Under the current Pennsylvania DUI Laws, the prosecution does not always need to prove that a driver was “impaired” or “intoxicated” while operating a motor vehicle in order to prove they were guilty of DUI. The Pennsylvania DUI statute as it currently stands provides for what are called, “per se” levels – levels of drugs or alcohol, that if found in the blood within two hours of operating a motor vehicle, one is guilty of the offense of DUI.
In Pennsylvania the legal limit for alcohol is .08%. Therefore, if someone is found to have a blood alcohol content of .08% or above, within two hours of operating a motor vehicle, he/she is guilty of “per se” DUI whether or not impaired or manifesting the signs of intoxication.
While this may be true by the letter of the law, in a practical application there are very few situations where someone should be charged with DUI without manifesting signs of intoxication or consumption. This is because before an officer is permitted to transport someone for chemical testing, there must be some facts or indications that provide a legal justification to take him/her for such a test – the blood test must be supported by a sufficient level of legal suspicion. (This is in conjunction with the implied consent law discussed in a previous post)
When someone is charged with a DUI, it is crucial to have an experienced lawyer thoroughly analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest before taking any action or waiving your rights to contest the charges. There is often an argument to be made that the police officer was not legally justified in taking a breath or blood test in the first place.
***This blog is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The blog should not be used, nor is it meant to be, as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. This blog also does not discuss all aspects of the topics involved or the bill that has been placed into effect***
Often times in a criminal case in Chester County, or any of the surrounding counties, prosecutors will attempt to introduce evidence of an accused’s prior bad acts, or evidence or other crimes. This can be devastating to a successful defense in a criminal case. This may happen in a case where identity is at issue or where intent is an element that the Commonwealth must be prove – among others. One of the common times that this would happen would be in a case of violence where the charges are simple assault or aggravated assault and the Commonwealth must prove that the attack was intentional.
By law, before the Commonwealth may introduce these “prior bad acts” they must first put the criminal defendant on notice. Typically, this required notice is accomplished by advising an accused’s criminal defense lawyer that they intend to do so. This evidence in a criminal case, if admitted, is not permitted to be used to show a criminal defendant’s “bad character”, or to say, “they have done it once, now they have done it again.” Because of the intricacies of this type of argument and the great potential impact having these “prior acts” introduced into evidence may have on a criminal case, it is crucial that an individual accused of a crime have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to analyze the case, the facts, the law and argue against allowing this type of evidence being admissible.
Your past should not be used to help prove new criminal accusations against you.
Evidence of an accused’s other crimes, wrongs, or bad acts, is generally not admissible solely to show action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion in a criminal case. See Pa.R.E. 404. More specifically, this evidence is inadmissible to prove a defendant’s propensity to commit the crime for which he is being tried. Pa.R.E. 404(b)(1); see also Commonwealth v. Lockcuff, 813 A.2d 857, 860 (Pa. Super. 2002). Evidence of other crimes may however be admissible when the evidence serves a legitimate evidentiary purpose, and is not merely offered to prejudice the defendant. See Commonwealth v. Weakley, 972 A.2d 1182, 2009 Pa. Super 74 (2009). It is a skilled criminal defense attorneys job to argue against allowing this type of evidence into a criminal case.
The Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence provide a non-exhaustive list of legitimate evidentiary purposes that past crimes may be admitted to prove. See Pa. R.Evid. 404(b). Of those listed, other crimes of an accused may be admitted to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident. Pa.R.E. 404(b)(2). Further, while one or more admissible purpose must be present before evidence of an accused’s prior bad acts can be admitted, even if a legitimate evidentiary purpose is found by a Court, the evidence still is admissible only if the probative value of the evidence outweighs its potential for unfair prejudice. Pa.R.E. 404(b)(2). Therefore, a criminal defense attorney must be prepared to know the law and argue effectively against one of the enumerated purposes, or other legitimate evidentiary purpose, and also be prepared to show the Court why the evidence a prosecutor is attempting to admit has a potential for unfair prejudice that outweighs the probative value.
When the Commonwealth places a criminal defendant on notice that it intends to introduce evidence of “prior bad acts” often times a criminal defense attorney must file a motion in limine in order to ask the Court to address the argument and make a determination as to the admissibility of the evidence the Commonwealth seeks to introduce. A criminal defense lawyer is needed to effectively and aggressively defend against this type of evidence being ruled admissible.
***This blog is made available by the law firm publisher for educational purposes and to provide general information, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The blog should not be used, nor is it meant to be, as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.***