FEATURE ARTICLE – “Pennsylvania Ignition Interlock” by Thomas P. McCabe, Esquire.
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Pennsylvania amended its Ignition Interlock law effective August 25, 2017. Part of that amendment made the Ignition Interlock (a device that is hooked up to your car that you have to breath into to demonstrate that there is no alcohol in your system in order for your car to operate) available for first-time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol levels. Further, it established a new Ignition Interlock Limited License. This new license permits individuals to operate a motor vehicle equipped with an Ignition Interlock device if certain requirements are met. The new license would have a designation on it that says, “Ignition Interlock”. …
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In Pennsylvania, if you are charged with a criminal offense, you are entitled to have a preliminary hearing within 10 days of the charges being filed.
At the preliminary hearing, the Magisterial District Judge has to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the charges to be held over to the Court of Common Pleas (trial level). The burden of proof at a preliminary hearing is on the Commonwealth (District Attorney’s Office). The prosecutor must prove the elements of the offenses to a prima facia level. Prima facia is just a legal term meaning “on the face”. The Magisterial District Judge looks at the Affidavit of Probable Cause and any additional evidence that the prosecutor presents to make a determination whether it’s more likely or not that the charges alleged occurred and, is it more likely or not that the defendant was the one who committed them. The Magisterial District Judge does not determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Nor does the Magisterial District Judge determine a sentence. There are exceptions to this, such as when the defendant is only facing summary offenses, but that is a discussion for another day.
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“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted,” Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The New York Times, in a recent feature article on March 31, 2018, discussed the current state of the bail system within the United States. Although the Constitution holds that a criminal defendant shall not be held on excessive bail, the current practice does not always adhere to that. Many defendants on the margins of society find themselves having to choose between incarceration, or using their homes, vehicles or life savings as collateral in order to have their freedom while defending themselves against criminal charges.
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