Articles Posted in Field Sobriety Testing

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A.A. (a minor) appealed her adjudication of delinquency on charges of DUI, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a traffic violation. On appeal, A.A. solely challenged the juvenile court’s denial of her motion to suppress evidence. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed.

By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In January 2015, Sergeant Still of the Halifax Area Regional Police Department was on a routine traffic patrol when he observed a sedan straddling the center yellow lines. He conducted a check on the registration and found that it was expired, and then he initiated a traffic stop.

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Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer : A sign warns motorists of a Regional Impaired Driving Enforecement team (RIDE) sobriety check point on Rt. 1 in Brunswick on Friday, August 16 2013.
As we move into the month of May and the days begin to get longer, more and more people will begin to enjoy the weather outside and spend much more time on the road. Law Enforcement agencies all over Pennsylvania will also begin to set up sobriety checkpoints to do what they can take intoxicated drivers off the road. For those that don’t know, a DUI checkpoint or roadblock is a specifically designated location on a roadway where police are looking for potential impaired drivers.

If you or someone you know is arrested for a DUI as part of a checkpoint it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. This is because there are procedures that must be followed with these checkpoints and if they are not that can have a impact on your case.  Many times I have a client come into my office for an initial consultation and they automatically assume they are guilty because they were caught in a checkpoint. A qualified,experienced, aggressive DUI attorney will look into this checkpoint to make sure that all procedures were followed.  Even if they were followed, that doesn’t mean that a person is automatically guilty of a DUI.  There are many ways to defend and attack a DUI which we will get into on other posts.

One of the most important procedures that must be followed is that police or law enforcement agency must make public the location of where the checkpoint will be set up. Unfortunately most people don’t go onto google prior to driving to see where these checkpoints will be. By the time that a person realizes there is a checkpoint ahead it is usually too late.  Some of the other requirements an experienced DUI attorney should look for whenever they have a client who has been arrested as a result of a DUI  checkpoint:

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DUI
Like many people in Pennsylvania, you find your self in a situation you never thought to be in.  You have just been arrested for a DUI.  You think to yourself “how could this happen to me” or “how will this affect my family”.  It is important to understand what your rights are when you are arrested and what your options are moving forward. The first thing that you need to understand is the criminal process in Pennsylvania, specifically when it comes to DUI.

After a person is arrested for a DUI, the first significant step after that is the preliminary hearing.  At the preliminary hearing the Commonwealth must show that there is enough evidence to hold this case over to the Court of Common Pleas.  Usually in a DUI case the blood or breath report is typically enough to achieve this goal since the standard at this level is VERY low. Many times rather then have a hearing an attorney may advise their client to just waive the charges to the next level.  One reason this may be is because in order to be admitted into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition https://www.pennsylvaniaduilawyers.com/a-r-d-accelerated-rehabilitative-disposition.html or “ARD” some counties require a person to waive their preliminary hearing. If an individual is NOT eligible for ARD  having a hearing so the affiant or police officer takes the witness stand and testifies to what ALLEGEDLY happened is a very good idea. After a hearing it is then up to a District Judge to make a determination as to whether there is enough evidence to hold the charges over to the next level.

The next phase after the preliminary hearing the case moves up to the Court of Common Pleas in each individual county.  For instance in Montgomery County that would be Norristown, in Delaware County it would be in Media, Chester County would be in West Chester, and Bucks County would be in Doylestown. If a person has applied for ARD and eventually accepted, an ARD hearing will be scheduled in which both client and attorney will have to appear in order to be admitted into the program.   If on the other hand a person is not going into ARD their case will be assigned an Assistant District Attorney as well as an assigned Judge.  At this point an individual arrested for DUI is entitled to ask for all the discovery or evidence that the Commonwealth has.  This is done through an attorney filing a request for discovery with the district attorney’s office.  Discovery can include reports, videos, physical evidence or really just about anything the Commonwealth has in their possession that they intend to use to prosecute at the time of trial.  A qualified DUI attorney will then file any appropriate motions to make sure their client is getting the absolute best result.  One of the most common motions to file is a Motion to Suppress if  for instance the police stopped a vehicle illegally.

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By Niagara (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsAn appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court claimed that a field sobriety test conducted on a snow-covered road, along with breath testing conducted without the 20-minute observation period required by Pennsylvania law, were insufficient to support a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI). The defendant/appellant in Commonwealth v. Favinger challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him and the legality of the traffic stop that led to his arrest. The Superior Court ultimately affirmed the verdict and sentence, but its opinion offers a useful overview of the different ways that prosecutors may establish that a defendant was impaired by alcohol in a DUI case.

A state trooper pulled the defendant over at about 3:20 a.m. on January 29, 2011. The trooper testified that the defendant continued to travel about half a mile after the trooper activated his emergency lights, finally stopping in a driveway. He claimed that he detected the odor of alcohol, and that the defendant’s eyes were “bloodshot and glassy.” The defendant agreed to field sobriety testing, which the trooper claimed he failed. Breath testing conducted after the defendant’s arrest showed blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.128 percent. The defendant was later convicted of DUI–general impairment and DUI–high rate of alcohol.

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bartgroe on stock.xchngDriving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, commonly known as “driving under the influence” or just “DUI,” is a serious offense under Pennsylvania law. Penalties can range from a loss of driving privileges to a lengthy prison sentence, depending on the circumstances. The law in Pennsylvania clearly defines the obligations of police and prosecutors in any case of alleged DUI, and it is critically important for anyone accused of DUI to know their rights. Among the many elements of the offense of DUI that the state must prove, it must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs.

What is “Impairment”?

Pennsylvania law defines “impairment” very broadly as a state in which a driver is “incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.” Police and prosecutors can gather evidence of impairment by testing a person’s blood or breath, or by observing a person’s behavior and testifying about it in court.

Blood alcohol content (BAC), the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream at a particular time, is considered by the legal system to be a reliable means of determining impairment. Pennsylvania law presumes that a person is impaired if their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher within two hours of driving. For anyone under the age of 21, or anyone driving a school bus, that amount is 0.02 percent. Commercial vehicle drivers are presumed to be impaired with a BAC of 0.04 percent. Continue reading