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Court Discusses Calculating the Ten-Year Look-Back Period for Prior Pennsylvania DUI Offenses

Under Pennsylvania law, if you are convicted of DUI have one or more prior DUI convictions, the law requires the courts to impose increased penalties. It is important to note, however, that only DUI convictions within the past ten years are considered when determining if a DUI defendant has prior convictions. Recently, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania clarified when the ten year period begins to run, in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for a second DUI offense.  If you are currently charged with your second DUI offense, it is sensible to confer with an assertive Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your potential defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested in June 2006 for a DUI. He was subsequently convicted in March 2007. He was stopped a second time in July 2016 after an officer observed him repeatedly traveling over the fog line while driving. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI, and a chemical blood test revealed his BAC to be 0.21%. He was then charged with DUI – highest rate of alcohol, which the Commonwealth deemed his second offense. He filed a motion to quash the information, arguing that the Commonwealth incorrectly deemed his charge as a second offense, due to the fact that his previous offense occurred more than ten years prior to his second arrest. The trial court rejected his argument, and the defendant was convicted, after which he appealed.

Calculating the Ten-Year Look-Back Period

The court noted that section (a) of the statute regarding prior offenses deemed a prior offense as a conviction, while section (b), which defined the timing of a prior offense, stated that the prior offense must have occurred within ten years of the date a defendant is sentenced for the second offense. The defendant argued that section (b) overrode section (a), and therefore the ten-year period begins to run on the date the prior offense was committed, not when the defendant was convicted for the prior offense.

The court disagreed, however, finding that the statute was unambiguous and clearly stated that the ten-year period ran from the date of the current offense back to the conviction for the prior offense. Specifically, the court stated that section (b) must apply the definition set forth in section (a) when calculating the date of the prior offense. In other words, the ten-year period would run from the date of the prior conviction, which is what constituted a prior offense. Further, the court noted that the defendant’s interpretation would have absurd results when interpreting the rest of the statute.   As such, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Consult a Proficient DUI Defense Attorney

If you are faced with a charge of a DUI offense, it is advisable to consult a proficient attorney to discuss how the look-back period may affect your case.  Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a diligent attorney who will aggressively advocate in your defense to help you seek the most favorable outcome available under the facts of your case. Mr. Cooper can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 or through the form online to set up a confidential and free consultation.