Bucks County DUI Lawyer
A night out with your friends can turn into a life-changing event for all the wrong reasons. A single traffic stop and an overzealous group of police officers could lead to your arrest for driving under the influence. In an instant, your career, freedom, and good name are in jeopardy in ways they’ve never been before. How can you begin to defend yourself when you have no idea how the system works? You need experienced legal counsel, and you need it immediately.
Do everything you can to uphold your rights by choosing the right law firm. Contact Bucks County DUI lawyers Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates right now at (215) 372-8667 for a private, in-depth consultation to talk about the charges you’re facing. Let our experienced legal team help you achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation.
Basics of DUI Laws in Bucks County
A DUI charge often begins with abnormal driving on the part of an intoxicated driver. Making wide turns, swerving and weaving, driving too quickly or slowly, driving against the flow of traffic, failing to use turn signals or lights, or rapidly accelerating or decelerating are signals that a driver is intoxicated.
Being charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania depends on whether the police can prove that the driver was driving, operating, or in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. “Actual physical control” isn’t strictly defined but is used to describe evidence that the driver operated a vehicle while they were intoxicated. If, for example, a driver was found passed out in the passenger seat of their parked car with the headlights on and the key in the ignition, it is valid for police to conclude that they were in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. However, the defendant has a greater chance of defending themselves against DUI charges if they were not actually seen driving by police.
Drivers in Pennsylvania should note that alcohol is not the only substance that can intoxicate them and lead to a DUI. The use of illegal drugs can also impair someone’s driving and result in a DUI. Even prescription medications can result in DUIs if they cause the driver to lose the ability to drive safely.
DUIs in Pennsylvania are grouped into three categories based on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A driver with a BAC that is between .08% and .099% receives what is known as a “general impairment” DUI. If a driver has a BAC that is between .10% and .16%, it is known as a “high rate” DUI. If a driver has a BAC that is .16% or higher, it is known as a “highest rate” DUI.
Certain drivers are subject to slightly different BAC thresholds, however. Drivers that are under the age of 21 are considered to be legally drunk if their blood alcohol concentration is above .02%. School bus drivers are also considered to be legally drunk when their BAC is above .02%. Drivers of commercial vehicles are considered to be drunk if their blood alcohol concentration is above .04%.
Procedure for a Roadside DUI Stop in Bucks County
Once you are pulled over, the officer will request your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information. They may ask you questions such as, “Have you been drinking?” and “How many drinks have you had?” They will make a note of certain things when speaking to you, such as whether you are slurring your speech, whether your eyes are red and droopy, or whether there is an odor of alcohol emanating from your breath. Each of these observations can later be used by the prosecutor to help prove their DUI case.
If, based on your answers or their observations of your driving or demeanor, the officer suspects you may be driving under the influence of alcohol, there are several roadside tests they will typically conduct to make a further determination before placing you under arrest.
Portable Breathalyzer Test (PBT)
The officer may ask you to breathe into a portable Breathalyzer unit to determine whether your blood alcohol content is above the legal limits. These units have not been subjected to the same exacting calibration standards that the Breathalyzer machines at the police station have been subjected to, and as such, the results of the PBT are not admissible in court. However, they can provide a rough estimate which can serve as a basis for your arrest and transport to the station for further tests.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
The HGN test involves the officer placing a pen or some such object in front of the eyes of the motorist and asking them to follow it with their eyes while they move it back and forth. The officer will instruct you to move only your eyes and not your entire head. HGN is an involuntary movement of the eyes that some studies have shown suggest a person is drunk. The officer will look for signs of HGN and also whether or not you can move your eyes while also keeping your head still.
Walk and Turn Test
For the walk and turn test, the officer will instruct you to assume a heel-to-toe position on a straight line of some sort. They will then ask you to take nine heel-to-toe steps going forward, turn around on one foot, and make nine more heel-to-toe steps returning to the initial position. The officer will look for several things to determine if you are intoxicated, including whether you are able to follow the instructions, whether you are able to keep your balance, whether you keep heel to toe, and whether you use your arms for balance purposes.
One Leg Stand Test
For the one leg stand test, the officer will ask you to stand with your heels together and your arms at your side. They will then instruct you to lift one of your legs six inches off the ground and hold it in that position for 30 seconds. The officer will have you count along until the 30-second timeframe is complete. They will look for whether you put the foot down before the end of the 30 seconds, hop around, sway, or use your arms to balance yourself.
