA are very tough—including jail time, license suspension, and heavy fines.

Speaking to an aggressive and experienced DUI attorney in Pennsylvania as soon as possible after a DUI arrest. Many people wait until it is time to appear in court and by then, they have missed some very valuable opportunities in their case.

Our number one goal: Your DUI charges reduced or dismissed.

Call Ketchel Law today: 412-456-1221 for a free consultation.

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in PA, contact Justin Ketchel to schedule your free legal consultation.

A DUI charge is NOT a conviction and it is worth fighting.

The PA criminal justice system must presume you are innocent of DUI charges unless a judge or jury finds you guilty. A skilled attorney can assist you with every aspect of your DUI charge and will ferociously fight to protect your rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Remember, the prosecutor’s case has already started before you even have an opportunity to begin your defense. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 412-456-1221 and schedule a free consultation.

Recent court ruling could overturn DUI cases. Learn more or

Call Ketchel Law today to see how your case might be affected: 412-456-1221

How Does the DUI Legal Process in Pennsylvania Work?

There are five main processes in how a DUI charge goes through the court:

  1. Preliminary Hearing
  2. Formal Arraignment
  3. Pre-Trial Conference
  4. Trial
  5. Appeal

Whether or not you have to go through all the processes depends on what happens with your case. 

1. Preliminary Hearing

Most often, a person is arrested for a DUI and released. Then, a short time later, they will receive a complaint in the mail and a summons with a date to appear in court. It is extremely important that you show up at the date and time indicated on the summons.

Failure to appear in court for your preliminary hearing could result in the issuance of a bench warrant, and subsequently, your arrest. 

The preliminary hearing is often referred to as the most important step in the entire DUI court process. This hearing, which takes place in the local district court where your DUI took place, is generally overseen by a local magistrate. At this stage, the prosecution will be responsible for proving that they have a case against you. Essentially, the prosecution will have to show the court that the DUI occurred and that you were the person responsible. If they cannot prove this much, the case against you will be dismissed.

Similarly, this is a good time for you to have an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney present to get a better understanding of the case against you. At the preliminary hearing, your attorney can fight to get some, if not all, of the charges against you dismissed.

Learn more about fighting DUI charges in Pennsylvania. 

2. Formal Arraignment

If the prosecution was successful in showing that they have a case against you for DUI, you must then be formally arraigned. The formal arraignment takes place at the Court of Common Pleas. Here, the charges against you will be read aloud, entered into the record and you will enter your plea: guilty or not guilty. You will also be assigned a judge.

Most importantly, at this time, you and your attorney will be able to view the police records from the night of your arrest as well as any results from blood or breath tests. While this information is crucial to building your defense, it is also helpful in another way. The information contained in the police reports can help your attorney determine if you are a good candidate for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or to try to negotiate a plea deal.

3. Pre-Trial Conference

Before your case progresses to the actual trial, the court will schedule a pre-trial conference. This is a way for your attorney to enter motions on your behalf to help better your case. For example, they may petition the court to have some of the evidence against you suppressed because it was obtained illegally. Or they may analyze the evidence and request that the charges be reduced.

This is also another opportunity to discuss plea deals with the prosecution. If your attorney is able to negotiate a better deal with the prosecution than they believe you will get if your case went to trial, this is when they will try to finalize the deal.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)

If you are a first-time DUI offender, your attorney may try to get you into the ARD program. If you are accepted into this diversionary program, you will not go to trial. Instead, you will have a number of requirements to fulfill in lieu of jail and fines.

If you successfully complete the program, the DUI can be taken off of your permanent record. Your attorney is the best one to advise you on the process and whether or not you would be a good candidate. Read more Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program.

4. Trial

If your case has not been dismissed, you have not been accepted into a diversionary program, or you have not accepted a plea deal, your case will move forward to a trial.

In a trial, your attorney will prepare a defense to be presented in court. The prosecution will be expected to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a DUI took place and you, the defendant, were the person to commit the offense.

The trial will be where it is determined if you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty, all charges will be dismissed. If you are found guilty, the judge will determine your sentence.

5. Appeal

While it is possible to appeal a DUI conviction, it is not available in every case. Every conviction is not an appealable conviction. In order to appeal, you must be able to prove that your case had an issue of law. For example, the court allowed evidence that should have been suppressed, or they used the wrong law to prosecute you.

Speaking with a knowledgeable DUI attorney is the best way to determine if your DUI case has grounds for appeal or not.


Don’t wait—call Ketchel Law now at 412-456-1221.

As an experienced Pittsburgh DUI Attorney, Justin Ketchel’s greatest strength lies in critically analyzing and dissecting the details of a police officer’s report looking for weaknesses, neutralizing the police officer’s testimony, and questioning the testimony of any experts in regard to blood or breath testing.

At Ketchel Law, we use our own experts to show why the blood or breath test reading was not accurate and we use the applicable case law to seek a full dismissal of your case when you were stopped without reasonable suspicion or arrested without probable cause.

Justin’s extensive experience as a former public defender, and in private practice, gives him a distinct advantage when handling DUI cases.

Our number one goal? Your charges dismissed.

At Ketchel Law, we will do everything we can to minimize your expenses. You are never charged for phone calls or emails and your initial consultation is always free.

We understand what you are going through and will tirelessly fight on your behalf to ensure that your arrest has a minimal impact on every aspect of your life.

Call the law offices of Justin J. Ketchel at 412-456-1221. We take your case seriously and are committed to providing quality legal advice.

Learn More about DUI Laws in Pennsylvania: