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Typically, DUI charges arise out of traffic stops. The police must have reasonable grounds for pulling a motorist over, however, and if they do not, the Commonwealth may be precluded from introducing the evidence obtained via the stop at trial, regardless of how persuasive it is. Recently, a Pennsylvania court discussed probable cause in a ruling in which it ultimately dismissed an order suppressing the results of a chemical test in a DUI case. If you are accused of driving while intoxicated, it is smart to talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that a police officer observed the defendant driving on a highway for two and a half miles in the middle of the night. During that time, he saw the defendant meander over the fog line several times. He subsequently pulled the defendant over and, when speaking with him, noticed an odor of alcohol on his breath. The defendant was asked to submit to a field sobriety test; he agreed and performed some of the tasks incorrectly. He then agreed to submit to a breath test. Following the test, the officer arrested the defendant. The defendant moved to suppress the results of the breath test at trial, arguing that the officer had reasonable cause to stop the defendant. The trial court granted the motion, and the Commonwealth appealed.

Probable Cause to Arrest a DUI Suspect

On appeal, the court agreed with the Commonwealth and reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that in order to arrest the defendant for DUI, the officer needed to have probable cause to believe that the defendant was impaired to the extent that he could not drive safely. Probable cause is present when the circumstances and facts that are within the officer’s knowledge at the time of the arrest and that they believe constitute reasonably trustworthy information are adequate to merit a reasonable person to develop the belief that the suspect has committed or is about to commit a crime. Continue reading

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Under Pennsylvania law, people can be convicted of DUI crimes even if they are not observed driving while intoxicated. The prosecution must nonetheless prove that a crime actually occurred in order to prove a DUI defendant’s guilt, though, and if they cannot, the charges against the defendant should be dismissed. This concept, known as corpus delecti, was the topic of a recent Pennsylvania ruling in which the court upheld the defendant’s DUI conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is prudent to confer with a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer to determine what defenses you may be able to set forth.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the police responded to a call indicating there was a vehicle on the side of a highway. When they arrived at the scene, they found the defendant standing on the side of the road with a gash and a lump on his head. When they spoke with him, he smelled of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet. He stated he had been drinking earlier in the day and had driven to his current location.

It is alleged that the defendant was taken to the hospital, where he consented to a blood draw which revealed his BAC to be over twice the legal limit. He was charged with DUI – the highest rate. He moved to have his incriminating statements precluded from evidence pursuant to the corpus delecti rule, but the court denied his motion. He was convicted, after which he appealed. Continue reading

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The Pennsylvania legislature established sentencing guidelines but afforded the courts some discretion when issuing sentences. If a criminal defendant believes that a court abused its discretion, it can file an appeal. Recently, a Pennsylvania court issued an opinion discussing the factors weighed in determining whether a sentence is unjust in a case in which a defendant who pleaded guilty to DUI received a sentence of two to ten years imprisonment. If you are accused of a DUI offense, you could face significant penalties if convicted, and it is smart to meet with a  Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney about your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was arrested for DUI after he crashed his tree into a pole. The defendant admitted to drinking alcohol prior to the crash but refused to submit to a blood test. A passenger who was riding in the vehicle sustained serious injuries. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes.

Allegedly, the defendant entered into a plea deal in which he agreed to plead guilty to DUI, aggravated assault while DUI, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle without financial responsibility in exchange for the Commonwealth withdrawing all other charges. The agreement did not contain any provisions regarding the defendant’s sentence. Following his guilty plea, he was sentenced to two to ten years in prison. He appealed, arguing his sentence was unjust. Continue reading

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It is well-established that, under Pennsylvania law, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle while intoxicated. This means not only that people cannot drive if they are impaired due to the consumption of alcohol but also that they can be accused of DUI crimes if they operate a car while under the influence of metabolites or controlled substances. Recently, a Pennsylvania court issued a ruling discussing the evidence the Commonwealth must introduce to support a conviction for a DUI controlled substance. If you are charged with driving while under the influence of prescription or illicit drugs, it is advisable to contact a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss your case.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is alleged that the investigating officer responded to a call reporting that a man was unconscious inside an SUV. When he arrived at the scene, the officer observed the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat of the SUV, which was parked by an intersection. The keys were in the ignition, and the vehicle was running. The officer awoke the defendant and asked him a series of questions. The defendant was unable to spell or write his name, was drooling, and his speech was slurred.

