What are the Penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania?

Drunk and drugged driving continues to be a problem in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. In 2017, the Pennsylvania DUI Association reports that there were 10,346 crashes involving alcohol in the state. While alcohol was involved in 8% of accidents in the state, 26% of the fatal crashes involved the use of alcohol. Because of the potential harm that can be caused to others, Pennsylvania has enacted a number of DUI laws that you should know. If you have been charged with a DUI in West Chester or the surrounding area, getting experienced legal help from DiCindio Law may help you to protect your freedom and your rights. Here is some information about the DUI laws in Pennsylvania.

2003 Act 24

In 2003, the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 24, which was subsequently signed into law by the governor. This law reduced the legal blood alcohol concentration in the state from 0.10% to 0.08% and created DUI offense levels. It also changed the penalties, fines, suspension terms, and other requirements. Under this law, your prior offenses and your BAC are combined to determine the penalties that you might face. First-time offenders are approached with more treatment instead of simply license suspension and punishment.

The three DUI tiers are now as follows:

  • General level of impairment with BACs from 0.08% to 0.099%
  • High BAC with BACs from 0.10% to 0.159%
  • Highest BAC with BACs of 0.16% or higher

Commercial truck and school bus drivers, minors, and people who cause accidents with injuries or property damage may face the high BAC penalties even when their blood alcohol concentration level is below the range. People who refuse to submit to the breath or blood testing may face the penalties for the highest BAC tier.

The penalties for general impairment DUI offenses differ and depend on any prior DUI convictions. If you have no prior offenses and are convicted of a general impairment DUI, you will face the following penalties:

  • Fine of $300
  • Probation for up to 180 days
  • Mandatory attendance in an alcohol safety course
  • Treatment may be ordered

If you have one previous DUI conviction at the general impairment level, you will face the following penalties:

  • 12-month suspension of your license
  • Fine ranging from $300 to $2,500
  • Jail from five days up to six months
  • Installation of an ignition interlock system for one year
  • Alcohol safety course attendance
  • Treatment may be ordered

If you are convicted of a general impairment DUI and have two or more previous convictions, it will be classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. You will face the following penalties:

  • Incarceration ranging from 10 days up to two years
  • 12-month suspension of your license
  • Fine ranging from $500 up to $5,000
  • Treatment may be ordered
  • 12-month installation of an ignition interlock system

For people who have higher blood alcohol concentration levels, you will face greater penalties. If you are convicted of a high BAC DUI and do not have any previous DUI offenses, you will face the following penalties:

  • Incarceration ranging from 48 hours up to six months
  • Suspension of your license for 12 months
  • Fine ranging from $500 up to $5,000
  • Alcohol safety course
  • Treatment may be ordered

If you are convicted of a high BAC DUI with one previous offense, you will face the following penalties:

  • 30 days up to six months of jail
  • 12-month suspension of your license
  • Fine ranging from $750 up to $5,000
  • Alcohol safety school
  • Treatment may be ordered
  • One-year installation of an ignition interlock system

If you are convicted of a high BAC DUI with two or more previous convictions, you will face the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • Suspension of your license for 18 months
  • Incarceration ranging from 90 days up to five years
  • Fine ranging from $1,500 up to $10,000
  • Treatment may be ordered
  • One year ignition interlock installation

The highest BAC level carries strict penalties, but treatment is allowed. This category is also used for people who are convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs and for those who refuse the breath or chemical tests.

For the highest BAC level with no prior offenses, you will face the following penalties:

  • Jail time from 72 hours to six months
  • 12-month suspension of your license
  • Fine of $1,000 to $5,000
  • Treatment may be ordered
  • Alcohol highway safety school

If you have one prior offense and are convicted of a highest BAC DUI, you will face the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month suspension of your license
  • Incarceration of 90 days up to five years
  • Fine of $1,500 to $10,000
  • Treatment may be ordered
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • One-year ignition interlock installation

A highest BAC conviction when you have two or more prior convictions will subject you to the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • 18-month suspension of your license
  • One to five years of incarceration
  • Fine of $2,500 to $10,000
  • treatment may be ordered
  • One-year ignition interlock installation

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD

Under the law, courts must impose license suspensions based on the person’s BAC level as follows:

  • No suspension if under 0.10%
  • 30-day suspension from 0.10% to under 0.16%
  • 60-day suspension for 0.16% and higher

License suspensions

If it is your first offense and your BAC was less than 0.10%, you will not receive a license suspension. If it is your second or subsequent general impairment offense, your license will be suspended for 12 months. If your BAC is less than 0.16% but equal to or greater than 0.10%, your license will be suspended for 12 months for the first or second offense and for 18 months for the third offense. The highest BAC level will give you a 12 month suspension for the first offense an an 18-month suspension for any subsequent convictions.

Exemptions

There are some exemptions available to drivers. You can apply for a financial hardship exemption to be exempted from having to install an ignition interlock device on all of your vehicles. If you are granted it, you will have to install the system on only one vehicle. Some drivers may be granted an employment exemption to operate company vehicles in the scope and course of their jobs. The employer must be notified, and the driver must carry proof of the notification. This exemption will not be granted to school bus drivers or drivers of large passenger vehicles.

If you are a first DUI offender, you may be granted an occupational limited license after you have served 60 days of your suspension. People whose licenses were suspended for 18 months and who have no more than a single prior offense may be able to get an occupational limited license after they have served 12 months of their suspensions.

If your license is suspended because you drove a vehicle that did not have a mandatory ignition interlock device installed or because you drove while your license was suspended for a DUI, you will not receive credit for the suspension until you have served time in jail. If you refuse to take a breath or blood test, your suspension may be increased.

Contact DiCindio Law

The penalties for DUI convictions in Pennsylvania are fairly severe. If you are facing a DUI charge, it is a good idea for you to seek help from an experienced DUI lawyer in West Chester. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610-430-3535.

What Is Felony Drunk Driving / Felony DUI?

In Pennsylvania, most DUI cases are charged as misdemeanor offenses. However, the state passed a stricter law in 2018 that makes certain types of DUIs felonies. There are also circumstances under which other DUIs can result in felony charges. If you are facing felony charges resulting from a DUI, it is important for you to talk to a criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible.

The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DUI offense in Pennsylvania, the penalties that you might face will depend on the level of your charge. Pennsylvania grades its misdemeanor DUI offenses by your blood alcohol concentration. If you had a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099%, you will be charged with a general impairment DUI. If your BAC was 0.10% to 0.159%, you will be charged with a high BAC DUI. if your BAC was 0.16% or higher, you will be charged with a highest BAC DUI.

While the penalties for the high BAC and the highest BAC DUI convictions are more severe than they are for a general impairment DUI, they are still misdemeanors. For your first highest BAC conviction, you face jail time ranging from a minimum of 72 hours up to one year, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, and other penalties. While these penalties are certainly serious, they are not nearly as severe as what you could face if you are convicted of a felony. A felony conviction can lead to substantial prison sentences instead of serving time in county jail. The fines for felony convictions are also more substantial, and a felony conviction can cause lifelong collateral consequences.

When can a DUI be charged as a felony?

Under the Pennsylvania Act 153 of 2018, the law that establishes Pennsylvania’s felony DUI offense, a DUI may be charged as a felony in some situations. You may be charged with a felony DUI when you have three prior convictions for a DUI at any level within the last 10 years. If you have two prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years and had a minor under the age of 18 in your car, you can also be charged with a felony DUI. This is when your BAC is at least twice the legal limit of 0.08%.

These are now third-degree felony offenses under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3803. Under Pa.C.S.A. § 15.66, a conviction for a third-degree felony can result in a prison sentence of up to 7 years.

DUI for an accident that causes serious injuries

If you are charged with a DUI for an accident that caused serious injuries to others, you may be charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This is charged as a second-degree felony under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3735.1. The maximum prison term for a conviction of a second-degree felony offense in Pennsylvania is 10 years.

DUI for an accident that causes a fatality

If you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and cause an accident that results in the death of someone else, you may be charged with homicide by vehicle while under the influence. A conviction for this offense may be a second or a first-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. Under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3735, a conviction may be a second-degree felony that carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison up to 10 years in prison. If you are convicted of another DUI offense while your sentence for homicide while driving under the influence charge, the offense will be a first-degree felony. This may result in a sentence that has a maximum of more than 10 years. There are also different minimum sentences. You will face a minimum of five years in prison if you incurred one prior conviction while you were waiting to be sentenced. You may also receive consecutive sentences of five years each for each person who was killed.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is treated harshly under Pennsylvania law whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony offense. However, the stakes for you are much higher when you are charged with a felony for your DUI offense. If you are convicted of a felony, you may face a sentence of years in prison combined with substantial fines and a loss of your driving privileges.

Even after you have finished your sentence, you may face ongoing consequences for having a felony on your record. The collateral consequences of a felony DUI conviction could include having difficulty finding work, the loss of a professional license, inability to get security clearances, trouble finding an apartment, and humiliation. When you have the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law, you may be able to secure a more favorable outcome to your charges. Fill out our online contact form today to request a consultation so that you can learn more about the options that might be available to you.

What is a hardship license?

If you are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will likely order that your license is suspended. Depending on whether you have had any prior DUI offenses, your suspension may last up to 18 months. Many people who are unable to drive have a difficult time getting to their jobs or to school. However, if you meet the requirements, it may be possible for you to get what is colloquially known as a hardship license in Pennsylvania. Under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1553, this type of license is called an occupational limited license, and it has several requirements. At DiCindio Law, we can review your situation and explain how to get a hardship license if you are eligible for one.

What is a hardship license, and what are the conditions of an occupational limited license in Pennsylvania?

In order to get an occupational limited license, you will have to be able to explain why you need to drive in order to get to treatment, work, school, or trade. You will also have to provide information about the location of your work, school, trade, or treatment provider. You will be restricted to driving only to and from those places. You may also be authorized to drive to and from your medical appointments.

