Pennsylvania DUI Defense Lawyer
One of the most common and most serious offenses Pennsylvania drivers are arrested for nearly every day is driving under the influence (DUI). According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, nearly 50,000 arrests were made in 2018 for impaired driving. Police officers are constantly looking for drunk drivers and are quick to stop anyone they suspect of intoxicated driving.
DUI charges can vary from case to case, and they are sometimes hard to predict. There are three tiers of DUI charges in Pennsylvania, and the penalties get harsher as drivers become more intoxicated. There can also be harsher penalties for repeat offenders or for drivers who injure others during their DUI.
DUI charges require the assistance of an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer. If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI, call Young, Marr & Associates at (215) 701-6519 immediately for a free, confidential case review. Our Pennsylvania DUI defense attorneys can fight arrests and work to help you avoid jail time.
Standard Penalties for DUIs in Pennsylvania
To understand the penalties for DUI charges, you must first understand how Pennsylvania law organizes DUI charges. According to 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802, there are three tiers for DUIs: general impairment, high rate of alcohol, and highest rate of alcohol. General impairment occurs with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08% but less than .10%. General impairment is also assessed with a lesser BAC as long as the driver cannot safely drive due to intoxication, even with a BAC under .08%. A high rate of alcohol is assessed when a driver has a BAC of at least .10% but less than .16%. Finally, the highest rate of alcohol is for drivers with a BAC of .16% or higher. DUIs can also be assessed for drivers under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol.
A first offense for any DUI is usually charged as an ungraded misdemeanor. An ungraded misdemeanor is treated the same as a third-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail. For a DUI of general impairment, the driver may have to pay a $300 fine, be on probation for 6 months, and comply with drug and alcohol treatment requirements.
A first offense for a high rate of alcohol DUI will result in possible jail time for at least 48 hours, a fine of at least $500 but not more than $5,000, driving safety courses, and drug and alcohol treatment. These penalties are in addition to the ungraded misdemeanor charges mentioned previously.
A DUI of the highest BAC is the most serious DUI offense. A first-time offender faces misdemeanor charges as well as jail time for at least 72 hours, a fine of no less than $1,000 but no more than $5,000, driving safety courses, and required drug and alcohol treatment.
Remember, drivers with more DUIs in their records will face increasingly harsh penalties. The misdemeanor charges for a DUI will be upgraded depending on how many prior DUIs you have had, and fines and other penalties also become more intense. Our Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyers can help you understand and challenge these charges.
Harsher Penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania DUI penalties have always been harsh. Recent changes have increased the severity of the consequences of DUI convictions. While there are standard DUI penalties, these penalties may increase depending on the circumstances of your case. Repeat offenders or accidents involving injuries or death will be met with much more stringent punishments. If you were arrested with a BAC of .08%, it is critical that you retain the services of our Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney.
Felony Charges for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania
All convictions for DUI in Pennsylvania were misdemeanors. Now a Pennsylvania driver faces a third-degree felony conviction for a third DUI offense if the BAC is .16% or higher. Additionally, every fourth or subsequent offense is now considered a felony, no matter what the BAC was. A third-degree felony conviction may be punished with a prison term of up to 7 years. Felony convictions could have long-lasting adverse effects on your employment and housing options.
Pennsylvania Vehicular Homicide While Driving Under the Influence
Vehicular homicide is when a person is killed by someone driving recklessly or negligently. Vehicular homicide may occur without the presence of alcohol, and the crime is contained in a statute separate from DUI laws. However, if vehicular homicide occurs during a DUI incident, the penalties are made even harsher. Someone convicted of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence faced a minimum of three years in prison. Now, if an offender had a previous DUI conviction, the minimum sentence is five years – seven years if there are two offenses.
Driving with a DUI Suspended License
A typical administrative penalty for a DUI conviction is a driver’s license suspension. Previously, if you drove with a suspended license due to a DUI conviction, you faced 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Now, a second conviction of driving under a suspended license from a DUI conviction could lead to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Furthermore, a third offense could result in a sentence of six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. If you have been arrested for any DUI-related offense, call our Pennsylvania DUI defense attorneys immediately.
Drunk Driving Arrests in Pennsylvania
Being arrested for a DUI may feel very similar to being pulled over for a routine traffic stop. To be pulled over in the first place, law enforcement officials must have an articulable reason for the stop. The police are not permitted to pull over vehicles at random or conduct stops based on hunches or gut feelings. In many cases, intoxicated drivers are stopped because the police observe erratic or reckless driving. Weaving between lanes, speeding, or otherwise unusual behavior behind the wheel may indicate to the police that the driver could be drunk.
In other cases, the officers might not realize the driver is intoxicated until after the stop. For example, the police might stop a driver because they observed the driver run a stop sign. However, once the police have confronted the driver, they might detect an odor of alcohol and notice the driver’s slurred speech, both indicators of intoxication.
DUI arrests must be taken seriously. Our Pennsylvania DUI defense attorneys have assisted hundreds of people facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania. Our experienced lawyers will thoroughly examine the facts of your case and review your legal options with you including, negotiating a plea bargain, recommending ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition), or challenging your arrest at trial.
