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Due to the Supreme Court of the United States’ Ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota the landscape of DUI law in Pennsylvania and throughout the country continues to change.  In other words, not only have many states modified laws that were deemed unconstitutional, but many convictions have been vacated as well. For example, in a recent case decided by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, a defendant’s pre-Birchfield DUI conviction was reversed, and his enhanced DUI  sentence was deemed illegal. If you live in Pennsylvania and have a previous DUI conviction or are charged with a DUI offense currently, it is in your best interest to retain a skillful Pennsylvania DUI attorney to aid you in striving to protect your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the defendant was convicted of multiple DUI offenses in 2015, including DUI – refusal of blood testing. He was sentenced to forty-two to eighty-four months imprisonment. He filed post-sentence motions, which were denied. He then appealed setting forth several arguments, including the assertion that the Birchfield ruling required the court to vacate his conviction and deem his enhanced sentence illegal.

Vacating Sentences Post-Birchfield

The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that the trial court made an error in allowing the prosecution to introduce the fact that the defendant refused to submit to a warrantless blood test as evidence of his guilt, noting that it was admissible at trial. The court ruled, however, that the defendant’s conviction for DUI – refusal of blood testing must be vacated. The court stated that at the time of the defendant’s arrest, the refusal to submit to a blood test was not an independent criminal offense. Instead, it was a fact that allowed the court to impose enhanced penalties for the violation of the DUI statute.

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In Pennsylvania, there are numerous DUI offenses a defendant may be charged with committing. For example, a defendant with a blood alcohol level of 0.15% or higher may be charged with driving under the influence – highest rate of alcohol. To prove a defendant is guilty of DUI – highest rate, the Commonwealth must not only prove the defendant’s blood-alcohol level but also that the defendant operated a vehicle within two hours prior to when the blood alcohol level was obtained. In a recent case in which the defendant was charged with DUI – highest rate, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania discussed what evidence is sufficient to establish that a defendant operated a vehicle within the required time period. If you live in Pennsylvania and are charged with DUI – highest rate, it is advisable to meet with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI attorney to assess what evidence the Commonwealth may use against you to establish your guilt.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the police responded to a call that was placed at 11:49 pm regarding a motor vehicle collision. When the police arrived at the scene, they observed the defendant in the back of an ambulance. She smelled like alcohol, had slurred speech, and was missing her shoes. She was transported to a hospital where her blood was drawn, revealing a blood alcohol level of 0.304%. The blood test was conducted at 1:40 am. The defendant was subsequently charged with DUI – highest rate of alcohol.

Reportedly, the defendant filed a motion to have the charge dismissed on the grounds that the Commonwealth could not establish a prima facie case, due to the lapse of time between when the accident occurred and when the defendant’s blood was drawn. The Commonwealth appealed, and the Superior Court reversed the trial court ruling. The defendant then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

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It is widely known that the Constitution grants criminal defendants rights against self-incrimination. In other words, a defendant cannot be compelled to make incriminating statements. In many instances, even if a defendant makes statements that would tend to indicate guilt, the statements may be precluded at trial, if the defendant was not properly advised of his or her rights prior to making the statements. The standard for determining when incriminating statements should be precluded were recently discussed in a DUI case in which the defendant was convicted, in part, based on statements he made prior to receiving a Miranda warning. If you are faced with DUI charges, and you made statements to the police during their investigation, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding what defenses you may be able to assert to avoid a conviction.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was questioned by a police officer after another driver reported that the defendant was allowing his minor daughter to drive and that the defendant was driving erratically. When the police officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, the defendant had a strong odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and was sluggish and uncooperative. The defendant told the officer he was driving and denied his daughter drove the vehicle. The officer then told the defendant that he knew the defendant had a suspended license but had been driving the vehicle regardless, after which the defendant changed his story and denied operating the vehicle. The defendant was arrested, and a blood test revealed his BAC to be .228%.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including DUI. He was convicted of all charges. The defendant then appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion to suppress the statements he made to the officer prior to receiving a Miranda warning.