Eligibility for an occupational limited license

In order to obtain an occupational limited license, you must submit a petition by certified mail that includes detailed information about why you need an occupational limited license. You will also need to submit proof of your employment, the program of study, or other allowed place. You must apply for an OLL before your period of suspension goes into effect, and you must surrender your driver’s license by mail at the time that you apply. You must also submit a $50 application fee.

Some offenses make you ineligible for an OLL. For example, you are not eligible to obtain an occupational limited license if you are suspended for the following violations:

  • Racing on the highways
  • Passing a school bus
  • Driving under the influence
  • Fleeing a police officer
  • Driving without your lights on
  • Homicide by vehicle or homicide by vehicle with a DUI
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Reckless driving
  • Accidents causing injury or death
  • Failing to respond to a traffic citation
  • Refusing to submit to chemical testing
  • Driving while suspended DUI related
  • Are serving an ARD-ordered suspension
  • Failing to maintain financial responsibility

Ignition interlock statute as another potential alternative

If you are unable to get an occupational limited license, you may be able to get a restricted license by agreeing to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle under Pa. C.S.A. § 3805. Under this law, you may be able to apply for an ignition interlock limited license if you agree to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. This is a relatively new option.  It is mostly focused on DUI matters.

Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

Having your driving privileges suspended can create real hardships. Without being able to drive, you may have trouble keeping your job, getting your children to school, going to your medical appointments, and completing other tasks that are necessary for your family. If your license will soon be suspended, it is possible that you might be able to apply for an occupational limited license or agree to the installation of an ignition interlock device to get a restricted license. While these types of licenses will severely restrict where and how you can drive, they can at least enable you to get to the places that are crucial for you to drive for the benefit of you and your family. To learn more about whether you might be eligible for a hardship license in Pennsylvania, call DiCindio Law to schedule a consultation.

What Is a DUI Arraignment?

 

After you have been arrested for and charged with a DUI by the police, you will enter into the criminal process for DUI offenses. Many people who are charged with DUI offenses have never been in court facing criminal charges before. This means that many DUI offenders do not know what to expect and find the process confusing and frightening. At DiCindio Law, we can help you to understand what to expect so that you can anticipate what might happen next and what happens during the different phases of a DUI case. Here is what you need to know about a DUI arraignment in Pennsylvania.

After your arrest: The preliminary arraignment

After you have been arrested and taken into custody on suspicion that you have committed a DUI offense, bail will be set in your case. Some people may be released on their own recognizance while others may have bail set in a cash amount. If you are able to post a bond or are released in your own recognizance, you may be given paperwork upon your release that lists your next court date and that explains your charges.

At a preliminary arraignment, the court will advise you of the charges against you, ask you if you have an attorney, and tell you other rights that you have. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you from the public defender’s office. The court will then schedule a preliminary hearing for you in the local district court where you were arrested.  Sometimes, if you are arrested and the charges are sent to you via summons – as is the case in many DUI matters – the preliminary arraignment and the preliminary hearing occur on the same day.

The preliminary hearing

The preliminary hearing is an important hearing for you when you have been charged with a DUI. It is a good idea to have an experienced attorney to represent you at this hearing. The court will review the evidence against you in your case. If the court finds that there is prima facie evidence to believe that it is more likely than not that you committed a DUI offense, your case will be bound over for trial. If the court instead finds that there is no probable cause/prima facie evidence to support the charges against you, the charges will be dismissed. An experienced lawyer can challenge the police officer’s probable cause/prima facie evidence to believe that you committed the DUI offense at the preliminary hearing. If there is a finding of probable cause/prima facie evidence, your case will be bound over for in the Court of Common Pleas.

The formal DUI arraignment

At the formal DUI arraignment, you will again be advised of the charges against you. The court will also inform you of your rights, the potential penalties for the charges, and ask you whether you want to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or stand mute. The prosecuting attorney may make a plea offer to you. It is important for you to be represented by an attorney at your formal arraignment hearing.

In most cases, it is not a good idea to enter a plea of guilty at your formal arraignment. This is because when you plead guilty, you will not have a chance to challenge the basis for your DUI charge. If you enter a plea of not guilty, your attorney will have the opportunity to file motions in your case to seek suppression of some of the evidence that is being used against you in your case. There will also be some deadlines for some of the motions that can be filed after your formal arraignment. Having a lawyer present with you can allow him or her to meet the deadlines imposed by the court.

At the formal arraignment or another time, depending on the county of your arrest,  you may be given the opportunity to enter the ARD program. The ARD program stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, and it is available to some first-time DUI offenders.

If you are eligible for the ARD program, it is an alternative that may allow you to resolve your DUI charge. This program allows the DUI to be expunged from your record if you are able to successfully complete a probationary program. There are restrictions concerning who can enter the ARD program that varies between the counties and some are written in the state statutes. Your DUI attorney can advise you about ARD, your eligibility, and whether it might be a good idea for you in your case.

