LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Standing in a Lancaster County courtroom Wednesday, District Attorney Craig Stedman explained how the number of DUI cases his office prosecutes every year can overload the courts.
“We prosecute about 6,000 adult cases a year,” he said. “The most common offense we prosecute is DUI. We average about 1,650 a year.”
Stedman and other officials announced changes Wednesday. They said initial hearings for DUI cases will now will be held in a DUI central court twice a month.
Previously, initial hearings were held in magistrate offices. Cases could be held any day and would often get delayed. With the old way, officers involved in prosecution would also be off the street.
“If we could save half of those, where we don’t have an officer going to preliminary hearings, you’re looking at 800 cases a year,” Manor Township police Chief Todd Graeff said. “That’s a lot of time, that’s at least 800 hours that’s going back into patrol.”
By installing a central court, officials hope to eliminate unnecessary steps. They hope that will mean quicker resolutions to cases.
“A lot of times, what happens in our current system, is they (defendants) get arrested and there is no consequence for up to a year, and sometimes more than that,” Stedman said. “This is going to front-load the system. It’s going to make it more accurate, more fair. We’re going to have better results.”
Michael V. Marinaro, a DUI attorney, said he is aware of the changes. He told ABC 27 News he believes it’s a fair system and a good step forward.
“I think this is going to be beneficial to Lancaster County, to the defendants,” he said. “I think it’s a brilliant idea.”
The new system is based on a similar process in Cumberland County.