DUI is a highly prosecuted crime in Pennsylvania. DUI is a peculiar criminal offense, because it can happen to anyone. Most people charged with DUI are not “criminals”. They just happened to be driving a vehicle after a few drinks at a party, football game, or other social event.
DUI charges can be complex and have several different components, including blood alcohol level, admissibility of chemical testing, witness testimony during a DUI trial, and more. If you have been charged with DUI in Chester County, Montgomery County, Lancaster County, and Delaware County it is imperative to consult an experienced DUI defense attorney.
When Can a Person be Charged with DUI?
According to 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3802 an individual cannot legally operate a vehicle after consuming a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving. An individual is considered “rendered incapable of safely driving” if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. However, an individual may face stiffer penalties if the BAC is 0.1 or higher.
It is impossible to predict in advance whether how much alcohol would cause an individual to have a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Many factors influence an individual’s BAC, including weight, duration of drinking, metabolism, food consumed, and type of alcohol.
Any DUI conviction has serious consequences, including jail time and fines. The maximum penalty an individual may face depends on the circumstances, including the blood alcohol level of the defendant, prior convictions for DUI, injury and property damage, and other factors.
As earlier stated, an individual may be charged with DUI if he or she has a BAC of 0.08 or higher. However, Pennsylvania statute makes a distinction between different BAC levels. The distinctions are highest rate of alcohol, high rate of alcohol, and general impairment.
An individual with a BAC of 0.16 or higher is considered to have the highest rate of alcohol. For a first offense, an individual can face a maximum penalty of $5,000 in fines, 6 months in jail, a license suspension of 1 year, alcohol safety school, and/or alcohol treatment.
A first offense high rate of alcohol (BAC between 0.1 and 0.16) carries a maximum penalty of $5000 in fines, 6 months in jail, required attendance at an alcohol safety course, and/or alcohol treatment.
An individual considered “generally impaired” or with a BAC of 0.08 to .01 faces penalties up to 6 months of probation, $300 in fines, a required alcohol highway safety course, and alcohol treatment.
Second and subsequent offenses in each impairment group carry steeper penalties and fines, including installment of an interlock device and up to 18 months license suspension.
Should an Individual Hire a DUI Attorney?
Because of the seriousness of DUI penalties, even for a first offense, it is highly recommend to consult an experienced DUI defense attorney. Commonly, individuals facing DUI charges consult an experienced DUI defense attorney for the following reasons:
- Diversion Programs– First-time offenders may have the option of entering an Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (ARD). The ARD program allows the individual to avoid a conviction and satisfy his or her debt to society through the completion of community service and other program requirements. Acceptance into the ARD program is controlled by the District Attorney (DA). Having an attorney with a strong relationship with the prosecutor may increase the chances of approval for the ARD program.
The ARD program is incredibly beneficial, because it allows the individual to say “no” when discussing criminal convictions. Following completion of the program, the arrest record and ARD record may be expunged. An experienced DUI lawyer will be able to determine whether an individual qualifies for the program and explain the rights and obligations under the program.
- Contest to the Legality of the Request for a Chemical Test– Generally, an officer will request a driver suspected of driving under the influence to submit to a chemical test. Chemical test includes blood, urine, or breathalyzer tests. Law enforcement officers determine the blood alcohol level based on a chemical test.
Refusal of a chemical test can result in serious consequences, including being charged at the highest level. It is highly recommended to consent to a chemical test and allow the defense attorney to contest the legality of the chemical test or the arrest.
- Dealing with Witnesses– Customarily, the arresting officer will testify during a DUI trial. Ordinarily, the officer is considered a credible witness by the judge and jury. A skilled DUI defense attorney will know how to appropriately question a police officer witness and any other witnesses called to prove the defendant was driving impaired.
Lee Ciccarelli of Ciccarelli Law Offices is the author of the book Charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania? Useful Info Revealed that May Help You in Your Case. The attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices have extensive experience in all aspect of DUI defense, including DUI, DUI and Controlled Substances, Underage DUI, and Commercial Drivers and DUI.
The Ciccarelli Law Offices proudly represent individuals charged with DUI throughout the Philadelphia area, including West Chester, Springfield, King of Prussia, Kennett Square, Radnor, Lancaster, Malvern and Plymouth Meeting.
Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices at (610) 719-3200 to schedule a confidential consultation. The attorneys are on call 24/7 to help you with your case.