Contact an experienced DUI lawyer

Being charged with a DUI offense can be frightening and confusing. If you have been charged, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced DUI attorney at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by filling out our online contact form. Someone will get back to you shortly so that you can learn more about the rights that you might have in your case.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

When most people think about a DUI, they visualize someone driving after drinking alcohol. However, alcohol is only one of many different substances that can impair your ability to safely drive a car. If you drive while you are under the influence of a drug, you can also be charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania. If you are facing charges of a DUI-D, the attorneys at DiCindio Law might be able to help you.

Driving after you have taken drugs, including certain prescription medications, marijuana, and illegal drugs, can impair your driving and result in a DUI charge. Having a prescription for your medication is not necessarily always a defense to a DUI-D.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 12.8 million people drove while they were under the influence of drugs in 2017. in 2016, 43.6% of drivers who were drug tested after accidents in which someone was killed were positive for one or more drugs.

Different drugs have different effects on drivers. Drugs that impair your concentration, motor skills, judgment, or alertness are just as dangerous as alcohol.

How is drug impairment measured?

All of the states have made driving with a blood alcohol concentration that is above a certain level illegal. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. It is fairly easy to measure your impairment when you are stopped by a law enforcement officer in many cases. By contrast, it is not as easy to measure other types of drugs and your level of impairment.

For instance, THC in marijuana can be detected in your blood for typically around 30 days after use. There is no way to determine actual impairment from marijuana at a given time based solely on levels in the system, alone. On the other hand, cocaine leaves your body in just a couple of days.

Some law enforcement agencies use drug recognition experts or DREs. These are police officers who have undergone training to determine the level of impairment from drugs in motorists. DREs look for cues such as your eye movements and behavior that might point to being under the influence of drugs. Typically, the presence of drugs in your blood or urine are tested using a urine test or blood screen.

Drugged driving per se

While it can be harder to prosecute motorists for DUI-D offenses, Pennsylvania is one of 15 states that has a drugged driving per se law. Under 75 Pa. § 3802, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with any detectable level of certain types of drugs in your system. Under the statute, you cannot drive if you have any detectable amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your blood. You also cannot drive if you have any detectable amount of a Schedule II or Schedule III drugs if you do not have a prescription for it. Finally, you can also be charged with a DUI-D per se charge if you have metabolites of these drugs in your blood.

Effects of different drugs

Drugs can have different effects on you and on your ability to drive. Here are the effects of different types of drugs.

  • Cocaine- Can cause euphoria, dizziness, excitement, increased alertness, disorientation, confusion, irritability, aggressiveness, paranoia, and rapid heart rate.
  • LSD- Can cause hallucinations, delusions, impaired space, time, and depth, altered mental state, high blood pressure, and tremors.
  • Marijuana- Can cause euphoria, relaxation, altered perception of space and time, disorientation, paranoia, drowsiness, distorted images, and increased heart rate.
  • Methamphetamine – Can cause excitement, euphoria, delusions, hallucinations, poor impulse control, insomnia, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure.
  • Morphine and heroin- Can cause intense euphoria, relaxation, drowsiness, disconnectedness, sedation, analgesia, mental clouding, reduced heart rate, vomiting, nausea, and reduced reflexes.

Effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs

Certain drugs that you are prescribed or that you can buy over-the-counter can still impair your driving. You should read the warning labels of your prescriptions and your OTC drugs. Here are some common prescription and OTC drugs that can impair you:

  • Antidepressants- Certain antidepressants are sedating and can cause impairment similar to alcohol.
  • Antihistamines- Some can slow reaction time and impair your coordination.
  • Valium- Taking 10 mg of this drug can impair you in a similar manner as when you have a BAC of 0.10% after drinking alcohol.
  • Sleeping pills- Sleeping pills can still have residual effects in the morning.
  • Decongestants- These drugs can cause you to feel anxious, dizzy, and drowsy.
  • Hydrocodone- This is an opiate and can cause similar effects as morphine.

Even though Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana, you can still be charged with a DUI-D if you are impaired at the time of driving.

Get legal help

Defending against a DUI-D can be tricky. If you are facing charges, it is important for you to seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At DiCindio Law, we understand the various types of defenses that might be available in a DUI-D case. We can review the facts and evidence in your case and explain the different options that you have available to you.

A DUI-D conviction can have serious consequences, including the potential for incarceration, steep fines, and other penalties. Even after you have completed your sentence, the conviction may cause long-lasting consequences on your life. You may have more trouble finding a job, finding housing, or securing educational loans. We will work to identify all of the defenses that might be available to you so that we can build the strongest defense case on your behalf. To learn more about the options that you might have, call DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation.

What You Need To Know About Commercial Driver’s Licenses and DUI Regulations

If you are a truck driver, bus driver, or another professional who has a commercial driver’s license in Pennsylvania, you are held to a higher standard than other motorists in regards to driving while you are impaired. There are state and federal regulations and laws that apply to you as a commercial driver, and the rules are stricter for you than they are for other drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration promulgates federal regulations that govern commercial drivers, and each state has its own laws that also apply to drivers with CDLs within their boundaries.

