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Court Discusses Second Offenses in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

Pennsylvania, like most states, increases the penalty imposed on people found guilty of DUI with each subsequent conviction. Until recently, DUI charges that were resolved via ARD did not count as prior offenses for the purposes of DUI crimes. As discussed in a recent Pennsylvania opinion, though, the law has since changed. If you are charged with driving while intoxicated, it is sensible to meet with a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer about what steps you can take to protect your interests.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was involved in a collision and subsequently arrested after failing field sobriety tests. Chemical testing revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.188%. The Commonwealth charged him with multiple offenses, including DUI-Highest Rate and Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP). He pled guilty to DUI-Highest Rate and REAP in exchange for the dismissal of other charges, with a recommendation for sentencing according to Pennsylvania guidelines.

It is reported that at the time of the plea, legal precedent prohibited the courts from considering a DUI resolved through ARD as a prior offense. However, by the time of sentencing, that precedent had been overruled. Consequently, on January 9, 2023, the court sentenced the defendant to the mandatory minimum of 90 days’ incarceration for DUI-Highest Rate, treating it as a second offense, and imposed a term for the REAP conviction. The defendant filed a post-sentence motion, claiming the court erred in its classification and sentencing. The trial court denied this motion, and the defendant appealed.

Second Offenses in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

On appeal, the court reviewed whether the sentencing court properly applied the law in treating the defendant’s current DUI as a second offense based on his prior ARD participation. The court noted that Pennsylvania law requires enhanced sentences for repeat DUI offenses, defining prior offenses to include ARD cases within the past ten years.

Although the defendant’s guilty plea occurred when the prior precedent, which did not recognize ARD as a prior offense, applied, the legal landscape changed before his sentencing. The defendant argued that his sentencing should adhere to the legal standards in place at the time of his plea, not sentencing. The court found no legal basis for this argument, though, asserting that the sentencing court correctly applied the prevailing law at the time of sentencing.

Regarding the defendant’s contention that he pled guilty to a first offense, the appellate court noted the lack of supporting evidence in the record and found the argument undeveloped and waived. Specifically, the court explained that the plea agreement did not specify whether it was for a first or second offense, and no plea hearing transcript corroborated the defendant’s claim. Consequently, the court concluded that the defendant’s arguments were insufficiently substantiated and affirmed the trial court’s decision to treat the DUI as a second offense, upholding the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with a Skilled Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

If you are faced with Pennsylvania DUI charges, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your possible defenses. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who can assess the circumstances surrounding your charges and advise you of your options for seeking a favorable outcome. You can contact him to set up a complimentary and confidential meeting by filling out the online form or calling (215) 542-0800.