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If you are stopped for suspicion of a DUI but do not submit to a blood or breath test, the state can nonetheless use circumstantial evidence to charge you with DUI. Typically, in absence of chemical testing, the most detrimental evidence against a DUI suspect is the results of a field sobriety test, which is usually relayed to the court and jury through the testimony of the officer that conducted the test. It is not necessary for the officer testifying regarding the results of the test to be certified as an expert or have actually administered the test, however.

This was recently illustrated in a case in which the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld a defendant’s DUI conviction, despite the fact that the officer who testified at trial regarding the results of the field sobriety test was not an expert and had merely observed the test from afar. If you are currently facing Pennsylvania DUI charges, it is prudent to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss what evidence the state may use against you and possible defenses to your charges.

The Defendant’s Accident and Subsequent Charges

Allegedly, the defendant drove through an intersection and struck another car, tearing off the front bumper. A police officer responded to the accident and noticed that the defendant’s speech was slurred and her eyes were red and glossy. The defendant admitted she had been driving and stated she took a muscle relaxant. The officer called for the acting sergeant to administer field sobriety tests. During the test, the defendant was unable to count her steps or maintain her balance, and could not properly blow into the breath test machine. She was then transported to a hospital where she refused to undergo a blood draw. She was subsequently charged with DUI general impairment. During the trial, the officer who originally responded to the accident testified as to the results of the field sobriety test. The defendant was convicted of DUI general impairment, after which she appealed.

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Under the Pennsylvania Implied Consent Law, a driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol but refuses to submit to chemical testing can suffer a suspension of his or her license. To suspend a license pursuant to the Implied Consent Law, the Department of Transportation must prove several elements, one of which is reasonable grounds for suspicion of DUI.

In Dillon v. Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Court recently analyzed what constitutes reasonable grounds as it pertains to the civil context of license suspension. If you were charged with a DUI, you should meet with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss the facts surrounding your arrest and how they affect your case.

The Defendant’s Traffic Stop

Allegedly, an officer observed the defendant swerving in the roadway and effected a traffic stop. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer noticed the defendant had difficulty identifying his license in a stack of cards and carried a strong odor of alcohol. Additionally, the defendant’s speech was slightly slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. The officer asked the defendant if he had been drinking and the defendant replied that he’d had a few drinks with dinner. The officer asked the defendant to submit to a breath test, but the defendant refused. The officer then transported the defendant to the police station.

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One of the protections afforded under both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions is the right against double jeopardy, which means an individual cannot be charged with or convicted of the same crime more than once. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled that three DUI convictions for a single incident constituted a violation of the State and Federal Double Jeopardy Clauses, regardless of the fact that penalties were not imposed for two of the convictions. If you face DUI charges, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to advocate on your behalf and assist you in retaining your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with three separate counts of DUI arising out of a single incident; one count of general impairment and two counts of driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than .08% but below .10%.  Following a bench trial, the defendant was convicted of all of the DUI counts. She was also found guilty of reckless driving. The court imposed a sentence of 30 days of intermediate punishment and six months’ probation for the first DUI count, but the defendant was not assessed any penalties for the remaining counts.

The defendant filed a post-trial motion arguing that because all of her convictions stemmed from a single incident, they violated the protection against Double Jeopardy afforded by both the Federal and State Constitutions. The trial court denied her motions, after which the defendant appealed.

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An act that was recently signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf amended the Motor Vehicle Code with regards to the penalties imposed for certain DUI violations. Specifically, the changes to the law, which went into effect on December 24, 2018, increase penalties for repeat offenders and for individuals who cause an accident resulting in death while driving under the influence of alcohol. The changes also modify the prior language regarding chemical testing to comply with the changes mandated by Birchfield v. North Dakota.  If you were charged with a DUI, you should consult a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney as soon as possible to discuss how the changes in the law may affect your case.