There are good reasons why CDL drivers are regulated more strictly than other types of motorists. Commercial trucks and buses are much heavier and larger than other vehicles and can cause more damage when they cause accidents. Buses carry passengers, including children, who can be seriously hurt if an accident happens. The stakes are simply higher when a commercial driver drives after he or she has drunk alcohol or ingested drugs. If you are a commercial driver who is facing DUI charges, the legal team at DiCindio Law may be able to help you.

Drivers and employers that may be covered by FMCSA regulations

Many drivers and employers may be subject to the FMCSA’s regulations covering the use of drugs and alcohol by commercial drivers, including the following:

  • A person or entity that leases or owns commercial vehicles
  • A person or entity that assigns drivers to operate commercial vehicles
  • For-hire motor carriers
  • Private trucking carriers
  • Local, state, and federal governments
  • Civic organizations that transport people
  • Bus drivers
  • Truck drivers
  • Churches

FMCSA and Pennsylvania blood-alcohol limits

Under the FMCSA regulations for commercial drivers, the drivers have a legal limit of 0.04% blood alcohol concentration. By contrast, other motorists have a legal limit of 0.08% BAC. The FMCSA rules also state that commercial drivers are not allowed to operate commercial vehicles within four hours of drinking alcohol.

Under 75 Pa.CSA § 3802(f), Pennsylvania prohibits commercial drivers from operating, driving, or having actual physical control of a commercial truck’s movement when they have a BAC of 0.04% or higher when they are tested within two hours of driving the trucks. If you are a school bus driver, the limit is even lower at 0.02% BAC, which may be equivalent to a single beer.

Alcohol and drug testing for commercial drivers

Commercial drivers may have requirements to undergo random tests for alcohol. They may also be required to submit to a test following an accident, and when there is a reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking or using drugs. Commercial drivers may also have to submit to tests after an alcohol policy violation as a condition of returning to their jobs. For drugs, commercial drivers may also have to submit to drug testing as a condition of employment.

Under FMCSA regulations, commercial drivers who refuse to submit to blood alcohol tests when they are pulled over on suspicion of DUI may face harsher penalties.

Penalties for a commercial DUI

CDL drivers who are charged with DUIs in Pennsylvania while they are on the job will face similar procedures as other DUI defendants other than having a lower threshold for the BAC level. However, a DUI conviction for operating, driving, or being in actual physical control of a commercial vehicle while you are under the influence can cause you to lose your license for longer than for a general impairment DUI. As a commercial driver, the suspension might mean that you will lose your job.

Under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1611(a), a first DUI conviction by a CDL driver will result in a one-year disqualification of your CDL license. If you were transporting hazardous materials or were driving a bus with 16 or more passengers, a first offense can result in a license disqualification for three years. You will also be subject to a three-year disqualification if you were transporting hazardous materials or driving a bus for a refusal to submit to a test. If you have two convictions for a DUI, you may be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle or a bus for life.

The importance of getting legal help for your commercial DUI case

Because of the high stakes that are involved with DUIs when you have a commercial driving license, it is important for you to get legal help. If you plead guilty to the charges, you may lose your license and your livelihood. In addition, a conviction will subject you to the other penalties and fines of a DUI.

An experienced DUI lawyer at DiCindio Law may aggressively defend against your charges. Your attorney may fight the charge against you in an effort to protect your license and your job. Your attorney might also be able to secure a plea agreement to a different charge instead of a commercial DUI. To learn more, contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by filling out our online contact form.

What Is the Difference Between DUI and DWI?

You might have heard the acronyms DUI and DWI used interchangeably. DUI stands for driving under the influence. DWI may stand for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Depending on the state, these two terms can refer to the same offense or can have different legal definitions.

In all states, being charged with a DUI or a DWI means that you are being charged with an offense that is serious. DUI offenses mean that you are facing charges of engaging in conduct that risks your own safety as well as that of others. DUI offenses can be charged when you have been driving after drinking alcohol, using recreational drugs, or driving after you have taken certain prescription medications that cause your driving ability to be impaired. No matter what your charge might be called, it can have a major impact on your life. At DiCindio Law, we represent people who are facing Pennsylvania DUI charges to help them to secure the most favorable resolutions to their cases.

DUI and DWI definitions

The definitions of what constitutes a DUI and what constitutes a DWI vary from state to state. In some states, a DUI refers to driving after drinking alcohol. In others, it might refer to driving under the impairment of drugs. Some states use DUI as a term for a lower level of impairment while a DWI refers to a higher level of impairment. Other states have that reversed. Some states only use one acronym or the other to refer to alcohol- and drug-related driving offenses. It can become tricky when a state uses both terms.

OUI and OWI

Some states use different acronyms all together for drunk driving. For example, three states, including Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island, use the acronym OUI. OWI is used to refer to operating while intoxicated in some locations.

DUI in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania uses the term DUI. While people may use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably in the state, they both refer to the same statute.  Pennsylvania law divides DUI offenses into three levels, according to the level of intoxication as measured by the blood alcohol concentration. A general impairment DUI offense describes a BAC of 0.08 to 0.099. A high BAC DUI refers a DUI with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.159%. A highest BAC DUI offense refers to a BAC of 0.16% or higher. The penalties for these different levels of DUI offenses vary.

