Published on:

Pennsylvania DUI charges are like any other criminal charge, in that the Commonwealth is required to prove each element of the alleged crime to obtain a conviction. One of the elements that the Commonwealth must prove in DUI cases is that the defendant was in actual physical control of the vehicle. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently analyzed the issue of what constitutes physical control in a case in which the defendant appealed his DUI conviction due to the fact he was not driving when he was investigated by the police. If you are charged with a DUI but were not driving your vehicle when you were stopped it is essential to speak with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to set forth to avoid a conviction.

Factual Background

It is alleged that the police observed an SUV parked perpendicular to the roadway at 9:15 pm. The headlights were on and the SUV was running. The back wheels of the SUV were in a ditch. The defendant was standing very close to the SUV and had a key for the SUV in his pocket. There were no other people in proximity to the SUV. The defendant was restrained by the police and arrested and charged with DUI and operating a vehicle without a valid inspection. Following a bench trial, the court found that the defendant was highly intoxicated at the time of his arrest and convicted him of both charges. The defendant appealed.

What Constitutes Physical Control of a Vehicle

The issue on appeal was whether the mere fact that the defendant was intoxicated and in close proximity of the SUV was sufficient to show that he operated the SUV while intoxicated. The court noted that the evidence produced at trial does not have to preclude every possibility of innocence. Further, the court stated that the fact finder is free to believe, all, some, or none of the evidence presented.

Continue reading

Published on:

In many Pennsylvania DUI cases, the Commonwealth will rely on the results of a blood test to prove a defendant’s intoxication. Recent changes in the law require a police officer that is investigating a person for suspicion of DUI to obtain a warrant to compel the person to undergo a blood test. The police do not need a warrant, however, if a person voluntarily consents to submit to a blood test. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently discussed what constitutes valid consent, in a case in which it overturned the defendant’s DUI conviction for DUI highest rate of alcohol. If you are charged with DUI highest rate of alcohol or another DUI crime it is vital to engage a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to fight to preclude any evidence the Commonwealth should not be permitted to use against you.

Factual Background

Allegedly, a police officer stopped the defendant due to a broken headlight. The officer that stopped the defendant observed an odor of alcohol emanating from the defendant and noticed that his speech was slurred. As such, the officer asked the defendant to exit his vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. The defendant failed the tests and was placed under arrest. The officer then asked the defendant if he was willing to provide a blood sample for blood alcohol testing. The defendant replied, “yes.” The defendant did not ask any additional questions and was not advised that he would face additional penalties if he refused the test.

Reportedly, the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.232% and he was charged with DUI – highest rate of alcohol and DUI – general impairment. He filed a motion to suppress the result of his blood test on the grounds that his consent was invalid. The court denied his motion, and the defendant was convicted on both counts. He subsequently appealed.
Continue reading

Published on:

If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI, the Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged crime. In DUI cases where the police did not perform chemical testing, the Commonwealth will typically rely on circumstantial evidence to support its case. In a recent case decided by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence to support a conviction of driving under the influence-general impairment. If you are charged with DUI general impairment or any other DUI offense it is crucial to retain a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assist you in formulating a strong defense.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that a police officer conducted a traffic stop on the defendant, after observing the defendant drift between the fog line and solid yellow line of a road before turning into an exit of a fast food restaurant that was marked do not enter. Upon approaching the defendant’s vehicle, the officer observed an odor of alcohol coming from the defendant and noted that the defendant’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot. The officer then performed field sobriety testing on the defendant, during which the defendant allegedly exhibited signs of intoxication. Based on the foregoing, the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI general impairment. The case proceeded to a bench trial, after which the defendant was convicted. He subsequently appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the court’s guilty verdict and that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence.

Sufficiency of Evidence in a DUI Case

Under Pennsylvania law, when there is sufficient evidence to allow the fact finder to find that each element of a crime has been established beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant’s claim that there was insufficient evidence must fail. The evidence set forth at trial does not have the preclude the possibility of innocence to be sufficient and the trier of fact is free to believe some, all, or none of the evidence presented. In reviewing whether the evidence is sufficient on appeal, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the successful party and cannot re-evaluate the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the fact finder.

Continue reading

Published on:

The landmark case of Birchfield v. North Dakota was decided by the Supreme Court three years ago but continues to affect the status of Pennsylvania DUI law and the prosecution of DUI cases all over the country. For example, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently addressed the issue of whether a blood test consent form that stated that a defendant’s refusal to submit to a blood test could be used as evidence in subsequent proceedings violated the Birchfield holding. If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania and you believed your consent was not properly obtained prior to blood test, it is essential to retain an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

Fact Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was stopped at approximately 10:00 am after he passed by police officers at a high rate of speed. The defendant refused to provide the officers with this license and registration, and his eyes were reportedly dilated and bloodshot. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI and transported to the police station for a blood draw. The defendant was read the required warnings, which he signed, and submitted to a blood test. Prior to the trial, he filed a motion asking the court to suppress the results of his blood test, alleging the consent obtained was invalid because the consent form stated that a refusal to submit to testing could be used in subsequent legal proceedings. The court granted the defendant’s motion and the Commonwealth appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed and remanded.

Post-Birchfield Consent to Chemical Testing

Under Pennsylvania law, a defendant’s consent to a search and seizure is only valid when it is knowingly and validly given. The Birchfield holding explained that in the context of a DUI, a driver cannot be deemed to have consented to a blood test when the consent is based on the threat of criminal penalties for refusal. It is important to note, however, the Birchfield ruling only prohibited the imposition of criminal penalties for refusing to consent to a blood test; it did not affect the right to impose civil penalties.
Continue reading

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