Grading of DUI offenses

Grading of DUI offenses is generally determined based on both the defendant’s blood alcohol level at the time of the alleged violation and whether the defendant has any prior DUI offenses. Prior offenses are not limited to convictions, but also include acceptance into an ARD program and juvenile adjudication. A prior offense will be considered for purposes of grading and sentencing if the judgment for the prior offense was entered within ten years of the current offense. Additionally, the charges a DUI defendant faces depends on the level of his or her impairment at the time of the offense. Impairment may be categorized as general impairment, high impairment, or highest impairment.

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The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle code prohibits drivers from operating, driving, or exercising physical control over a car if they have consumed an amount of alcohol that renders them incapable of doing so safely. Many people assume that if you do not drive a car while intoxicated you cannot be charged with or convicted of a DUI. This is not true, however, as illustrated in Commonwealth v. Winowitch, a recent case in which the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a DUI conviction where the defendant was not actually driving at the time of his arrest. The court here found that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to indicate he was exercising control over his car. If you were charged with a DUI, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to help you formulate a strong defense to the charges against you.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, the arresting officer observed the defendant slumped over asleep in the driver’s seat of his car in a parking lot. The car’s dashboard lights were on and the keys were in the ignition and turned to on, but the engine was off and the car was in park. The officer knocked on the car window until the defendant awoke. The officer then reached across the car to remove the keys from the ignition when the defendant removed the key and tossed it onto the passenger seat. The defendant then denied that that key was in the ignition.  The defendant submitted to a field sobriety test, which he failed. He was charged with a DUI and other offenses.

At trial, the defendant stipulated that two hours prior to when the officer approached him, he made a cash withdrawal from an ATM within a bar that was nearby his parked car. The defendant’s counsel argued that because his car was not on when the officer approached him, the defendant was not exercising physical control over the movement of the car and therefore could not be convicted of DUI. The court rejected this argument, and the defendant was convicted of DUI and the other charges against him. He subsequently appealed. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.

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Under Pennsylvania DUI law, there are sentencing guidelines that set forth standard sentencing ranges for any DUI conviction. If a judge imposes a sentence the defendant feels is unfair, the defendant can seek a discretionary review from a higher court. Recently, in Commonwealth v. Cordy, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania clarified that for a court to offer a defendant a review of a discretionary sentence, the defendant must show that there is a substantial question that the sentence is improper under the sentencing guidelines. If you were charged with a DUI you should consult a Pennsylvania DUI attorney as soon as possible to ensure you do not waive any rights.

Factual Scenario

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped for speeding. When the police officer approached the vehicle, two men exited the car through the passenger door. The men were instructed to return to the vehicle, which they did. The officer asked why the driver exited via the passenger door, to which the driver replied he did not have a license but was driving due to his friend’s request. When the officer asked the driver for identification, he could not produce any. The driver admitted to drinking and was administered a field sobriety test, which he failed. He was arrested and transported to the police station, where he was identified under a different name than he had given the arresting officer. It was then revealed that the defendant had two active warrants and an extensive criminal history.

Reportedly, the defendant pled guilty to DUI, general impairment, which was an ungraded misdemeanor, and habitual offenders, which was a second-degree misdemeanor. At the defendant’s sentencing hearing, the prosecutor advised the court of the defendant’s criminal history, which included over fourteen prior convictions. The court also heard testimony from the defendant regarding his history of drug addiction. The defendant was sentenced to incarceration of not less than nine months and not more than twenty-three months, and six months probation, which was within the standard sentencing range. The defendant appealed the discretionary portion of his sentence. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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Under Pennsylvania DUI law, you must knowingly and willingly consent to chemical testing for the results of the test to be admissible. If you can show that your consent to a blood test was invalid or coerced, you may be able to suppress the results of the test. Before the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Birchfield v. North Dakota, a Pennsylvania DUI suspect could face increased criminal penalties for failing to submit to a blood test. After that case decision, the state can no longer impose such penalties.