Despite the different tiers of DUI offenses in Pennsylvania, your blood alcohol concentration is not the sole factor in determining whether you were driving while you were impaired by alcohol or drugs. Being charged with a DUI can occur if an officer has a reasonable belief that you were too impaired to drive. This means that you can be charged with a DUI offense even if you do not submit to testing or when the officer believes that you were impaired. For instance, if the officer observes signs that you are impaired such as bloodshot eyes, a smell of alcohol, slurred speech, an unsteady gate, and other indicators of impairment, you may be charged.

Drugged driving is considered to be impaired driving

You can be charged with a DUI offense even if you submit to a preliminary breath test at the side of the road that is negative for the presence of alcohol. Because of the observations that the officer has made, he or she might believe that you are under the influence of another substance that may be impairing your ability to drive. This can include illegal drugs, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs that you are legally prescribed to take. The officer who stopped you is able to call a drug recognition expert to come to the scene who can perform some different tests.

It is important for you to read the warning labels on all over-the-counter and prescription medications that you take before you get behind the wheel. If you don’t, you may be at risk of being charged with a DUI regardless of the legality of your medication.

Consequences of a DUI arrest

If you are arrested and charged for a DUI, you may face serious penalties. Depending on your BAC, the penalties may be more severe for higher levels. If you are convicted of a DUI or enter a guilty plea, you may lose your driving privileges, be assessed penalties and court fees, face time in jail, be ordered to attend alcohol classes, and other penalties. You might also be placed on probation and be required to perform community service hours.

You may be required to submit to an assessment of your substance use or drinking and to follow any recommendations that are made from this assessment. Beyond these penalties, you might also face some collateral consequences such as losing your job, having trouble finding a new job, being embarrassed, and having a criminal record. Your insurance premiums will also likely increase for several years, and you might have to have an ignition interlock device installed in every vehicle that you drive at your own expense.

Regardless of what the offense might be called, getting arrested and charged for a DUI can be very expensive and time-consuming. You can avoid these types of charges by not getting behind the wheel when you are impaired. If you have been charged, it is a good idea to get legal help as soon as possible. At DiCindio Law, we can review your charges and help you to understand the legal options that might be available to you. Call us today to schedule a consultation, or fill out our online contact form.

DUI with Blood Alcohol Over .16

In West Chester and throughout Pennsylvania, driving under the influence is treated seriously by law enforcement officers and the courts. If you are stopped by the police on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may face even more serious penalties if your blood alcohol concentration tests at 0.16 percent or higher. This is considered to be the highest BAC level under Pennsylvania law, and it can bring a harsher punishment than if your BAC tests lower.

The impact of getting charged and arrested for a DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher can be damaging. Your license may be suspended for a year or more, making it difficult for you to get to where you need to go. You might also face several months to years of jail, substantial fines, and other penalties. If you have been charged with a high-BAC DUI offense, it is important for you to retain a criminal defense lawyer from DiCindio Law who is experienced in handling DUI cases as soon as possible.

What is a BAC level?

When the police stop people and suspect that they are under the influence of alcohol, the officers may ask them to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test. These tests are different than the preliminary breath tests that may be administered at the side of the road and are instead performed at the police station with a breathalyzer machine or by medical personnel who use blood draws to draw samples for laboratory analysis.

Your blood alcohol concentration refers to the percentage of alcohol that you have in your breath or blood at the time of your testing. Police ask motorists that they suspect of drunk driving to submit to one of these tests to determine the level of alcohol that they have in their blood.

In Pennsylvania, anyone who is found to have a BAC of 0.08% or greater will be charged with a DUI. If your BAC is 0.16 or higher, the potential penalties will be more severe.

You must be tested within two hours of the time of your stop. If you refuse, you may immediately lose your license for a year or longer.

What are the penalties for a high-BAC DUI of 0.16% or higher?

In Pennsylvania, people who are convicted of driving under the influence will face different penalties, depending on their BAC level and any prior offenses that they might have.

If you have never been charged with a DUI before and have a BAC that tests at more than 0.16%, you may face the following penalties:

  • From three days up to six months in jail
  • A fine of $1,000 up to $5,000
  • Mandatory attendance at alcohol safety school
  • The installation of an ignition interlock system for a year
  • Potential mandated attendance in a court-ordered alcohol treatment program

If you have a prior DUI conviction and are charged with a DUI when your BAC was higher than 0.16%, the penalties may be enhanced as follows:

  • Jail ranging from a minimum of 90 days up to five years
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 18 months
  • Fine ranging from $1,500 to $10,000
  • Attendance at alcohol safety school
  • Ignition interlock system in your car for a year
  • Possible requirement to undergo court-ordered alcohol treatment

If you have two prior DUI convictions and are charged with a DUI when your BAC tests at more than 0.16%, you may face the following potential penalties:

  • Jail from one to five years
  • Suspension of your license for 18 months
  • Fine ranging from $2,500 to $10,000
  • Ignition interlock system installed for one year
  • You may also be ordered to undergo alcohol treatment

In addition to these penalties, there are collateral consequences that you could face. If you are convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record. A criminal record can make it harder for you to obtain employment or housing, and it may also be embarrassing for you. Your auto insurance premiums will likely increase. If you caused a death or injury when you were driving under the influence of alcohol, your sentence may be more severe. Finally, you may be sued in civil court for damages for any injury accident that you might have caused.