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In most instances in which a person is charged with DUI, it is due to an accident or erratic driving observed by a police officer patrolling the town where the person was arrested. In some cases, however, an officer who receives information regarding an erratic driver may extend his or her investigation outside his or her jurisdiction in order to determine if a driver is in violation of the law. Recently, a Pennsylvania appellate court addressed the issue of whether evidence obtained during a stop effectuated due to observations made by a police officer outside his jurisdiction is admissible in a case in which the defendant was charged with DUI and other traffic offenses.  If you were charged with DUI following a traffic stop, you should meet with a diligent Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss the evidence that the state is permitted to introduce against you at trial.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

A police officer patrolling a borough received a dispatch from the county 911 that there was a pickup truck being driven erratically throughout the area. The officer responded to the call and observed a truck matching the 911 description parked in a pull-off area of a nearby street, which was outside the officer’s jurisdiction. When the officer approached the truck, it began to drive away. The officer then followed the truck to a nearby hospital. While he was following the truck, the officer noticed conduct that constituted sufficient cause to initiate a traffic stop within his jurisdiction.

The officer detained the defendant in the hospital parking lot, pending the arrival of a Pennsylvania State Trooper, who also received the call. When the trooper arrived, he noted that the defendant had a strong odor of alcohol and glassy and bloodshot eyes. Additionally, the defendant admitted to drinking all day. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license, reckless driving, DUI, and other traffic violations. The defendant was found guilty on several counts, after which he appealed.

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The Pennsylvania and Federal constitutions protect a person from being tried or convicted more than once for the same crime. Similarly, Pennsylvania law requires that all charges arising out of a single criminal episode must be joined and tried at the same time. Thus, if the Commonwealth violates the law and tries a defendant for only one of several crimes arising out of an incident, the remaining charges should be dismissed. In other words, if a defendant is charged with a DUI and other traffic violations, but the court holds a hearing on the traffic violation without considering the DUI charges, the DUI charges must be dismissed. The specifics of this rule of law were explained by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in a recent case in which the defendant moved to dismiss his DUI charges following a conviction for a traffic violation arising out of the same incident. If you are charged with a DUI, it is important to speak with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to assert.

Procedural Background

It is alleged that the defendant was arrested in August 2014 following a traffic stop and charged with driving with a suspended license and DUI offenses. He was also issued a citation for operating a vehicle without a license. The municipal court subsequently held a hearing on the traffic violation. The defendant was not present for the hearing and was found guilty in absentia. He then filed a motion to dismiss the remaining charges against him, arguing that allowing him to be tried on the DUI charges would violate both the Pennsylvania and Federal protections against double jeopardy and  Pennsylvania’s compulsory joinder law. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, after which he appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. Following an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the matter was remanded back to the Superior Court for a ruling in accordance with recent rulings.

Pennsylvania Law Requiring Compulsory Joinder

Under Pennsylvania law, if a person is charged with more than one offense arising out of the same conduct or criminal episode, a prosecution for one offense bars prosecution for the remaining offenses. Thus, all charges arising out of the same DUI arrest must be joined for purposes of trial. The court stated that a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed that all charges that arise out of a solitary criminal episode must be tried together. Thus, the court vacated the trial court’s order dismissing the defendant’s motion and ordered the remaining charges against the defendant to be dismissed.

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Under Pennsylvania law, if you are convicted of DUI have one or more prior DUI convictions, the law requires the courts to impose increased penalties. It is important to note, however, that only DUI convictions within the past ten years are considered when determining if a DUI defendant has prior convictions. Recently, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania clarified when the ten year period begins to run, in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for a second DUI offense.  If you are currently charged with your second DUI offense, it is sensible to confer with an assertive Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your potential defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested in June 2006 for a DUI. He was subsequently convicted in March 2007. He was stopped a second time in July 2016 after an officer observed him repeatedly traveling over the fog line while driving. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI, and a chemical blood test revealed his BAC to be 0.21%. He was then charged with DUI – highest rate of alcohol, which the Commonwealth deemed his second offense. He filed a motion to quash the information, arguing that the Commonwealth incorrectly deemed his charge as a second offense, due to the fact that his previous offense occurred more than ten years prior to his second arrest. The trial court rejected his argument, and the defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Calculating the Ten-Year Look-Back Period

The court noted that section (a) of the statute regarding prior offenses deemed a prior offense as a conviction, while section (b), which defined the timing of a prior offense, stated that the prior offense must have occurred within ten years of the date a defendant is sentenced for the second offense. The defendant argued that section (b) overrode section (a), and therefore the ten-year period begins to run on the date the prior offense was committed, not when the defendant was convicted for the prior offense.

