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Pennsylvania Court Reverses DUI Conviction Due to Violation of Defendant’s Right to Counsel

Under Pennsylvania law, anyone charged with a DUI has the right to be defended by competent counsel. While criminal defendants can waive the right to counsel, the waiver must be made after they are properly apprised of their rights. Otherwise, it may be invalid. What constitutes a valid waiver was discussed by a Pennsylvania court in a recent ruling in which a DUI defendant’s sentence was vacated due to the fact that he was not represented by an attorney during part of the proceedings. If you live in Pennsylvania and are charged with a DUI offense, it is advisable to speak to a dedicated Pennsylvania DUI attorney to discuss your rights.

The Alleged Offense and Subsequent Hearings

It is reported that the defendant was stopped by police due to suspicion of DUI. Following the stop, he was placed under arrest and transported to a hospital to undergo a blood test. He was charged with DUI highest rate of alcohol and DUI general impairment. The defendant, who was not represented by an attorney, filed a motion prior to trial in which he argued that the statements he made to police during the investigation and the results of his blood test should be suppressed. The court held a hearing on the matter but ultimately dismissed the defendant’s motion.

Allegedly, after the court dismissed the defendant’s motion, the defendant signed a waiver of counsel form. The form stated that the court conducted a colloquy with the defendant and determined that he had made an intelligent, knowing, and voluntary waiver of the right to be represented by an attorney. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced, after which he appealed, arguing the court erred in denying his motion to suppress.

Waiver of the Right to Counsel Under Pennsylvania Law

On appeal, prior to addressing the defendant’s arguments, the court assessed whether the defendant properly waived his right to an attorney. The court explained that the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides criminal defendants with the right to be represented by counsel. The right to be represented by counsel extends not only to trial but also to summary proceedings, sentencings, and plea hearings. In other words, it covers every critical stage of a criminal matter.

A proper waiver of the right to counsel cannot be found where there is no evidence of record indicating a waiver. Instead, if a defendant wishes to waive the right to an attorney after a preliminary hearing, the judge must determine, on the record, whether the waiver is intelligent and knowing. In the subject case, there was no evidence that the defendant knowingly waived his right to counsel prior to the suppression hearing, which was a critical stage of proceedings. Thus, his conviction was reversed.

Meet with a Seasoned DUI Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania

If you were convicted of a Pennsylvania DUI crime and were not represented by a lawyer during your proceedings, it is wise to consult an attorney to determine what post-conviction relief may be available. Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who can analyze the circumstances surrounding your arrest and conviction and advise you of the best manner to proceed in pursuit of a favorable outcome. You can reach Mr. Cooper via the online form or at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a conference.