Articles Posted in DUI Information

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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.
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A driver appealed his March 2016 DUI conviction from the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. Specifically, he contested the court’s denial of his motion to suppress the results of his blood alcohol content (“BAC”) test, and he challenged the constitutionality of section 1543(b)(2) of Pennsylvania’s vehicle code. The Pennsylvania Superior Court disagreed and affirmed the driver’s convictions.

A state trooper was responding to the reported theft of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) when he was notified that the complainant had stopped the alleged thief on a nearby road. When the trooper arrived, the driver was standing next to an ATV in the roadway. The complainant was in a truck parked behind the driver’s ATV, and two other state troopers were also present.

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In 2015, roughly 5,500 Breathalyzer-enabled interlock devises were installed in Pennsylvania. The devices require drivers to blow clean into a Breathalyzer to start their vehicles. Last month, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 290, which amends Title 75 to significantly expand the use of ignition interlock devices for DUI defendants. The bill, whose primary sponsor was Senator John Rafferty (R), will take effect in 2017.Breathalyzer-enabled ignition interlock devices prevent motorists from driving while intoxicated. Currently, first-time DUI defendants face a one-year license suspension upon conviction, and ignition interlocks only apply to repeat DUI offenders (drivers with more than one offense in 10 years). Under the new law, first-time DUI offenders with BAC levels of .10 to .15 percent could avoid the current one-year driver’s license suspension by instead seeking an ignition interlock license. The new law renders the devices available to first-time DUI offenders with the requisite BAC.

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Clair Fink was charged with DUI, third-degree murder, and related offenses in May of last year. Driving drunk the wrong direction on Route 30 last spring, Fink head-on collided with a vehicle driven by Ligonier police Lieutenant Eric Eslary, killing him.

According to police records, Fink and a co-worker had been drinking for hours in their car before driving the wrong direction on Route 30 at around 2 a.m. He and his coworker at  Westmoreland Pool Company were cresting a hill in their van when it crashed into Lieutenant Eslary’s SUV. Lieutenant Eslary was patrolling near Idlewild Park that night.

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently reversed and remanded a defendant’s DUI convictions in light of the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Missouri v. McNeely.

In December 2012, Philadelphia Police Officer Amina Oliver observed defendant Stacey Lane’s vehicle blocking a lane on Loudon Street. Lane exited his car and shouted:  “Stacey Lane got love for Logan.” (Logan is the name of the neighborhood where the incident occurred.) Lane continued to scream at passing cars. Officer Oliver noticed that Lane had dilated pupils, and his body and car smelled strongly of PCP. Oliver called for a police car to take Lane to the hospital.

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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently quashed Zebrick Hyreshie Jones’s appeal from his DUI judgement as untimely.

In April 2014, Trooper Allar arrived beside a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of I-81. Trooper Allar observed damage to the hood and passenger side of the vehicle and a broken front-passenger window. The appellant was in the process of changing the left rear tire, while his girlfriend remained in the passenger seat. Trooper Allar inquired Jones as to the cause of the accident, to which he replied:  “I slipped and hit a tractor trailer.”

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Many people from around the United States are traveling to Brazil to cheer on Team USA in the Olympics which starts in 3 days.  To many just attending an olympic games is a bucket list item which can be exhilarating and something that won’t be forgotten. Anytime an individual leaves the United States it is important to understand the laws of the foreign country they are traveling to. The last thing you want is to find yourself, a family member or friend in serious trouble on foreign soil. Many people who are traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics will surely be partaking in consuming alcoholic beverages while enjoying the pageantry, competition and breathtaking views of Brazil.  For those people who are thinking of driving, be very careful.  Brazil has one of the strictest DUI laws in the world.

In the United States, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a 0.08%.  In fact many people I represent tell me “they only had a beer or two and felt fine to drive”.  This is NOT the case in Brazil. “Lei Seca” is the Brazilian law that absolutely prohibits anyone from driving in their country with ANY alcohol in their system. So to put this in another way, the legal limit in Brazil is 0.0%. From what I have read this law is strictly enforced within and around Rio de Janerio where the Olympics are being help. Authorities will be out in full force to make sure things run smoothly and this will include that individuals are following the laws including “Lei Seca”.

If an individual is stopped and arrested for a DUI in Rio, they could also be facing very harsh penalties including possible jail time. Ignorance of the laws of Brazil will certainly NOT be a defense just as it is not a defense in the United States. Brazil has a great public transportation system, including the metro, buses, trains and taxis. In addition most people don’t realize that UBER can be used in other places around the world including at the olympics in RIO.  So make sure before leaving for the Olympics to put the UBER app on your smartphone so they are just a click away.

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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed an appellant’s conviction of DUI and related charges, holding his arrest based on an informant’s tip was supported by reasonable suspicion, and his conviction was supported by the weight of the evidence.

John Vincent Kennedy was convicted following a bench trial of DUI, general impairment, careless driving, and restriction on alcoholic beverages, among other charges. He was sentenced on June 5, 2015 in Dauphin County. Kennedy filed a post-sentence motion, arguing that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, which the trial court denied. Kennedy appealed.

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Nottingham resident Thomas Candler Felts will serve 30 days to six months for giving beer to Amish teens and then slamming their horse-drawn buggy with his car. The 25-year-old Felts was sentenced this month in Lancaster County Court after pleading guilty to misdemeanor counts of furnishing alcohol to minors and DUI. At the time of the March hearing, Felts had no prior record. His prison sentence is scheduled to be followed with a year in probation.

Prosecutor Travis Anderson stated at the sentencing hearing that Felts’ case was among the most “bizarre” DUI cases he’d ever seen.

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently held that a trial court’s reference to defense counsel’s status as a public defender before the jury in a DUI case was not grounds for a mistrial.

One afternoon in May 2014, Pennsylvania state trooper Michael Perillo was dispatched to Interstate 76-West due to reports of erratic driving. Appellant James Melnick reportedly drove his blue Volvo past other drivers, struck the center concrete barrier, and continued driving. Melnick continued driving recklessly. He nearly struck two vehicles and crossed rumble strips. As he proceeded onto State Route 422 West, Melnick almost struck the guardrail. Once on the road, he drifted out of his lane and struck another vehicle driven by Derek Beeks, who had his four-year-old granddaughter as a passenger.

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