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Defending You Against DUI Charges

If you have been charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, you may be wondering what penalties you are facing or how this will affect your future. At Luff Strenfel, we take pride in defending our DUI clients; our goal is to make sure you understand the charges against you, the penalties if found guilty, the everlasting effects a DUI conviction can have on your life, and any possible defenses.

Don’t make the mistake of talking to police first. Contact our firm immediately so we can start protecting your rights as soon as possible.

Pennsylvania’s DUI Statutes

Under Title 75 §3802, Pennsylvania has a tiered DUI system:

§ 3802(a) or 3802(a)(1): General Impairment (First Offense)

  • This is charged when there is no Blood Alcohol Level, and only the officer’s testimony is available or Blood Alcohol Level is between .08% and less than .10%
    • Penalties if found guilty:
      • 6 Months’ Probation
      • $600.00 Fine
      • CRN and Alcohol Highway Safety School
      • No License Suspension

§ 3802(b): Middle Tier (First Offense)

  • Blood Alcohol Level is between .10% and less than .16%
    • Penalties if found guilty:
      • 48 hours incarceration to 6 months
      • $500.00 to $5,000.00 fine
      • CRN and Alcohol Highway Safety School
      • 12 Month License Suspension

§ 3802(c): Highest Tier (First Offense)

  • Blood Alcohol is above .16%
    • Penalties if found Guilty:
      • 72 hours incarceration to 6 months
      • $1,000.00 to $5,000.00 fine
      • CRN and Alcohol Highway Safety School
      • 12 Month License Suspension

Possible DUI Defense Tactics

For the commonwealth to prove DUI, it has to prove two elements: you were in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle and you were intoxicated. In order to build a defense to a DUI case, you must understand how the commonwealth will attempt to prove their case. If the commonwealth does not have a blood alcohol level, or blood alcohol content (BAC), from a breathalyzer or a blood test, they will use the observations of the police officer in your case. If they do have a BAC, you could be considered per se intoxicated under the commonwealth’s DUI law.

Police Officer Observations

In DUI cases where the commonwealth does not have a BAC, they have to proceed under general impairment. General impairment is usually evidence that the officer gathers through his senses. This means he documents everything from the time the officer makes contact with a driver up to and including a traffic stop. These things can include:

  • Traffic violations
  • Swerving within your lane
  • Crossing over the yellow line or the fog line
  • Bloodshot glossy eyes
  • The odor of alcohol on your breath
  • Slurred speech
  • “Fumbling” with your insurance/registration information
  • Swaying when standing outside of the vehicle
  • Leaning against your car for “stability”
  • Failure of standard field sobriety tests

It is important to remember that from the moment an officer starts to you follow you they are collecting evidence for a potential case against you. If they have an onboard video camera, it is running and capturing everything that happens. This video and audio can be used against you. It is also important to understand that anything you say to the police officer can be used against you. If an officer asks you if you have been drinking tonight, they aren’t genuinely interested in whether or not you have had a drink tonight, they are looking for an admission. Even if you respond that you had “two drinks,” that is an admission that can be used against you if the officer ultimately arrests you for the suspicion of DUI. Your best defense starts with being informed and understanding what the role of a police officer is in this situation.

If they do not have a BAC, they have to testify that in their “training and experience” you were too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle. They will use everything mentioned above to prove their circumstantial case against you, to ultimately give their opinion to a court that you were unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.

“Per Se” Intoxication

The other method the commonwealth will prove your intoxication is through a chemical test: breathalyzer or blood test. Both of these tests will most assuredly happen after you have been arrested for suspicion of DUI. This is generally the last step the commonwealth will take to prove their case. Below is a description of both tests:

Breathalyzer

A breathalyzer is normally conducted at police barracks or a central location. This is generally because the machines the police use are large and need a place to be housed. This form of breathalyzer should not be confused with the roadside breathalyzer officers sometimes use to test for the presence of alcohol. That is a preliminary breath test, and the results are generally inadmissible at trial. This is generally due to their accuracy.

Breathalyzers used by police officers must be calibrated according to Pennsylvania statute. The tests themselves must be given by someone who has been certified in conducting the breathalyzer test. Prior to giving your breath sample, you will generally be read your “implied consent” warnings. These warnings include the following:

  • You have no right to speak to an attorney
  • If you refuse, you will face a license suspension of at least 12 months up to 18 months
  • If you refuse, you will be subject to the harshest penalties under Pennsylvania law

Blood Test

Blood tests are another way police officers try to gather evidence of a person’s intoxication. Again, this usually happens after you have been handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and transported to a local hospital. At the hospital, a hospital employee will generally draw two vials of blood that will be sent to a lab. At that lab that they will test your blood for alcohol and controlled substances. Prior to taking your blood, the officer will generally read you your implied consent warnings, which are as follows:

  • No right to speak to an attorney
  • Mandatory license suspension

You will notice a discernible difference between the warnings given for a breath sample and a blood sample, with the lack of penalty enhancement.

Start Your DUI Defense Today

The time to act is now if you face DUI charges in Pennsylvania. Call 610-936-6886 today or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.