DUI Checkpoints in Pennsylvania
DUI arrests can also happen at pre-planned checkpoints. A DUI checkpoint is a specific location along a road or highway where the police stop all drivers passing through. The police use a pre-determined system for checking drivers for intoxication. Often, the police will inspect every other car or every third car or use a similar method to check vehicles. This system allows the police to investigate many drivers without using arbitrary or biased methods for stopping them.
Checkpoints must follow specific legal rules in order to be lawful. First, the police must make a DUI checkpoint known to the public ahead of time. Usually, the local police will place notices in newspapers or news broadcasts about the planned checkpoint in the days leading up to the checkpoint. This allows drivers to plan different routes if they want to. However, once a driver enters a checkpoint zone, they are not permitted to turn around.
Checkpoints typically involve brief interactions with the police. If you are stopped, you might be asked to answer a few quick questions and show your license and registration. If the police detect no signs of alcohol, they will let you go rather quickly. If you believe you were held unjustly at a checkpoint or the checkpoint was otherwise unlawful, call our Pennsylvania DUI defense attorneys immediately.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania offers first-time offenders ARD to avoid lengthy and costly court proceedings. To qualify for the program, an individual must be a non-violent offender and have no previous record or a very light record.
ARD will require an individual to agree with multiple provisions, including:
- Paying the cost for any damage they caused
- Mandatory attendance and completion of a substance abuse treatment program
- Supervision for up to two years
- Potential community service
- License suspensions
ARD is administered at the county level, and it is up to the judge and prosecutor whether you will be admitted to the program. We can help make a case to accept you if your case is on the line. If you want to enter the ARD program, our Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyers can help you make it happen.
Drunk Driving Defenses
To arrest a driver in Pennsylvania for driving under the influence, a police officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” for stopping your car and “probable cause” for making the arrest. If you are driving erratically or at an unreasonably slow speed, the police will have “reasonable suspicion” that you might be drunk and may pull you over.
Additionally, law enforcement uses sobriety checkpoints to stop potential drunk drivers. We can challenge a sobriety checkpoint stop if it failed to adhere to any of these requirements:
- The stop must be brief
- You, your passengers, and your vehicle may not be searched without additional probable cause
- The police must have provided adequate notice of the sobriety checkpoint
- The checkpoint must have been located in an area with a history of drunk driving incidents
- A standardized system must have been used to stop your car
Additionally, you must actually be in control of your vehicle. You cannot be arrested for drunk driving if you are arrested while sitting outside your car or walking through a parking lot. However, you do not necessarily have to be driving. Being inside a car with the keys in the ignition might be enough to warrant DUI charges.
Once your vehicle has been stopped, law enforcement must have “probable cause” to arrest you for driving under the influence. This means they must have articulable facts that show you were driving under the influence, not a mere feeling or a single piece of evidence.
Challenging Field Sobriety Tests
Police will require drivers to perform specific physical tests after being pulled over on suspicion of DUI. These “field sobriety tests” were developed by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide law enforcement with a standardized method of determining physical or mental impairment.
Often, the police officer conducting the test lacks the appropriate training to administer a test correctly. Any deviation from the standardized method could taint the test results. Furthermore, a driver’s inability to perform the test could come from factors other than drugs or alcohol – for example, the driver could be tired or disabled. These tests are usually not admissible as evidence in court but can be used by the police to establish probable cause for your arrest.
Challenging Blood Tests
Police officers could require a driver to submit to a blood test to determine their BAC. The results of a blood test can be challenged. Timing is critical in administering a blood test. A person’s body will continue to absorb alcohol for hours after they stop drinking. This means the blood test could indicate a much higher BAC at the time it was administered compared to the actual BAC while the individual was driving.
The blood test must be administered correctly to achieve an accurate result. The following facts can be used to challenge the accuracy or admissibility of a blood test for a DUI case:
- The person overseeing the test did not follow proper testing procedures
- The blood was drawn too long after the stop
- The tubes, needles, or chemical mixtures used to perform the test were contaminated
- The person drawing blood used an alcohol swab to clean the place the needle went in
- There was no warrant for the blood test
Our Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyers will examine all of the evidence and factors relevant to your arrest to determine if it could be challenged in court. By thoroughly analyzing police reports, dashcam or bodycam videos, statements made during the arrest, and the service records of all officers involved in the arrest, we will be able to prepare your defense.
Additional Charges for Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania and most other states, drivers are required to submit to chemical testing after being arrested for a DUI. The chemical testing requirement operated under the law of implied consent. Under this law, drivers have already consented to chemical testing simply by having a license and driving on the road. Consent to testing is not directly given but is implied based on the conduct of the driver.
It is important to note that the police will not physically force you to submit to testing if you refuse. However, they will assess additional criminal penalties. These charges and penalties will be in addition to your DUI charges and will result in an automatic suspension of your license regardless of the outcome of your DUI case. However, the police are required to warn you of these consequences if you want to refuse. If you were not warned about these additional charges before you refused to be tested, your charges might not be valid. Talk to our Pennsylvania DUI defense attorneys for more information.
Call Our Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers for a Free Consultation
DUI convictions could result in long-lasting legal consequences. Contact our Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyers immediately if you or a loved one was arrested for an alleged DUI. Call Young, Marr & Associates at (609) 755-3115 for a free, confidential case evaluation.