Published on:

Under Pennsylvania and federal law, a police officer cannot detain a person without a warrant unless the officer has probable cause. This has been interpreted to mean that an officer cannot stop a vehicle unless the officer observes the driver of the vehicle committing a violation of the Vehicle code or another offense. If a vehicle stop is unconstitutional, any evidence found during the stop should be deemed inadmissible. While some violations clearly provide probable cause for making a vehicle stop, in other cases, it is less clear whether probable cause exists. Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania analyzed whether a police officer had probable cause to stop a vehicle for failing to use a turn signal, in a case where the stop resulted in a DUI charge.  If you are facing Pennsylvania DUI charges and you believe the police lacked probable cause to stop you it is in your best interest to speak with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney about your case.

Facts Regarding the Traffic Stop

Allegedly, the defendant was exiting a shopping center parking lot by turning onto a roadway. The defendant failed to use a turn signal prior to turning and was subsequently stopped by a police officer due to the failure to use a turn signal. When the officer was questioning the defendant, the officer reported that he noticed that the defendant was exhibiting signs of intoxication, including uncontrollable laughter, difficulty following instructions, slurred speech, and a strong odor of alcohol. The defendant underwent field sobriety testing, which he failed. He was ultimately charged with DUI-general impairment and DUI-highest rate of alcohol.

It is reported that prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle because a turn signal is not required when turning from a parking lot onto a roadway. The court granted the defendant’s motion, after which the Commonwealth appealed.
Continue reading

Published on:

In any Pennsylvania DUI case, the Commonwealth bears the burden of presenting a prima facie case at the preliminary hearing that the defendant committed the crime alleged. In other words, the Commonwealth must show evidence of each element of the crime for the case to proceed. If the Commonwealth is unable to meet this burden, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently analyzed what evidence the Commonwealth must produce to present a prima facie case of DUI general impairment, in a case in which the charges against the defendant were dismissed.  If you were recently charged with a Pennsylvania DUI despite a lack of direct evidence or you committed a crime, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your available defenses.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Subsequent Trial

Allegedly, in May 2016, the police observed the defendant driving with a suspended license at 3:00 am. She was allegedly driving 30 miles over the speed limit, failed to stop at red lights, and almost drove into a police vehicle. After she was stopped the arresting officer noticed that she had glassy, bloodshot, eyes and her speech was slurred. Additionally, the officer claimed that she smelled like alcohol and was unable to walk. She was subsequently arrested but refused to undergo chemical testing.

It is reported that the Commonwealth filed a criminal complaint against the defendant, alleging DUI – general impairment and driving with a suspended license. Further, the complaint alleged that the defendant refused chemical testing and that the Commonwealth would seek an enhanced sentence. A preliminary hearing was held, after which the court dismissed the refusal aspect of the DUI charge. The Commonwealth withdrew and refiled the charges with the refusal enhancement. A preliminary hearing was held, and the trial court found that the Commonwealth failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knowingly refused to submit to chemical testing, and therefore, the Commonwealth could not proceed with the enhanced sentence. The Commonwealth appealed.
Continue reading

Published on:

It is a widely known fact that a person who is accused of a crime, such as a DUI, is innocent until proven guilty. In Pennsylvania DUI cases, the rule of corpus delicti places the burden on the State of proving a crime has been committed before a defendant’s admission can be admitted into evidence against as proof of a commission of a crime.  Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania discussed corpus delicti in a DUI case in which it was disputed whether the State had introduced sufficient evidence to allow the defendant’s admission of driving while intoxicated to be admitted into evidence. If you were recently charged with a Pennsylvania DUI despite a lack of direct evidence or you committed a crime, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your available defenses.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Subsequent Trial

Reportedly, the defendant was asleep in the passenger seat of his truck when it rolled into the roadway. The defendant was alone in the truck and the keys were in the ignition. The defendant awoke when the police were knocking on the passenger window. The police noticed a strong odor of alcohol on the defendant and his slurred speech. Additionally, the defendant stated he was the driver of the vehicle and that he consumed alcohol. He was subsequently charged with DUI and careless driving.

It is reported that prior to the trial the defendant filed a motion to preclude evidence of his admission of drinking and driving, due to the State’s lack of evidence a crime was committed. The court denied his motion. The defendant was convicted on both counts, after which he appealed. On appeal, the defendant argued that under the rule of corpus delicti, the trial court erred in denying his motion because the State failed to show that it was more likely than not that a crime occurred. Further, he argued there was insufficient evidence to show he was guilty of DUI.