When your BAC tests at 0.16% or higher, you will be required to undergo an assessment for drug and alcohol addiction. If you are determined to have an addiction, you may be ordered by the court to complete a treatment program.

What to do if you are charged with a high-BAC DUI

If you are charged with a DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher, you should immediately retain an experienced West Chester DUI attorney at DiCindio Law. This offense is serious, if you are convicted, you could be sentenced to jail for up to several years. An experienced lawyer can start working on your case before your first hearing occurs.

You should receive a copy of the criminal complaint against you soon after your arrest. You should bring this document with you to show your lawyer so that he or she can see the specific charges that you are facing. After you have received your charges, the court will schedule a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, you will hear the options that you have. Having an attorney present to represent you can help you to secure the most favorable outcome that is possible for your case.

What defenses might be available?

If you decide to turn down a plea offer and go to trial, your lawyer will work to identify the possible defenses that are available to you. Some of the possible defenses might include the following:

  • There was no probable cause for the officer to stop you;
  • There was no probable cause for the officer to test you;
  • The results of your test were inaccurate;
  • The machines used for your test was faulty, inaccurate, or incorrectly calibrated; or
  • You were tested after the two-hour window had passed.

If the officer did not have probable cause to stop your car, your lawyer may seek to suppress the evidence against you. If your lawyer was successful, the charges would likely be dismissed. If other types of motions are successful, it could lead to a reduction in your charges. Getting help from an experienced DUI lawyer in West Chester can help you to determine whether any of these types of errors might have happened in your case. To learn more about your rights, contact DiCindio Law today by calling 610.430.3535.


DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

What Happens If You Receive a First-Offense DUI in Pennsylvania?

Being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in West Chester, Pennsylvania can result in serious consequences that can have a negative impact on your life. If you are a first-time DUI offender, your DUI charge will likely be a misdemeanor offense that will not have as large of an impact on your life as a felony offense could. However, you might still face potential jail time, substantial fines, mandatory classes, and a loss of your driving privileges. If you are facing a first-time DUI offense, it is important for you to understand what to expect. Working with an experienced DUI defense attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to secure a more favorable resolution to your charge.

DUI arrests in Pennsylvania

If a police officer pulls you over in West Chester and suspects that you are driving under the influence, he or she will likely ask you to complete some field sobriety tests. Your performance on these tests will be a factor in whether you will be arrested. If the officer is able to establish probable cause to believe that you were driving drunk, you will be detained, processed, and asked to submit to a blood alcohol content test. You may then be released after a few hours have passed or during the morning.

Pennsylvania has an implied consent law. Under this law, your ability to drive is considered to be a privilege rather than a right. By the act of driving, you are considered to have implicitly given your consent to submit to blood alcohol concentration testing when you have been taken into custody on suspicions of drunk driving. If you refuse to test, the officer must then inform you that your driver’s license will be suspended. Basically, if you refuse to take a Breathalyzer test to ascertain the concentration of alcohol that you have in your blood, you will be deemed to have given up your privilege to drive in Pennsylvania.

The court process for DUIs

The court will send you a summons in the mail after you have been released. This paper will tell you when to appear for a preliminary hearing. If you want to retain an attorney, it is a good idea to hire him or her before your preliminary hearing. Your lawyer will review the evidence in your case and advise you about the options that you have.

If you plan to enter a plea of not guilty or to fight the charges, you should be prepared for a battle. It may be a matter of your word versus the police officer’s word. While the prosecutor always has the burden of proving that you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, you will still need to prepare a strong defense case for a trial. If you decide to plead guilty to the charge, you will still be required to attend the hearing. If you do not appear in court, you can face additional penalties that can make everything more difficult.

Penalties for DUI cases

The penalties and fines that you might be assessed will depend on the facts and circumstances of what happened in your case. Your BAC at the time that you were arrested may impact the penalty range. Pennsylvania assesses penalties and fines for DUI cases into three tiers. The first tier includes DUI cases in which your BAC ranges from 0.08% to 0.099% or when it cannot be determined. Typically, the penalty for a first-tier DUI offense will include having a misdemeanor conviction on your record, a fine, and the possibility of probation.

A second tier DUI offense is one in which your BAC falls from 0.10% and 0.159%. Typically, you can expect to face a possible time in jail, a license suspension of one year, and a fine that is more substantial. You may also be ordered to undergo mandatory counseling or treatment.

The third tier of DUI offenses is reserved for people who have a BAC of 0.16% or higher. At this level, you can expect to face a longer period of time in jail and the highest possible fines. If your BAC falls into the third tier, you can also expect to face treatment or counseling that will be ordered by the court in addition to the other penalties.

