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Pennsylvania Appeals Court Affirms Enhanced DUI Sentence

A defendant appealed from a Pennsylvania DUI sentence that was beyond the maximum range, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed.

In June 2015, the appellant was stopped for driving erratically. Police administered three field sobriety tests, which the appellant failed. The police also soon learned that the appellant’s license was suspended. The appellant was arrested and taken to the police station. There, an officer read the appellant PennDOT’s DL-26 form, which explains the potential aggravated penalties for failing to submit to a breath test. The appellant refused to take a breath test and signed the form.

In July 2015, the appellant was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license. In October 2016, he pleaded guilty to both charges, and the court deferred sentencing pending the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation report.

In January of this year, the court sentenced the appellant to 90 days’ imprisonment for the driving with a suspended license conviction, as well as a consecutive term of 2-5 years for the DUI conviction. The appellant’s sentence for the DUI conviction was above the aggravated range of the sentencing guidelines. The court explained it had considered the following factors when it imposed the enhanced sentence:  (1) the appellant’s maturity; (2) his education; (3) his work history; (4) his criminal history; (5) the sentencing guidelines; (6) his character; and (7) statements made by counsel and the appellant.

The appellant asked the appeals court to consider whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him seven months beyond the sentencing guidelines, when it incorrectly stated that it was imposing an aggravated range sentence, failed to consider his rehabilitative needs, and failed to consider an alternative sentencing program.

Sentencing is a matter vested in the sound discretion of the sentencing judge, and a sentence will not be disturbed on appeal absent a manifest abuse of discretion. When a defendant argues that the trial court imposed an unreasonable and excessive sentence outside the guidelines, without providing an adequate explanation, his argument must raise a substantial question that the sentence is inconsistent with a particular provision of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Code or is contrary to the fundamental norms underlying the sentencing process. If a court chooses to sentence a defendant outside the sentencing guidelines, it should state on the record adequate reasons for the deviation.

In upholding the sentence, the appeals court reasoned the trial court adequately explained its reasoning for the sentence. The lower court specifically noted that the appellant was 48 years old, suggesting the maturity to understand the gravity of his behavior. He had his GED and was able to read and write. He had a significant work history, which indicated he could follow rules. He also had a lengthy criminal record, including six prior arrests for DUI. He also had prior convictions for disorderly conduct, simple assault, furnishing intoxicants to minors, and reckless endangerment. And the appellant violated the terms of his supervision 12 times. These circumstances demonstrated that the court did not sentence the appellant to an excessive or unreasonable sentence. As a result, the judgment of sentence was affirmed.

Hiring the right attorney can make all of the difference in the world, even if your case seems straightforward or you have no criminal record.  If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, make sure you have a capable attorney on your side. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Zachary B. Cooper will be aggressive and can fight to make sure that your rights are protected so that your family and you can move on with your lives. Call (215) 542-0800 for a free consultation to discuss the legal options that may be available to you.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Superior Court Denies DUI Defendant Post-Conviction Relief, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017

Pennsylvania Superior Court Denies DUI Defendant Post-Conviction Relief, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, September 15, 2017.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania Upholds DUI Defendant’s License Suspension, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, September 1, 2017.