Continue reading

Published on:

The Birchfield ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which held that warrantless blood draws were unconstitutional, created a ripple effect in Pennsylvania DUI cases and DUI cases throughout the country. While the Birchfield decision immediately effected the warnings and chemical testing administered to Pennsylvania DUI suspects, it took longer for the Pennsylvania statute regarding criminal penalties for refusing to submit to chemical testing to be modified. Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed the issue of whether the delay in modifying the statute constituted grounds for a motion to suppress the results of chemical testing, ultimately ruling that it did not.  If you are facing Pennsylvania DUI charges it is important to retain a seasoned DUI defense attorney who can explain recent changes in DUI law and how those changes may affect the outcome of your case.

Circumstances Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Chemical Testing

It is alleged that the defendant was stopped for a traffic violation. Upon approaching the defendant’s vehicle, the officer who stopped the defendant observed an odor of alcohol and noticed that the defendant had slurred speech and glassy eyes. The officer administered a field sobriety test and preliminary breath test to the defendant, and then transported the defendant to a medical center for a blood draw. Prior to the blood draw, the defendant was read a warning, which was modified from its prior form to omit any language regarding increased criminal penalties for refusing to submit to a blood test. The defendant signed the form and submitted to the test.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with DUI – high rate of alcohol. Prior to his trial he filed a motion to suppress the results of his blood test, arguing that his consent was not voluntary because enhanced criminal penalties for refusing to submit to a blood test still existed at the time of his arrest and the police violated Pennsylvania law by refusing to warn him of those penalties. The defendant’s motion was denied, and he was convicted of the DUI charge, after which he appealed.

Continue reading

Published on:

Under the rights afforded by both the Pennsylvania and Federal constitution, the police cannot subject people to unreasonable searches. Pennsylvania recognizes different types of encounters between the police and citizens, including an investigatory search. As recently discussed in a case in which the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned a DUI conviction if the police conduct an investigatory search of a person without a reasonable justification of the search, any evidence obtained during the search should be suppressed. If you were charged with a Pennsylvania DUI following an investigatory stop, you should consult a skilled DUI defense attorney to discuss what evidence the State may be able to introduce against you.

The Defendant’s Search and Arrest

Reportedly, a police officer was doing a check of local businesses that were closed for the day, looking for suspicious activity. He observed an SUV enter the parking lot of one of the businesses and pull into a parking space. He pulled his patrol vehicle behind the SUV and activated the red and blue cruise lights. When he approached the vehicle, he observed an odor of alcohol on the defendant and detected that she seemed impaired. He called for backup, and when he looked up the defendant’s driver’s license information, learned her license had been suspended due to a DUI. The defendant failed her field sobriety test and underwent chemical testing.

The defendant was subsequently charged with DUI – general impairment, DUI – highest rate of alcohol, and driving while her license was suspended. Prior to the trial, she filed a motion to suppress any evidence that was obtained during the search on the grounds that the search was illegal. Her motion was denied and she was convicted on all counts, after which she appealed.

Continue reading

Published on:

In Pennsylvania law, there are several statutory provisions under which a person can be charged with DUI. While some of the DUI provisions require the Commonwealth to prove a defendant’s blood alcohol level at the time of his or her arrest, a person can be convicted for DUI general impairment based on subjective evidence. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently explained what constitutes sufficient evidence of DUI general impairment, in a case in which it affirmed the defendant’s conviction. If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI, you should speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as you can to discuss the facts of your case and possible defenses to your charges.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, a convenience store manager called the police after a patron whom she believed to be intoxicated got into a van and drove away. A police officer that was located nearby responded to the call within minutes. A traffic stop was initiated and the officer observed that the defendant had bloodshot, glassy eyes and an odor of alcohol. The defendant was swaying and unsteady on his feet and the officer believed he was intoxicated. The officer attempted to have the defendant perform field sobriety tests, but due to oncoming traffic, the tests could not be completed.

It is reported that the defendant was then placed under arrest. He consented to a blood draw which revealed a blood alcohol level of .156 and was positive for THC. The defendant was charged with DUI – general impairment, DUI high rate of alcohol and DUI controlled substances. Following a jury trial, he was convicted on all counts. He appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to prove DUI general impairment.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.