Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

Bucks County DUI with High BAC Leads to Vehicular Homicide Charges for Doylestown Man

DUI is a serious issue in Bucks County, where intoxicated driving incidents number in the thousands every year.   Hundreds of these accidents prove to be fatal, including an accident earlier this month which killed 47-year-old motorcyclist Carl Polichetti III of Bedminster.  Polichetti was struck by 64-year-old Dennis Harold Bennett of Doylestown, who is now facing charges of DUI and vehicular homicide.  This sad story raises a good legal question: what happens if a drunk driving accident kills another person?

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Increased DUI Penalties for High BAC

Dennis Bennett’s memory of his accident is foggy, with the 64-year-old Doylestown resident telling Pennsylvania State Police he wasn’t sure exactly what had happened in the moments leading up to the fatal collision.  What is known is that Bennett crashed into 47-year-old Carl Polichetti around 10:20 P.M. on the 700 block of Kellers Church Road in Bedminster Township, killing Polichetti and severely injuring his wife.

An autopsy revealed the motorcyclist’s specific cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Bennett’s preliminary hearing has been scheduled to take place next week on August 4th.

Bennett’s BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) was measured at three times Pennsylvania’s legal limit of 0.08% when he was arrested.  That’s a BAC of 0.24% — well above the state’s tier one, or “general impairment” classification.  This is significant because as a driver’s BAC (and tier) climbs, so do the penalties for DUI.

“General impairment” is classified as 0.08% to 0.99%.  The next tier, “high rate,” encompasses BACs from 0.10% to 0.159%.  The final tier, “highest rate,” includes BACs of 0.16% or higher.  While a first DUI offense under the first tier can trigger six months of probation and a $300 fine, the same offense under the third and highest tier can lead to up to six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, and a year of license suspension.

However, the consequences above apply to intoxicated driving accidents which don’t cause injury or death.  In this case, the charges are even more severe.

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Homicide by Vehicle is a Felony

Under Title 75 of Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes,  §3732 or vehicular homicide states that:

Any person who recklessly or with gross negligence causes the death of another person while engaged in the violation of any law of this Commonwealth or municipal ordinance applying to the operation or use of a vehicle… relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance is guilty of homicide by vehicle, a felony of the third degree, when the violation is the cause of death.

In Pennsylvania, the penalties for a third degree felony can include:

  • Up to 7 years in prison.
  • Up to $15,000 in restitution.

Furthermore, DUI charges also come with their own additional set of consequences and requirements.  For example, depending on factors like BAC and whether or not there is a history of prior incidents, the offender may be ordered to:

  • Attend alcohol highway safety school (AHSS).
  • Receive drug and/or alcohol treatment.
  • Have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in his or her car.  An IID is effectively a breathalyzer device which is wired to a car’s ignition system, and will prevent the engine from starting if alcohol is detected.

If an offender has a clean criminal record and hasn’t already participated within the past 10 years, he or she could be a strong candidate for the ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) program.  If a person qualifies for ARD, they do not have to plead guilty or be convicted, and their DUI charges will be dismissed.  However, ARD will not accept offenders whose accidents resulted in death or injury, meaning Bennett would not be a candidate.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI in Bucks County or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, you could be facing harsh consequences.  You need the support of an experienced defense lawyer who can represent you and help determine if you’re a good fit for ARD.  To schedule your free and private legal consultation with the Bucks County criminal defense lawyers, call the law offices of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online today.