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A driver appealed from a judgment of sentence imposed after the trial court’s denial of his petition for a writ of certiorari challenging his conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol and a combination of drugs. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the appellant’s Pennsylvania DUI conviction.

In December 2013, officers arrested the appellant and subsequently charged him with DUI, as well as summary traffic offenses, including driving with a suspended license and disregarding a steady red light. On March 7, 2014, the appellant was found guilty of both summary offenses in traffic court; the DUI charge was not adjudicated on that date. On March 10, 2014, the appellant filed a summary appeal of the driving with a suspended license charge.

In May 2014, the appellant moved to dismiss the DUI charge in municipal court, arguing that the Commonwealth was barred from prosecuting him under the compulsory joinder provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 110(1)(ii) because he was previously prosecuted for and convicted of two traffic violations in the traffic division. The judge denied the appellant’s motion. The appellant additionally argued a motion to suppress any statements made and the blood test results under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article One, Section Eight of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The judge denied the appellant’s motion to suppress and subsequently found the appellant guilty solely of DUI, combination of drugs. Later that month, the appellant’s summary appeal of driving with a suspended license was granted, and the charge was withdrawn by the Commonwealth.

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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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A recent decision  by the United States Supreme Court will have a major impact on DUI cases across the Country including Pennsylvania.  Until now a police officer was not required to obtain a search warrant for a driver’s blood if they suspected impairment. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in BIRCHFIELD v. NORTH DAKOTA changed all this. The Court held that “The Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving but not warrantless blood tests”.  The Court went onto say that breath tests do not implicate significant privacy concerns unlike blood tests which require the piercing of the skin and extract a part of the subject’s body.

In Pennsylvania this will have an significant impact on how DUI cases are prosecuted. District Attorney’s Offices in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware Counties are deciding what they will do with cases presently in the system that are affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Prosecution of cases in which a breath test was involved should have no impact since again the Court ruled that a search warrant is not required for a breath test.  On the other hand if an individual has been charged with a DUI and submitted to a blood test BIRCHFIELD will have an impact on the outcome.


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Under current Pennsylvania DUI laws if a person is convicted of a first offense DUI they are not mandated to install an ignition interlock in their vehicle. This is the case no matter what an individuals blood alcohol level is. An ignition interlock however is required to be installed in a vehicle for all repeat DUI offenders. The Pennsylvania ignition interlock law was first enacted to reduce repeat driving under the influences offenses and to improve highway safety. It appears this all could change thanks to Senate Bill 290.

An ignition interlock device is basically a breathalyzer that is hooked up to an individuals vehicle. A driver would be required to blow into a mouthpiece attached to this device before their car will start. The purpose of this device is to keep an intoxicated driver from being able to start their car. In addition to starting the vehicle, the device will also prompt the driver to blow into the device periodically when prompted to do so.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives this past Monday voted 193-2 to require the use of an ignition interlock device for most drivers convicted of a first offense DUI. Just yesterday the bill was unanimously passed by the Senate and now it is expected Governor Tom Wolf will sign into law however the new provisions would not take effect for close to 15 months. Under this bill, an individual with a first time DUI conviction with a blood alcohol level of .10 % and greater would be able to avoid the one year license suspension (currently the law) by installing an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for one year. As it stands right now an individual can apply for an occupational limited license but they have to first serve 60 days of their suspension. This new law would allow a person to drive for employment, school, doctors office or even just to do daily errands. However if this bill is eventually signed into law it would not extend to commercial drivers, persons who are involved in a DUI related accidents where someone dies or people accepted into the diversionary program ARD. Many states around the country already have similar laws on the books for first time DUI offenders.

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Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is no doubt very dangerous. Having spent a large part of my professional career defending individuals accused of DUI I have seen many lives destroyed by the decisions that some chose to make. I’m here to tell you that over the last few years texting and driving has become more dangerous then DUI. Yes you heard me correctly, texting and driving is more dangerous then DUI. Continue reading

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As a huge sports fan I am fascinated and surprised when I read about prominent athletes being arrested for Driving Under the Influence.  Most people including myself feel that athletes are supposed to be role models for the youth and give them someone to look up to. After all what young boy doesn’t dream of one day playing in the NBA, NFL or MLB.  To many kids these athletes can do no wrong and literally walk on water.  They make millions of dollars, drive fancy cars and most have gorgeous supermodel girlfriends or wives.  Unfortunately all you have to do is read the papers to see that athletes are making the news to often for the wrong reasons including being arrested for DUI.

  • Just today St. Louis Rams safety T.J. McDonald was arrested for DUI in Los Angeles. Although all the facts are not out yet it appears that he was under the influence of something other then alcohol from initial reports.
  • Last November former Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Donavan McNabb was sentenced to 18 days in jail for being arrested in Arizona on June 28, 2015.  It was reported that his blood alcohol level at the time he was driving was a .17%
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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 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.