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Pennsylvania Court Evaluates the Legality of a DUI Sentence

The Pennsylvania legislature established sentencing guidelines but afforded the courts some discretion when issuing sentences. If a criminal defendant believes that a court abused its discretion, it can file an appeal. Recently, a Pennsylvania court issued an opinion discussing the factors weighed in determining whether a sentence is unjust in a case in which a defendant who pleaded guilty to DUI received a sentence of two to ten years imprisonment. If you are accused of a DUI offense, you could face significant penalties if convicted, and it is smart to meet with a  Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney about your rights.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the defendant was arrested for DUI after he crashed his tree into a pole. The defendant admitted to drinking alcohol prior to the crash but refused to submit to a blood test. A passenger who was riding in the vehicle sustained serious injuries. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes.

Allegedly, the defendant entered into a plea deal in which he agreed to plead guilty to DUI, aggravated assault while DUI, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle without financial responsibility in exchange for the Commonwealth withdrawing all other charges. The agreement did not contain any provisions regarding the defendant’s sentence. Following his guilty plea, he was sentenced to two to ten years in prison. He appealed, arguing his sentence was unjust.

Determining Whether a Sentence is Unjust

First, the appellate court noted that criminal defendants are not entitled to a review of the discretionary aspects of their sentence as a matter of right. Instead, they must comply with certain requirements, which he failed to do. Thus, the appellate court was precluded from addressing his claim.

The appellate court noted, though, that there was an issue regarding the legality of his sentence, and therefore it could address it sua sponte. The appellate court noted that two crimes only merge if all of the elements of the lesser included offense are within, the greater offense. In the subject case, the defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment for his DUI and aggravated DUI convictions; however, a single criminal act was the basis for both convictions, and the statutory elements of DUI, the lesser offense, were subsumed by the elements of the greater offense, aggravated assault with DUI.

As such, the two crimes merged, and the trial court imposed an illegal sentence for the DUI conviction. Accordingly, the appellate court vacated the illegal sentence.

Speak to a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

The sentences for DUI convictions vary and, in some cases, may be severe. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your potential defenses. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who can advise you of your option for seeking a just outcome, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.