What to do to avoid a DUI conviction

The best approach to DUIs is to avoid getting a charge to begin with. If you are planning to go to a bar or a party where alcohol will be served, take money with you for a cab, public transportation, or ride-share service. If you drive to a bar, ask the manager if it is okay for you to leave your car in the parking lot until the next day.

When you have been drinking, you might think that you can still drive. However, you have to remember that your thinking is impaired after you have had a few drinks and that you cannot make good decisions about driving when you are intoxicated. It is best for you to remove the temptation to drive home after drinking by taking a cab or using a ride-share service to get to the bar or party. If you drink and drive, you will place both yourself and others around you at risk.

Get help for a first-time DUI offense

If you are already facing a first-time DUI offense, it is important for you to talk to an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law. You should avoid entering a guilty plea too quickly and should have an offer that is extended to you reviewed by a lawyer. It is possible that your attorney might be able to identify strong defenses that you can raise to secure a better plea offer or a dismissal of the charge against you. To learn about the defenses that might be available to you and the potential penalties that you might face, contact our firm today by calling 610.430.3535.


DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Drunk driving stops, arrests, and convictions occur frequently in Pennsylvania. Most people are acquainted with someone who has been stopped, arrested, or convicted for drunk driving. Because of how common these types of cases are, many people think that they know what you should do when you are asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test, and they might freely give you their advice even though they are not attorneys. Before you listen to someone else’s opinion about whether you should submit to or refuse a Breathalyzer test, it is important that you understand the consequences of refusing to submit to it when a police officer asks you to do so. At DiCindio Law, we regularly represent people who are facing DUI charges even after they have refused a Breathalyzer test, and we may work to secure the best possible outcome to any charges that you might face.

What happens if you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test?

When you drive on the roads in Pennsylvania, you give your implied consent to submit to a Breathalyzer test. If you refuse to take a test when you are asked to do so by a police offer, you could face serious consequences. If you are pulled over by an officer who believes that you might be under the influence of alcohol, you may have your license suspended or possibly face jail time if you refuse to submit to a test.

If you do refuse a Breathalyzer test, the prosecutors can still charge you with a DUI or DWI based on other evidence that the officer collects, including his or her observations, the results of a field sobriety test, or witness statements. Under Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws, prosecutors may be permitted to use your refusal to take a Breathalyzer test as evidence against you in a trial.

What is Pennsylvania’s implied consent law?

In Pennsylvania, your ability to drive is considered to be a privilege rather than a right. This means that your driver’s license can be suspended if you do not submit to a breathalyzer test when you are suspected of drunk driving. When you drive, you are considered to have implicitly consented to a Breathalyzer test in exchange for your driving privileges.

In Pennsylvania, if you refuse testing when you are suspected of driving under the influence, your license can be suspended for 12 months if you have no prior suspensions or 18 months if you do. In order to restore your driving privileges, you will also have to pay a fee once your period of suspension is over.

Despite the penalties for refusing a Breathalyzer, some people refuse because they think that the penalties are less than what they might expect if they submitted to the test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 20% of drivers who are suspected of drunk driving refuse to test. It is important for you to understand that you will still face the penalties for refusing to submit to a test even if you are successful in your DUI case because it is considered to be a separate offense and handled by PennDot, not the criminal system. Officers can also use other evidence to prove that you were driving under the influence. For example, they can testify that your speech was slurred, that your eyes were red and watery, and that they could smell the scent of alcohol on your breath. If you submit to the roadside tests, they can also testify about your performance on them.

If you submit to a Breathalyzer test and receive results showing that your BAC was 0.08% or higher, that does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of a DUI. It is possible that your attorney may be able to challenge the results to show that they were inaccurate.

How the validity of a Breathalyzer test might be challenged

When the police administer a Breathalyzer test, they are required to follow specific guidelines. If they fail to do so, the test results may be challenged. Some of these challenges might include the following:

  • The Breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated;
  • The officer did not observe you for 20 minutes before giving you the test;
  • The Breathalyzer was administered more than two hours after your stop;
  • The officer who tested you did not have the required certification;
  • The officer who tested you did not do so properly; or
  • You were not tested two consecutive times.

If one of these challenges is successful, your test results may be inadmissible at any trial. This means that the jury would not hear evidence about your Breathalyzer test. If the results are found to be valid, there are still certain medical conditions that can result in a false positive.

You can have a false positive on a breath test due to some medical conditions and some medications can also give you false positive results because they have alcohol in them.  Smoking, vomiting, or drinking alcohol during the 20 minutes before the test will also invalidate the results.

Get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

When you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, you can face serious penalties such as a long suspension of your license followed by substantial restoration fees. An attorney can help to defend you and to determine whether your stop was lawful. If you refused a Breathalyzer test and have questions about your case, call DiCindio Law at 610.430.3535. We can help you to understand the options that you might have and the possible defenses that you might have available to you in your DUI case.


DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale