Articles Posted in DUI Sentence

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It is common knowledge that a criminal defendant cannot be convicted more than once for the same crime. Thus, if a criminal defendant is convicted for multiple crimes arising out of the same act it may constitute double jeopardy in violation of the State and Federal Constitutions. Recently, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania analyzed the issue of whether a sentence for multiple DUI convictions for the same instance of driving while intoxicated violated the defendant’s rights. If you live in Pennsylvania and are charged with a DUI it is crucial to engage an assertive Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assist you in protecting your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including three counts of driving under the influence – general impairment. He pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced, in part, to six months of probation for the DUI charges. The defendant appealed, arguing that his sentence was illegal due to the fact that he was sentenced for three DUI convictions for one drunk driving incident, in contravention of Pennsylvania law.

Fifth Amendment Right Against Double Jeopardy

On appeal, the defendant argued that his three DUI convictions were almost identical, in that each charge alleged that he drove a vehicle after consuming a sufficient amount of alcohol to render him incapable of driving, operating, or controlling the vehicle safely. As such, he argued that his sentences for two of the convictions must be vacated because they violated the State and Federal Constitutions on double jeopardy grounds. Specifically, the defendant argued that his sentence must be vacated because he could not be subjected to multiple punishments for the same incident of driving under the influence.

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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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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, if you are convicted of a second DUI offense within a certain time period, you will likely face greater penalties than if you had no prior DUI convictions. Recent changes in section 3806(b), the provision of the code that determines what constitutes a second offense, modified how time is to be calculated between offenses. In Becker v. Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that it is clear the new provision was to be applied retroactively in DUI offenses committed after the amendment of the provision.

In Becker, defendant was charged with a DUI in December 2010 and convicted in October 2012. The provision of the code he was convicted of violating, section 3802(a)(1), prohibits an individual from driving after consuming alcohol to the point where he or she is incapable of driving safely. Defendant’s sentencing included a one-year suspension of his license, which he did not appeal. His license was suspended from December 11, 2012 until December 17, 2013. Defendant was charged with a second DUI for a violation of section 3802(a)(1) on November 6, 2011. He was convicted of his second DUI in August 2015 and his license was suspended under section 3806(b), which was amended in October 2014 to provide that any conviction within ten years of sentencing on a prior conviction constitutes a second offense. Defendant appealed his license suspension, arguing the prior version of section 3806(b), which stated a conviction within ten years of a prior violation constituted a second offense, should apply, as it was the provision in effect during both DUI violations. As defendant’s second violation occurred prior to his conviction for his first offense, he argued it did not constitute a second offense. The trial court denied defendant’s appeal, stating the new section 3806(b) applied. As defendant’s second conviction was after the date of the amendment of section 3806(b), the court found it the new section 3806(b) applied. Defendant then appealed to the Commonwealth court.

The issue on appeal was whether defendant fell within the exception to suspension, which provides that a defendant will not face a license suspension where they are convicted of an ungraded misdemeanor and have no prior offense. To fall under the exception, the defendant must be convicted of violating section 3802(a)(1), must be subject to penalties as set forth in section 3804(a), and must have no prior offenses. While the parties agreed defendant met the first two elements, they did not agree as to whether he had a prior offense. Defendant argued the trial court erred in retroactively applying the new section 3806(b) rather than applying the old section. The court disagreed, noting that new section 3806(b) clearly stated it applied to anyone sentenced after December 26, 2014. As defendant was not sentenced until August 2015, the new section 3806(b) was applicable.

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A defendant appealed from a Pennsylvania DUI sentence that was beyond the maximum range, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed.

In June 2015, the appellant was stopped for driving erratically. Police administered three field sobriety tests, which the appellant failed. The police also soon learned that the appellant’s license was suspended. The appellant was arrested and taken to the police station. There, an officer read the appellant PennDOT’s DL-26 form, which explains the potential aggravated penalties for failing to submit to a breath test. The appellant refused to take a breath test and signed the form.

In July 2015, the appellant was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license. In October 2016, he pleaded guilty to both charges, and the court deferred sentencing pending the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation report.

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A defendant appealed from a sentence entered in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, following the revocation of his probation. He argued the Pennsylvania Superior Court should vacate his sentence due to the revocation court’s abuse of discretion in fashioning it. The intermediate court disagreed.

On May 17, 2010, following a bench trial, the lower court convicted him of firearms offenses, theft, and receiving stolen property. The court sentenced the defendant to two to four years’ incarceration and up to six years of probation. While he was still serving his probationary term, he was convicted of DUI.

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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently remanded for re-sentencing an appellant’s DUI conviction because he was subjected to enhanced penalties provided by sections 3803 and 3804 for refusing to provide a blood sample, in contravention of the United States Supreme Court’s recent directive.

In the early morning of February 12, 2015, an officer witnessed a driver’s vehicle sideswipe a legally parked car. The officer initiated a traffic stop. When the driver rolled down the vehicle window, a strong odor of alcohol emanated from the vehicle. The officer and his colleague noticed that the driver had red, glassy eyes, and his speech was slurred.

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