Aside from these standard tests, there are several other tests the officer may employ to determine whether or not to arrest you for driving under the influence. These include the following:
- Reciting the alphabet
- Touching your fingers to your nose
- Counting backwards
- A coin pick-up test where the officer places three coins on the ground around the motorist, instructs them to squat, place an elbow on their knee, and pick up each coin.
Drug DUI in Bucks County
You can be arrested for DUI not only for driving while under the influence of alcohol, but also for driving with certain types of drugs in your system. This type of DUI charge is often referred to as a DUI-D. Procedurally, the process for a drugged driving stop will occur much like a stop for drunk driving, with the use of the officer’s personal observations and field sobriety tests to determine if the person is on drugs. Sometimes the officer will call a trained Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to the scene to use their training and experience, as well as more tests, to help them make a determination about potential drug intoxication.
Rather than a Breathalyzer test, a blood or urine test may be required after being arrested. No matter how little of a drug you are found to have in your system, you will be charged under the highest-level tier of the three-tier system, meaning you will face significant penalties. Even if you did the drug the day before, and are not technically “under the influence” of the drug when pulled over, you can still be charged with a DUI-D if there is nearly any amount of metabolites of a drug in your system.
The drugs you are on do not have to be illegal. Even some prescription drugs count. The following is a list of some of the most common drugs for which DUI-D is charged:
- Opioids like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Penalties for Getting a DUI in Bucks County
The penalties that drivers can expect to receive for their DUIs depend on whether they were charged with a general impairment DUI, a high rate DUI, or the highest rate DUI. The amount of prior DUIs that the driver has received also determines the penalties that they will face.
General Impairment DUIs
All general impairment DUIs, regardless of the number of prior charges, are misdemeanor offenses. A general impairment DUI that has been committed for the first time can result in a fine of $300, 6 months of probation, alcohol highway safety school, and treatment if so ordered by a judge.
A general impairment DUI with one prior charge could result in a 12-month license suspension, jail time that lasts between 5 days and 6 months, a fine between $300 and $2,500, the use of an ignition interlock system for one year, alcohol highway safety school, and treatment if deemed appropriate. A general impairment DUI that is preceded by two offenses carries the same penalties as those that come with a DUI that is preceded by one offense, although the fines and length of jail time are more severe.
High Rate DUIs
Like general impairment DUIs, all high-rate DUIs are misdemeanors. A high BAC DUI, even without prior offenses, could result in a license suspension of 12 months, between 48 hours and 6 months in prison, or a fine between $500 and $5,000. A high BAC DUI that is preceded by one offense carries penalties that include a 12-month license suspension, between 30 days and 6 months in prison, a fine that costs between $750 and $5,000, and the implementation of an ignition interlock system for one year.
If the driver charged with a high BAC DUI had faced two prior offenses, they will face an 18-month license suspension, between 90 days and 5 years in prisons, and a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; the implementation of an ignition interlock system for one year is also a possibility. Regardless of the number of prior offenses, it is always possible that a judge will order rehabilitation treatment or an alcohol highway safety school.
Highest Rate DUIs
Highest rate DUIs are also misdemeanors. A highest BAC DUI with no prior offenses carries penalties that include a license suspension that lasts 12 months, between 72 hours and 6 months in prison, and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000. A highest BAC DUI with one prior offense may result in an 18-month license suspension, between 90 days and 5 years in prison, a fine that will cost between $1,500 and $10,000, or, in some cases, a 1-year ignition interlock system.
If two offenses precede a highest BAC DUI, penalties may include a license suspension that lasts for 18 months, a prison sentence that lasts between 1 and 5 years, and a fine between $2,500 and $10,000. If necessary, an ignition interlock system will be installed in the driver’s vehicle. Alcohol highway safety school and treatment are also possibilities in certain cases.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition
In some cases, a driver that has received a DUI may be able to participate in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (“ARD”) program, during which they will have to complete specific requirements. Eligibility for the program is determined by whether or not the driver has had any prior DUIs within the last ten years and whether there were passengers under the age of 14 in the vehicle when they were arrested for the DUI. The driver will also be ineligible to participate in an ARD program if their accident severely injured or killed someone else.
During the program, the driver will have to enroll in a state-approved alcohol highway safety school program, undergo an alcohol and drug evaluation, be subjected to six to twelve months of court supervision, and participate in any treatments that the court recommends. They will also face a license suspension. If the driver completes all of the ARD program requirements, they will have their DUI charge dismissed by the court.
