What are Pennsylvania’s open container laws?

Drunk driving is one offense that can lead to a run-in with the law, but what about having an open container in your vehicle? Most states, including Pennsylvania, have open container laws that prohibit drivers and their passengers from drinking or possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. Although Pennsylvania open container laws (codified at 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3809) are not complex, there are certain aspects of the law that are commonly misconstrued. Let’s look further into Pennsylvania’s open container laws.

Understanding Pennsylvania’s open container laws

It is important to understand Pennsylvania’s open container laws before you plan on transporting any alcohol within the state. Two important things to remember are:

  1. The open container laws apply regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or parked.
  2. An open container does not necessarily have to be consumed in order to be in violation of Pennsylvania open container laws.

Violations of these laws can result in criminal charges filed against you.

What constitutes an open container?

Generally, an open container is defined as an alcoholic beverage that:

  • has been previously opened
  • has a broken seal, or
  • has had some of the contents removed
  • Possessing an open container while driving sober

It is against the law for you to drive your vehicle with an open container present in your vehicle, even if you are not drinking. You may, however, legally transport a sealed alcohol container in the passenger area of your vehicle.

If you purchased a bottle of wine at a restaurant, it is lawful for you to transport the bottle home as long as it has been properly resealed. However, it is not advisable that you do so because it may cause issues if you were to be pulled over by a police officer.

If you would like to transport other previously opened containers, you may transport them in the trunk of your vehicle. The key is they must be well out of reach of the passenger area of the vehicle. If you do not have a trunk, then they can be stored in a secured, locked container.

Possessing an open container while driving drunk

It is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in the state of Pennsylvania. If an officer tests your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and it is .08 or higher, then you are considered legally drunk, and you may be charged with a DUI. If you are caught driving drunk with an open container at your reach, you may face even more severe charges. Penalties and fines vary and are also based on prior offenses.

Possessing an open container as a passenger

Pennsylvania’s open container laws apply to both drivers and any passengers. Sometimes, passengers don’t realize that they are in violation of any laws, because they think that as long as they aren’t driving the car, that it shouldn’t matter if they drink. That is most definitely not true. As a passenger in violation of the law, you can face hefty fines. Additionally, everyone in the vehicle is subject to being penalized as well.

Possessing an open container as a bus or commercial vehicle driver

If you hold a commercial license and are found to be in violation of Pennsylvania’s open container laws while operating a commercial vehicle, you may face severe repercussions. Not only will you be held liable legally, but your employer may also be held liable for allowing you to drive in violation of the law. You may face license suspension as well as job loss.

Pennsylvania has a zero tolerance policy for school bus drivers in violation of open container laws. If you are found to be in violation of these laws, then you will immediately lose your job along with other penalties such as fines, license suspension, and possible jail time.

Possessing an open container in a vehicle designed for passenger transportation

We’ve talked about many of the violations associated with Pennsylvania’s open container laws, but there are also some exceptions to the law. Although anyone operating a vehicle cannot consume alcohol, a passenger of a bus, taxi, or limousine can legally possess or consume an open container of an alcoholic beverage. The alcohol must be in the back of the vehicle where the driver does not have access to it. Additionally, vehicles like a camper or a recreational vehicle (RV) are legally allowed to have open containers of alcohol as long as it is kept in the living quarters and away from the driver.

Being charged with an open container violation

Although a police officer does not need a warrant to search your vehicle, they must have probable cause to believe that you had an open container in your vehicle. They cannot illegally pull you over and search your vehicle.

Penalties of violating Pennsylvania’s open container law

If you violate Pennsylvania’s open container laws, then you are subject to penalties and fines. Violations are considered a summary offense. A summary offense is a fine of $500 and punishable up to 90 days in jail. You may also face license suspension.

Possible defenses

It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer, who can review the facts and circumstances surrounding your case and point out possible defenses. If the officer conducted an illegal search of the vehicle, then a skilled attorney may be able to have the search and evidence against you deemed inadmissible. If you were a passenger and were completely unaware that there was an open container in the vehicle, then you may have a possible defense. There are several different defenses that may be applicable to you. An experienced attorney is able to negotiate on your behalf and may be able to lessen your penalties.

When you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney from DiCindio Law, you might be able to secure a more favorable disposition to the charges against you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by submitting your information through our online contact form.

10 Things You Need To Know About DUI in PA

Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs can result in serious consequences, from expensive fines to losing your license. It is important to be educated on what to expect if you are charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Here are the top 10 things you need to know about a DUI in Pennsylvania.

1. You should know the basics of the DUI Process

The DUI process usually starts with being pulled over by a police officer. Usually, the officer notices that you are swerving or otherwise driving erratically and has reasonable suspicion to assume that you may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The officer then assesses the situation with a field test and may demand that you take a chemical test. There are two types of chemical tests: a blood draw at the hospital and a breath test using a breathalyzer.

Sometimes, people think that if they refuse the chemical test that there is no way to prove that they were under the influence. This is a common misconception, because not only is it likely that you will still lose your license, but refusing the test could potentially add an additional year to the loss of your license. There are several ways a police officer can still prove guilt without the test, such as their observation of your appearance at the time. Police often use terms like “bloodshot eyes,” “odor on the breath” and “slurred speech” which can help prove that you were not capable of safely driving.