It is reported that the defendant agreed to submit to field sobriety testing, and the test results indicated he was impaired. He consented to a blood test, the result of which indicated the presence of numerous controlled substances. The Commonwealth charged him with DUI controlled substance and convicted him following a bench trial. He then appealed. Continue reading

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Pennsylvania, like many states, has an implied consent law. In other words, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, everyone who drives a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania is deemed to consent to the chemical testing of their breath if they are stopped for suspicion of DUI. As such, if a person refuses to submit to a breath test, their license must be suspended. The police must provide a DUI suspect with an O’Connell warning, however, and the suspect must knowingly refuse to submit to the test in order for civil penalties to be imposed. Recently, a Pennsylvania court addressed the issue of whether a driver that does not speak English could consciously refuse to submit to a breath test, ultimately ruling that he could not. If you are accused of a DUI offense or refusal to submit to chemical testing, it is smart to meet with a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to evaluate your options.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that a police officer witnessed the defendant driving erratically for several minutes. The officer then stopped the defendant and attempted to question him. The defendant, who did not speak or understand English, appeared intoxicated. Using hand gestures, the officer asked the defendant how much he drank that evening, and the defendant motioned that he had three alcoholic beverages.

Reportedly, the officer then read the defendant the O’Connell warning advising him that if he did not provide a breath sample, his license could be suspended. The warning was written in English. The officer then asked the defendant to submit to a breath test, but the defendant stated no. The defendant also refused to sign the portion of the form indicating he had been advised of the warnings therein. The department of transportation subsequently suspended the defendant’s license.  The defendant appealed the suspension, and the trial court granted his appeal. The department of transportation then appealed to the Commonwealth Court. Continue reading

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Legislators, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and other interested parties have advocated for legislation mandating that all new vehicles come equipped with alcohol detecting devices to prevent people from driving while intoxicated for the past several years. The US House of Representatives recently enacted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, that contains an Advanced Impaired Driving Technology (AIDT) provision that Mothers Against Drunk Driving described as the single most significant legislation passed in the organization’s forty-one-year history. While no one disputes the hazards of driving while impaired, mandatory alcohol monitors may infringe on people’s rights and cause a slew of other problems. If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, it’s in your best interests to speak with a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer about your options.

The Proposed Technology

Allegedly, the AIDT section of the Act establishes a threshold that Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimates will avoid nearly ten thousand drunk driving deaths each year. Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s President further stated that the law will basically eliminate the leading cause of mortality on America’s highways. She suggested that technology is required to prevent unsafe driving practices used by those who fail to make the correct decisions when it comes to getting behind the wheel after drinking.

The act provides that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) must to undertake a process to establish rules and set a standard for impaired driving safety systems on all new vehicles within three years. NHTSA is anticipated to evaluate technology such as alcohol detection systems, which use sensors to determine whether a driver is intoxicated and, if so, stop their car from driving. Automobile makers will have two to three years to implement the safety standard once it is established. Continue reading

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Generally, the Pennsylvania courts must abide by statutory guidelines when sentencing people convicted of DUI crimes. As such, sentences that exceed the maximum penalties under the guidelines may be deemed unlawful. The court can consider aggravating factors when issuing sentences, however, and in some cases, such factors could result in an increased penalty, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued in a Pennsylvania DUI matter. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a dedicated Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to determine your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI, which was his first offense. He pleaded guilty, and in exchange, the Commonwealth withdrew several other criminal charges and recommended a sentence in the low-end of the standard range. During the defendant’s colloquy, the court noted that the offense was graded as a first-degree misdemeanor, which was not typical for a first offense DUI, due to the fact that there was a minor in the car at the time of the defendant’s arrest.