Penalties for Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test
Pennsylvania is an implied consent state, which means that everyone that has a driver’s license automatically agrees to breath, blood, and/or urine testing if requested by law enforcement. If a driver refuses to take a breath, blood, or urine test, they can face severe penalties, regardless of whether or not the test reveals a BAC that is above the legal limit.
In the case of a blood test, the law requires that the blood sample be taken from the motorist within 2 hours of their having physical control over the vehicle. There are exceptions made to this rule under certain circumstances where the Commonwealth can demonstrate good cause for the delay, but typically, if the sample is not taken within 2 hours, it cannot be used against you in court.
Penalties that result from denying a breath, blood, or urine test include a driver’s license suspension for at least one year, as well as a reinstatement fee of $500. A second offense of refusing to take a breath, blood, or urine test will result in a license suspension of 18 months and a fine between $1,000 and $2,000.
What to Do if You are Arrested for a DUI in Bucks County
After you are arrested for a DUI, you will be taken back to the police station. While you are required to submit to Breathalyzer, blood, or urine tests, you are not required to answer any of the officer’s questions or speak to them at all except to consent to these tests.
You have the right to have an attorney present for any type of questioning the police would like to conduct. We strongly suggest that you exercise this right. Experienced Bucks County DUI lawyers like the team at Young Marr & Associates can protect your rights and prevent you from saying anything that may later be held against you at your trial.
You will be given paperwork that lets you know exactly what your charges are and when and where your preliminary hearing will be held. This preliminary hearing will be held in the district court where your DUI arrest took place and usually happens between 30 and 60 days after your arrest. It is presided over by a local magistrate judge. When you attend the preliminary hearing, the charges that have been filed against you will be read aloud, and you will be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty.
If the judge that presides over your initial hearing finds probable cause for your guilt, your case will be sent to the County Court of Common Pleas for an arraignment hearing, which will usually take place within 60 days of your initial hearing. If you are eligible for participation in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, the application will be made around the time of the arraignment.
How Our Bucks County Lawyers Can Help with DUI Charges
Regardless of whether you are actually guilty of having driven while under the influence, you’ll need to be represented by a lawyer as you face your DUI charges. In some cases, an experienced lawyer could help you get your DUI charges dropped entirely. In other situations, our Bucks County DUI defense attorney could mitigate the penalties that come from being found guilty of your charges by questioning the evidence that the prosecution is using against you, crafting a defense for you, filing motions on your behalf, and protecting your legal rights throughout all steps of the process.
The most important thing that a lawyer can do while you are facing DUI charges of any degree is to investigate whether the police acted correctly and respected your rights during the arrest. A lawyer that represents your DUI case can question witnesses and collect information from officers to determine whether the participating officers had probable cause to pull you over in the first place. Additionally, a skilled lawyer will work to determine if any breath/blood/urine tests were administered correctly.
It is common for police departments to use malfunctioning or miscalibrated breathalyzers or employ officers who are not adequately trained to perform breathalyzer tests. A lawyer can determine whether the information gained during these tests is accurate; if it is not, your DUI case may be dismissed.
Another tool a skilled Bucks County DUI defense attorney has is the ability to file motions at the appropriate times. If a motion is necessary for a specific piece of evidence that was obtained improperly to be thrown out, a lawyer will be able to file it. A lawyer is also able to file pretrial motions for discovery, the suppression of evidence, or the dismissal of charges during your arraignment or pretrial conference.
Negotiation of a favorable plea bargain is another thing that a lawyer can do while they represent you during your DUI proceeding. If it is clear through acceptable evidence that your blood alcohol concentration was above the legal limit at the time of your arrest, then a lawyer will be able to negotiate reduced charges for you in exchange for your guilty plea, which will prevent you from going to trial. If you are eligible for participation in an ARD program, a lawyer can negotiate enrollment for that as well. If your case ends up going to trial, a lawyer will assist with jury selection and then craft a defense on your behalf.
The lawyers that work with Young Marr & Associates are prepared to help clients with their DUI charges. With more than 30 years of experience practicing criminal litigation and experience with thousands of cases, the lawyers from Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can provide clients with an in-depth understanding of the legal system and the tactics that prosecutors use.
Bucks County DUI Defense Lawyers Available to Represent You
Call Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates today at (215) 372-8667 to get the legal expertise you need at a price you can afford. The DUI lawyers that work with Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates have represented thousands of people throughout the Bucks County area as they face DUI charges. Get in touch with them as soon as possible to discuss your options as you fight your DUI charges or to schedule an initial consultation that is confidential and free of charge.