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Although the seminal DUI case of Birchfield v. North Dakota was decided three years ago, courts continue to analyze its impact on DUI cases throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania. For example, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently addressed the issue of whether the Birchfield ruling should be applied retroactively to vacate sentences handed down prior to the ruling. If you are a resident of Pennsylvania currently charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to consult a diligent Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss your options.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentence

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI – general impairment in September 2015, which was his third DUI offense. The defendant entered an open guilty plea. He was subsequently sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 18 months to five years, which included a sentence enhancement due to his refusal to submit to a blood test to determine his BAC level. He did not file an appeal following his sentencing. In August 2016, however, following the Birchfield ruling, the defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his sentence was illegal. His petition was dismissed, after which he appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The Superior Court affirmed the lower court ruling, finding that Birchfield did not apply retroactively. The defendant then appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Birchfield’s Impact on Sentences Issued Due to a Failure to Submit to a Blood Test

Generally, a new rule of criminal procedure does not apply to convictions that were final at the time the rule was developed. New substantive rules may be applied retroactively, however, as well as rules that are deemed watershed rules of criminal procedure. In other words, these are rules that involve the essential fairness and correctness of criminal matters. In contrast to substantive rules, procedural rules are intended to improve the accuracy of a sentence or conviction by modifying the manner in which a defendant’s guilt is determined.

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DUI defendants have numerous rights under the state and federal constitutions, including the right to a speedy trial. As demonstrated in a recent case, if the Commonwealth fails to prosecute a case in a timely manner, it can result in a dismissal of all charges. If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, it is prudent to speak with a skillful Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged in January 2017 with DUI, driving with a suspended license and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. The defendant’s preliminary hearing was scheduled for February 2017, but it was continued and later waived. Numerous conferences were scheduled over the next several months, but they were largely continued or unattended by the defendant. A pre-trial conference was held on September 27, 2018, during which the defendant’s attorney made an oral motion arguing that the Commonwealth violated the defendant’s right to a prompt trial. A hearing was held in November 2018, after which the court dismissed the charges against the defendant. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing the charges.

Right to a Prompt Trial

Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a trial must commence within 365 days of when a criminal complaint is filed. It further states that any delays caused by the Commonwealth will be included in calculating the time during which the trial must commence, but any other delays will be excluded. Rule 600 protects the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Thus, in assessing whether a defendant’s right to a prompt trial has been violated, consideration must be granted to society’s right to an effective prosecution of criminal cases.

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Simply because a person is charged with a DUI does not mean that they will be found guilty. Rather, to obtain a conviction, the Commonwealth must not only prove the elements of the DUI crime a person is charged with, but it must also prove that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion a crime was being committed prior to detaining the defendant. What constitutes sufficient evidence of reasonable suspicion was recently discussed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in a case in which the defendant was convicted of four counts of DUI.   If you were recently charged with a Pennsylvania DUI offense, it is vital to retain a diligent Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assist you in formulating a compelling defense.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the arresting officer observed the defendant sitting in an idle vehicle with the motor running, but no lights on in the early hours of the morning. The vehicle was on a suburban street that recently experienced several break-ins. When the defendant observed the arresting officer’s car, the defendant moved his vehicle to the end of a nearby cul-de-sac. The officer ran a check on the defendant’s license plate, which was registered in another county. The officer then approached the defendant and questioned him regarding his reasons for being in that neighborhood at that time.

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with four counts of DUI. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when he stopped the defendant, and therefore the stop violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted on all counts, after which he appealed. On appeal, he argued that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him, and therefore the arrest was improper. The court rejected the defendant’s argument and affirmed his conviction.

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Under Pennsylvania law, there are numerous DUI crimes a person can be charged with, including DUI – combined influence of alcohol and drugs. In a recent case decided by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the court addressed what constitutes sufficient evidence to convict a person of DUI – combined influence. If you reside in Pennsylvania and are charged with a DUI crime it is important to meet with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss your charges and what evidence the Commonwealth may introduce against you at trial.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that at approximately 1:00 pm, while a police officer was conducting an investigation due to a report of erratic driving, he observed the defendant driving down the street. The defendant stopped her vehicle and advised the officer she wanted to speak with him, after which the officer directed the defendant to move her car to the side of the road. When the officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, he noticed a strong odor of alcohol. He asked the defendant to exit her vehicle. The defendant complied and admitted to consuming a beer at 9:30 am.

It is alleged that the officer then asked the defendant to submit to field sobriety testing. During the tests, she showed signs of impairment, but she passed two of the three tests she performed. The defendant then submitted to a blood test. Her BAC was 0.076% and her test results indicated the presence of Diazepam and Nordiazepam in her blood. She was subsequently charged with and convicted of DUI – combined influence. The defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence presented by the Commonwealth was insufficient to prove her impairment beyond a reasonable doubt.

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