Have you been detained due to a suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs? If so, it is time to consider your options while preparing to face the criminal justice system.
In Pennsylvania, an individual may not drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(a)(1). You can also be charged if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is greater than a .08% or you have certain levels of controlled or prescribed medicines in your blood. This legal definition of driving under the influence means that if you’re behind the wheel, whether the vehicle is moving or not, you may be charged.
Once you encounter a police officer, the first decision you need to make is whether to submit to field sobriety tests. These tests include various examinations of your motor skills and your ability to follow directions. These tests may include walking a straight line, standing on one (1) foot, and/or counting or reciting the alphabet.
You may also be asked to submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood. Generally speaking, in order to obtain a blood sample, police will need a warrant. However, they may request that you submit to a breath test and, if you refuse to submit to a chemical test of your breath, PennDOT will automatically suspend your driving privileges for a minimum of one (1) year in addition to whatever penalties might be imposed if you are also charged with DUI. This “refusal suspension” will occur regardless of whether you are ultimately charged and/or convicted of driving under the influence.
A chemical test will be used to determine whether you are over the legal limit of alcohol within your blood (BAC) within two (2) hours of driving a vehicle. A BAC at or above 0.08% can result in DUI charges.
If you are facing your first DUI charge, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD). However, to be accepted into this program, you must take certain steps within the required timeframe or, you will be out of luck. The ARD Program presents its applicants with the opportunity to avoid incarceration and, ultimately, to have the record of their DUI expunged. If accepted into the ARD program, you will be placed under supervision for a period of time. While on supervision, you may be required to participate in drug and/or alcohol counseling and to perform community service. You may also be subject to a suspension of your driving privileges.
Those who do not qualify for the ARD program face criminal prosecution and may be subject to mandatory jail time upon conviction. Mandatory sentencing for driving under the influence increases exponentially with each subsequent conviction. Depending on your BAC reading, a third offense within ten (10) years may result in a mandatory state prison sentence. Therefore, it is important that you have knowledgeable and aggressive representation when charged with DUI.
An experienced attorney should review the Commonwealth’s allegations for legally significant factors that may impact the admissibility of evidence and the strength of your case. DUI cases often hinge upon the legality of the initial traffic stop. You should, therefore, ensure that your case is reviewed by lawyers who understand and can effectively litigate these constitutional principles.
Contact McMahon Winters Strasko and our team will thoroughly review your case, counsel you on all of your available options, and advocate for your legal rights. Call us today at 717.358.0600 or send a message to contact@McMahonWinters.com.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon Winters Strasko Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon Winters Strasko Law Firm attorney.