In 2014 the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas decided to take all the DUIs that occur in the county and set aside one courtroom, one judge, and one set of district attorneys to handle each and every case to their conclusion. This post is for those who have gotten a DUI and who want to know more about the process so they know what to expect. As of this writing, all DUI cases are heard in courtroom 11 of the Montgomery county courthouse on Swede and Airy streets in Norristown. The presiding judge is the Honorable Cheryl F. Austin and she hears all DUI cases. The team of district attorneys are captained by Bradford Richman, Esquire. Mr. Richman oversees a team of three or four DA’s that rotate in and out so this team is usually never the same. These are the personnel that you will encounter so perhaps the next question is “What happens at DUI court?”. Here is the answer.
The first time a litigant will have to appear in courtroom 11 is for a pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference the DA assigned to the case will make an offer to the defendant, or the defendant’s lawyer, in order to settle the case. The defendant may accept it and plead guilty or they may ask that the case be put on the trial list. The trial list is another opportunity to accept a plea bargain and move the case forward. If the defendant still does not want to accept the DA’s offer the judge will give the defendant a trial date. The trial date basically says to the Court that all plea negotiations have been exhausted and that both the Commonwealth and the defense are prepared to try the case. Usually, the defendant may still accept an offer by the DA at the trial date. If not, the case gets tried.
Here is your Courtroom protocol. When you get to the Courthouse for your case, take the elevator to the 5th floor and go to courtroom 11. If you have a lawyer you may be meeting him or her in the hallway outside the courtroom. If there is not a lawyer involved you will walk into 11 where you will find the bench where the judge sits straight ahead of you and two sets of tables in front of it. The table to the left is the DA’s table and the one to the right is for defendants. If you have a lawyer they will instruct you as to what to do. They will oversee the handling of your case and you need just sit there until your receive instructions from he or she. If you do not have a lawyer you will wait until the DA calls your name from a big list that the DA will read through when the judge takes the bench. You will then tell the Court how you want to proceed with the case. At this point, if you do not have an attorney already, it would be highly advisable to retain one.
Well, there’s the overview. If the reader does find himself in Courtroom 11 I wish you good luck.