Felony DUI Charges in Pennsylvania
Facing a Felony DUI in West Chester Pennsylvania
A recent change in Pennsylvania law made multiple convictions for driving under the influence in the state a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. Pennsylvania was one of only four states in the country which did not consider multiple DUIs felonies. Now, an individual in the state who is on his or her third DUI conviction, with a BAC of 0.16 percent or higher, is subject to felony charges. A fourth DUI conviction in the state—no matter the BAC level or substance involved—will also be considered a felony. The idea behind the new law is to deter repeat DUI offenders by increasing jail time and fines with each repeated conviction.
If you are facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania, we can help. Our team of attorneys have the experience, passion, and consideration to protect your future and your freedom during this difficult legal process. Contact us today at (610) 692-8700, (717) 291-9400 or (877) 529-2422. Our Chester County office is located at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and our Lancaster Office is located at 313 West Liberty Place, Lancaster PA 17603.
DUI in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving (a group of parents who have lost children to DUI incidents) pushed hard for the bill to pass. The Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving’s website states that approximately 140,000 residents of the state have a suspended license due to a DUI—and as many as 75 percent of those will continue driving illegally. The group’s data further determined that repeat offenders are responsible for almost 40 percent of all DUI fatalities. A member of the group noted that prior to the enactment of the new Pennsylvania law, the penalty for a DUI was essentially a $500 fine and 60 days in jail, and because jail was “house arrest,” virtually no offender actually spent time in jail.
The minimum fine for two DUI convictions is now $1,000, with a minimum sentence of at least 90 days, while a third conviction will result in six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. The minimum sentence for a DUI offender who commits intoxicated vehicular homicide has been changed under the new law; the offender would now face a minimum prison term of five years for each death caused if the offender had a prior DUI conviction (before the new laws, the prison term was three years). The minimum prison term for an offender with two or more prior DUI convictions who commits intoxicated vehicular homicide is now seven years.
Being Arrested for Felony DUI in Pennsylvania
A DUI arrest is serious, no matter whether you are facing first, second, third, or subsequent DUI charges. If you are pulled over in the state on suspicion of drinking and driving, you may be asked to submit to field sobriety tests. The results of these tests will be a major factor in determining whether or not you will be arrested. If probable cause is established, you will be arrested, processed, asked to submit to an official BAC test, then will probably be released hours later, or possibly the next morning.
Like most states, Pennsylvania is an implied consent state, meaning once you obtain a driver’s license in the state, you are giving your implied consent to submit to a blood, breath or urine test if you are arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Should you refuse a BAC test, your license will be immediately suspended.
Once you are released from holding, you will receive a court summons, explaining where and when you will appear for a preliminary hearing for your DUI charges. Hopefully, you secured legal counsel as quickly as possible following your DUI arrest. If this is your third or fourth DUI in Pennsylvania, having an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney by your side from start to finish can significantly alter the outcome of your charges.
DUI Penalties for a Felony Pennsylvania DUI
You will either plead guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty is virtually never a good idea because once you do so, you will face a myriad of penalties associated with the DUI. Although you face a heavy burden of proof once you plead not guilty, your attorney will have the knowledge and experience to comprehensively evaluate the facts of your case, discovering any weaknesses in the case against you.
The penalties for felony DUI in Pennsylvania depend on numerous factors, including how high your BAC was at the time of the arrest, if anyone was injured or killed while you were driving intoxicated, if any other laws were broken at the time as well, your prior criminal history, and if there were any children present in the vehicle.
If you are convicted of a felony offense, you face considerable time behind bars, hefty fines, and a myriad of long-term consequences, including:
- Lose the right to become an elected official
- Loss of voting rights while incarcerated
- Disqualification from jury service
- Loss of ability to own or possess a firearm
- Loss of eligibility for student loans
- Ineligible to adopt or become a foster parent for at least ten years
- Loss of professional licensure for ten years
- Inability to obtain employment
- Difficulty finding housing
A second DUI within ten years, a third DUI within ten years or a fourth DUI within ten years when the BAC is at the lowest tier will also result in being required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. When the BAC levels are at the “higher” or “highest” category, an ignition interlock device is required for a first, second, third, fourth, or subsequent DUI. The interlock device must be installed for a period of one year, even if the license suspension is completed prior to that year.
Defenses to a Felony DUI in Pennsylvania
Even if you believe that it is hopeless to fight your felony DUI, you may be wrong. Defending a felony DUI in the state of Pennsylvania, while more difficult than defending a first-time DUI, has many of the same elements. Because of the severity of the consequences, it is even more important to build a solid defense against them. Without an attorney fighting for your rights, you could face a lifetime of penalties and consequences.
The first issue your DUI attorney will likely look at is the lookback period, which is ten years in the state of Pennsylvania. Occasionally, dates are miscalculated, making a third or fourth DUI charge—which would be charged as a felony—improperly imposed. Each prior conviction must be examined carefully, not just for the conviction dates, but for any constitutional issues as well.
First, your Pennsylvania DUI attorney will review your prior convictions to determine whether you had an attorney—an uncounseled prior conviction could potentially be challenged, and successfully excluded from the calculations. In order for a prior DUI conviction to be used against you, the plea you made must have been made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily, with an appropriate waiver if you did not have an attorney. Although you have the right to represent yourself, within the context of challenging a prior DUI conviction, if you represented yourself the charge could potentially be reduced.
The next challenge to your current felony DUI charges could come in the form of challenging the BAC results, if it is the 0.16 BAC results which are triggering felony charges. Your Pennsylvania DUI attorney will investigate whether the officer properly complied with standardized testing requirements and whether the breathalyzer machine was properly maintained and calibrated.
There may be additional challenges regarding your BAC results, based on your health and any prescription drugs you were taking at the time. The state will have to prove all elements of your felony DUI charges beyond a reasonable doubt, and if there were procedural issues associated with your traffic stop, your BAC test, or even whether you were properly Mirandized, your Pennsylvania DUI attorney will work hard on your behalf to bring those to light.
Some other potential DUI defense strategies include:
- Illegal search and seizure
- Improperly performed roadside test
- Not impaired at the time
- Police waited too long before taking BAC test
- Not reading Miranda rights
- Breathalyzer improperly calibrated
- Officer refused to allow me to take an independent blood test
- Evidence from scene lost or destroyed
- Driving because of an emergency
- Illegal stop
- Medical condition
Our Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Are There When You Need Us
At Ciccarelli Law Offices, our Pennsylvania DUI attorneys are here to help you following your DUI charges. We understand you are facing many serious penalties, and that you may be facing felony charges as well. We fight aggressively for individuals who have been accused of DUI and we work tirelessly to protect your future every step of the way.
We have successfully defended citizens throughout Pennsylvania who have been arrested and accused of DUI We have tried cases in the Chester County courts as well as in Exton, Kennett Square, Coatesville, Malvern, Chesterbrook, Phoenixville, Oxford, Honey Brook, Parkesburg, West Chester, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Paoli, and Philadelphia.