Recently, in Commonwealth  v. Vanderpool, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that submitting to a blood test due to a mistaken belief that a refusal to submit could result in increased criminal penalties is not sufficient to show that consent was invalid. If you are facing DUI charges and refused to submit to a breath, test you should confer with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney to analyze the circumstances surrounding your arrest and discuss your available defenses.

Factual Scenario

Reportedly, the police detained the defendant for suspicion of DUI. At the time of his arrest, the defendant had a suspended license due to a prior DUI conviction. The police transported the defendant to a nearby hospital where he was read the post-Birchfield revised warnings regarding refusal to submit to chemical testing and agreed to submit to a blood test. The test indicated a blood alcohol level of .115%, and the state subsequently charged the defendant with DUI, DUI related offenses, and careless driving. Before the trial, the defendant filed a motion to prohibit the state from admitting the results of his blood test into evidence, which the court denied. Following a trial, the defendant was convicted of all charges. The defendant appealed.

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Under Pennsylvania DUI law, refusing to submit to a breath test during a stop due to suspicion of DUI can result in a suspension of your license. In some cases, you may be able to come to an agreement with the arresting officer and prosecuting attorney that allows you to avoid a license suspension regardless of the fact that you refused to provide a breath sample. In Hudak  v. Commonwealth, however, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is not bound by a third party agreement and can impose a license suspension regardless of acceptance of the terms of a plea bargain agreement. If you are facing DUI charges and refused to submit to a breath test you should confer with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney to analyze the circumstances surrounding your arrest and discuss your available defenses.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, police stopped the suspect for driving an ATV on a public road without lights. The officer observed an odor of alcohol on the suspect’s breath, after which the suspect admitted to consuming seven beers in the previous hour. The suspect submitted to field sobriety tests, after which the suspect was arrested. Following his arrest, the suspect would not submit to a breath test. He was informed of the consequences for refusing testing pursuant to the Implied Consent Law but still refused to submit to the test.

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If you are convicted of a second DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you may face increased penalties. While in most cases it is clear what constitutes a second DUI offense, in some circumstances clarification is required as to whether a prior disposition of a DUI charge constitutes an offense. In Shaffer v. Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) for a Pennsylvania DUI charge constituted an offense for purposes of license suspension. If you are charged with a DUI and have previously been convicted of a DUI or accepted ARD for a DUI charge, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss the facts of your case and determine how to defend against the charges you face.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the suspect was charged with a DUI in February 2014, after which he was accepted into an ARD program. The suspect was then arrested for a second DUI in January 2015, prior to his completion of the ARD program. Due to his second arrest, the state filed a petition to terminate the suspect’s participation in the ARD program, which was granted. The suspect then pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of recklessly endangering another person for the 2014 DUI charge, and pleaded guilty to general impairment for the 2015 DUI charge. Reportedly, the suspect was subsequently notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that his license was suspended for one year for the 2015 DUI charge, due to the fact the DMV considered his acceptance of ARD a prior offense. The suspect appealed the suspension. On appeal, the Court of Common Pleas affirmed the suspension.

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Most people are aware that if you are stopped due to suspicion of a DUI, the police can request that you submit to a breath test. It is not common knowledge, however, that under Pennsylvania DUI law, you are required to provide two breath samples, and the refusal to provide a second sample can result in suspension of your license. In Flaherty v. Commonwealththe Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that police are not required to provide licensees with a form stating they are required to submit to a second test, and that verbally advising drivers of the requirement was sufficient.

Facts of the Case

The suspect in Flaherty was involved in a single car accident. According to the police, when an officer approached the suspect’s vehicle he noticed an odor of alcohol coming from her breath. She stumbled while exiting her vehicle but was not slurring her speech. The officer requested that the suspect submit to a breath test and was advised if she did not submit to a breath test, her license would be suspended for one year. The suspect was then transported to a second location for the breath test, where she was read Form DL-26A, which again warned if she refused to submit to the breath test her license would be suspended for at least one year. The suspect was then verbally advised she would have to provide two breath samples. The suspect stated she would submit to the test, and was directed how to take the test.