Allegedly, the court further explained that the defendant could face up to five years imprisonment. The defendant confirmed that he understood and admitted to the elements of the crime, including the fact that a child under the age of two was in his car when he was arrested. The court sentenced the defendant to three years imprisonment. He went through numerous rounds of appeals, arguing in part that his sentence was illegal because it exceeded the maximum penalty for first-time offenses under the statutory guidelines. Continue reading

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Under Pennsylvania law, the penalties increase for each DUI crime a person is found guilty of committing. If a person charged with DUI accepts ARD, though, they may be able to successfully assert that a subsequent DUI crime should be charged as a first offense. This was demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania case in which the court rejected the Commonwealth’s arguments to the contrary. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is smart to confer with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your potential defenses.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2013, the defendant was charged with a DUI offense. He was accepted into the ARD program, which he completed in 2015. Then, in 2019, the defendant was charged with DUI second offense. He entered a guilty plea, but then the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a ruling stating that absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed a prior offense, prior acceptance of ARD could not be counted as a prior offense for purposes of DUI sentencing.

Allegedly, the defendant then filed a motion to quash the charge graded as a second offense. The trial issued an order directing the defendant to withdraw his guilty plea but stated if he declined to do so, he would be sentenced as a first-time offender. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to provide it the opportunity to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the subject charge was the defendant’s second DUI offense. Continue reading

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The law is not static but constantly changes and develops over time through the issuance of statutes or court rulings. In many cases, an intervening change in the law is grounds for overturning a prior conviction. For example, the United States Supreme Court’s relatively recent ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota changed the landscape of the prosecution of DUI matters in holding that a motorist cannot be considered to have consented to submit to a blood test due to the threat of criminal convictions. Not all post-conviction challenges that new rulings trigger will be granted, though and the denial of post-conviction relief will often be upheld, as demonstrated in a recent Pennsylvania DUI ruling. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a skillful Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer about your options.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant struck a bus and two other vehicles while driving in the afternoon. One of the vehicles was thrown into pedestrians, causing them to suffer injuries. Police investigating the incident noticed that while the defendant did not smell of alcohol, he was incoherent because his speech was so slow and slurred, and he had bloodshot eyes. As such, they arrested the defendant and transported him to the hospital, where he was advised of his rights and the consequences of refusing to submit to a blood draw.

Allegedly, he consented to the test, which revealed he was under the influence of multiple narcotics. He was charged with DUI and other crimes and found guilty. He subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing his attorney was ineffective in that he failed to successfully argue for the suppression of the blood draw evidence, especially given the recent ruling in Birchfield. The court denied his petition, and he appealed, arguing that the court erred in issuing a denial without holding an evidentiary hearing. Continue reading

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When the police stop people for suspicion of DUI, it is often due to erratic driving. Thus, it is not uncommon for a person charged with a DUI crime to face charges for other offenses, like careless driving. Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, a person must generally be tried for all crimes arising out of a single incident at one time, and if they are not, they may be able to get some of the charges against them dismissed. This was demonstrated recently in a Pennsylvania ruling in which the court ultimately dismissed DUI charges against a defendant, finding the Commonwealth was barred from prosecuting him under the compulsory joinder rule. If you are accused of a DUI crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer to determine your potential defenses.

The History of the Case

Reportedly, the police arrested the defendant during a traffic stop in Philadelphia and charged him with a misdemeanor DUI offense and a summary careless driving offense. The defendant pleaded guilty to the summary offense in January 2014, and in October 2014, proceeded to trial for the DUI charge. He was found guilty of DUI, after which he filed a motion for a trial de novo. He then moved to dismiss the charge pursuant to Pennsylvania’s compulsory joinder rule. The court denied his motion, and he appealed.

Compulsory Joinder in DUI Cases

On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because he was previously convicted for an offense that arose out of the same criminal episode as the DUI offense. The Commonwealth’s defense rested on the argument that the defendant waived his right to object to his DUI prosecution when he failed to assert the compulsory joinder defense at his initial DUI proceedings. Continue reading