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No one has to tell you that drinking and driving is a bad idea. After all, not only does Pennsylvania law have some harsh criminal penalties for driving under the influence, but you are also apt to face a variety of life consequences after a DUI conviction. Nonetheless, because life can interfere with anyone’s good intentions, you may eventually have to contend with DUI charges.

If an officer arrests you for suspected drunk driving, you must go through the legal process. The first post-arrest step is a preliminary hearing. While it is important to understand all parts of the DUI process, planning for your preliminary hearing is a good initial step.

The reason for preliminary hearings

While the preliminary hearing is not a criminal trial, it is an important part of the overall criminal process. Specifically, to protect your fundamental rights, prosecutors must demonstrate they have a case. That is, they must show it is more likely than not you violated the law. Accordingly, a judge cannot find you guilty of a DUI offense at a preliminary hearing.

The consequences of waiving a preliminary hearing

Court dockets are often full. To boost efficiency, Pennsylvania law allows a person to waive a preliminary hearing. Doing so may be in your most favorable interests. It may also be a mistake. That is, if prosecutors lack sufficient evidence, you may be able to seek dismissal of DUI charges at the preliminary stage. There are some other potential consequences of waiving a preliminary hearing, though. For example, you miss a critical opportunity to hear the commonwealth’s evidence.

You simply cannot ignore DUI charges. On the contrary, because a conviction may have serious consequences, you must address charges proactively. While there may be many steps for mounting a successful defense, starting with the preliminary hearing is likely the first one. Regardless, before waiving the hearing, you should be sure doing so is in your legal interests.