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Pennsylvania Court Holds Three DUI Convictions for One Incident Violates the Double Jeopardy Clause

One of the protections afforded under both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions is the right against double jeopardy, which means an individual cannot be charged with or convicted of the same crime more than once. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently ruled that three DUI convictions for a single incident constituted a violation of the State and Federal Double Jeopardy Clauses, regardless of the fact that penalties were not imposed for two of the convictions. If you face DUI charges, you should consult an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to advocate on your behalf and assist you in retaining your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with three separate counts of DUI arising out of a single incident; one count of general impairment and two counts of driving with a blood-alcohol level greater than .08% but below .10%.  Following a bench trial, the defendant was convicted of all of the DUI counts. She was also found guilty of reckless driving. The court imposed a sentence of 30 days of intermediate punishment and six months’ probation for the first DUI count, but the defendant was not assessed any penalties for the remaining counts.

The defendant filed a post-trial motion arguing that because all of her convictions stemmed from a single incident, they violated the protection against Double Jeopardy afforded by both the Federal and State Constitutions. The trial court denied her motions, after which the defendant appealed.

Protections Against Double Jeopardy

On appeal, the court found that three separate convictions for a solitary criminal act that violated one criminal statute was in contravention of the Double Jeopardy Clause. The trial court argued that because the defendant did not face any additional penalties for her second and third DUI counts, the convictions did not violate the defendant’s rights against double jeopardy. The court disagreed, stating that convictions with no penalty imposed should nonetheless be considered a sentence. The court went on to say that such convictions have substantial future consequences, such as increasing a prior record score or prior DUI offense history. Additionally, they can impede a defendant’s ability to get his or her driving privileges reinstated. Based on the foregoing, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction and sentencing as to counts one and two, and upheld her conviction for count three, but remanded the case for resentencing as to count three.

Consult a Skilled Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

The state cannot charge you for a crime more than once and it is important to know your rights to avoid unjust treatment. If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, you should consult a skilled Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss which plan of action you should take based on the facts of your case. Zachary B. Cooper is an attorney experienced in defending individuals charged with DUI and he will aggressively advocate on your behalf. He can be contacted at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Vacates Sentence Due to Sentencing Court’s Failure to Provide Assessment of Alcohol Dependency, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, May 15, 2018

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

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Finds No Error in Admitting Defendant’s Prior DUI Conviction into Evidence,  Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, May 3, 2016