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Demonstrating a Pennsylvania DUI Sentence Constitutes an Abuse of Discretion

A conviction for a DUI crime does more than just show up on your driving record; it is a criminal conviction that can result in a lengthy prison sentence. While the Pennsylvania courts have some degree of discretion in determining what constitutes an appropriate sentence in a DUI case, the sentences they issue must be reasonable; if they are not, they may be appealable. Recently, a Pennsylvania court issued a ruling discussing what constitutes a reasonable sentence in a DUI case, in a matter in which it ultimately rejected the defendant’s request to vacate his sentence. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is prudent to talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney about what measures you can take to protect your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI crimes on three separate occasions within the span of 13 months. He pleaded guilty in all three cases and was sentenced to an aggregate term of 69 months and 270 days to 192 months and 270 days, which included consecutive 90 day sentences for driving while his license was suspended. He filed a motion to reconsider, which was denied. He then appealed.

Demonstrating a DUI Sentence Constitutes an Abuse of Discretion

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion in issuing such a lengthy sentence. Before addressing the defendant’s specific challenges to his sentences, the court examined whether his sentences were lawful, noting that it had the authority to address illegal sentences on its own accord.

In evaluating the legality of a sentence, a court’s scope of review is plenary and its standard of review is de novo. In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license and was sentenced to 90 days in prison and ordered to pay a $1000 fine for each offense. Recent case law held that the driving with a suspended license statute, as drafted, was unconstitutionally vague because it did not specify a maximum prison term.

Based on the foregoing, the court held that the defendant’s sentences for driving with a suspended license were improper and vacated his sentences as to those offenses. As the trial court imposed consecutive sentences, this disrupted the overall sentencing scheme. Thus, the matter was remanded to the trial court for resentencing in a manner consistent with the court’s opinion.

Meet with a Seasoned Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

Convictions for DUI offenses can carry significant penalties, especially if it is a defendant’s second or subsequent crime. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who can inform you of your options and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Cooper through the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.