Driving under the influence isn’t always just alcohol or illegal drugs, but it can also refer to other substances that have the ability to impair your driving abilities, such as legal prescription drugs or even over-the-counter medications.

2. Pennsylvania has mandatory jail sentences

Pennsylvania has mandatory jail sentences for those who are convicted of a DUI, even if it is a first offense. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to jail. There are alternative programs in place that may allow for lesser sentences, such as: Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and Intermediate Punishment Program (IPP).

In Pennsylvania, a DUI charge is rated under different tiers and they are based on the chemical test results:

  • Tier 1: BAC .08% – .99%
  • Tier 2: .10-.159%
  • Tier 3: over .160% or if the person has drugs in his or her system or refuses chemical testing

The more alcohol a person has in their system, the more severe of a penalty it is. It is even more severe if there is more than one DUI in a 10 year period.

3. You need an attorney

It doesn’t matter if it is your first DUI offense, it is extremely important to have an attorney because a DUI is a criminal offense. If convicted, a DUI will stay on your record without the possibility for expungement. However, a lawyer may be able to get you into an alternative program such as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). This program is specifically for first time offenders.

  • Potential benefits of ARD
  • No jail time
  • Reduced license suspension
  • Ability to have the arrest record expunged

Admittance into the program is at the sole discretion of the District Attorney’s office. With an experienced attorney by your side, you can rest assured that he or she will negotiate your application on your behalf.

An attorney can also evaluate the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine whether any constitutional rights were violated. Just because someone is charged with a DUI does not necessarily mean that the person is guilty of a DUI. A skilled attorney will review the police report and any lab results to look for any deficiencies or inconsistencies with what has been presented in the charges.

Make sure the attorney that you choose specializes in DUIs. It is important to choose someone who is local and understands Pennsylvania DUI laws, which are different than other states.

If you are low-income and unable to afford a private lawyer, you may meet the requirements to have a public defender assigned to you. Public defenders are usually experienced in DUI cases, but they also have large caseloads.

4. You will have to appear in court

After your initial DUI arrest, you will have to appear in court on a specified date and time. It can be a humiliating experience to have to appear in court with the public in attendance. The charges will be read to you and you will have to plead guilty or not guilty. It is important to have an attorney representing you in court.

5. Your license will most likely be suspended

Almost all DUI convictions result in a license suspension for some period of time. However, if it’s a first time offense within a 10-year period AND the BAC level was at or below .099%, then there is no license suspension.

6. There may be options for a limited license, even with a suspended license

In some cases, you may be eligible to apply for an Occupational Limited License (OLL), also referred to as the bread and butter license in Pennsylvania. This license allows you to drive under certain conditions, like going to and from work.

7. You will pay a hefty fine

Every DUI conviction will result in court fees and penalties. Fines for a DUI in Pennsylvania could range anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending on the circumstances. The cost is more expensive for multiple offenses.

8. You may be able to settle your case before trial.

In reality, most DUI cases never make it to trial and that is because they often take a deal offered by the prosecutor. Many times these deals include pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. Additionally, your attorney may find loopholes in the case that could cause the charges to get thrown out completely.

9. You may have to go to drunk driving school

In order to get your driving abilities reinstated, you may required to go to drunk driving school. These classes educate you about drunk driving prevention and offer an assessment of your drinking habits.

10. Your car insurance rates will likely be raised

When you are convicted of a DUI, your insurance company will eventually find out that information. Drunk drivers are at a huge risk to insurance companies, so you will be given a special policy with inflated rates for a certain period of time. Many times these rates are double or triple the cost of a normal premium.

When you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney from DiCindio Law, you might be able to secure a more favorable disposition to the charges against you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by submitting your information through our online contact form.

Get The Facts About Your Third Offense DUI

If you are facing charges for a third DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you likely have an idea of what you are facing. After being charged with two prior DUIs, you understand how strict the DUI laws in Pennsylvania are and are probably concerned about the penalties that you might face. If you are facing a third DUI charge, it is crucial to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. The DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law is a former prosecutor who understands how the state prosecutes DUI cases, allowing him to anticipate the arguments that might be made so that he can build a strong defense against the charges you are facing.

The penalties for a third DUI offense in Pennsylvania will depend on several factors, including your blood alcohol content when you were arrested and whether other aggravating factors exist. The punishment for a third DUI conviction in Pennsylvania can include substantial fines and from months to years in prison.

The penalties become more severe each time that a driver is convicted of driving under the influence. When you have prior convictions, you should fight your DUI charge. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law understands what you are facing and will work to build the strongest defense case possible to fight your charges.

What are the penalties for a third DUI conviction?

In Pennsylvania, the penalties for driving while impaired are based on a combination of the blood alcohol concentration of the driver and whether he or she has any prior DUI convictions.

If you have two prior convictions and were arrested with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.099% for your third offense, you will face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum of 10 days up to a maximum of two years in jail
  • 12-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Fine ranging from a minimum of $500 up to $5,000
  • 12-month installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
  • The court may require you to complete a court-ordered treatment program

If you have been charged with a third DUI offense and had a BAC ranging from 0.10% to 0.159%, you will face the following penalties:

  • Mandatory minimum 90 days up to five years in jail
  • 18-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Fine ranging from a minimum of $1,500 up to $10,000
  • 12-month installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
  • The court can require you to complete a court-ordered treatment program

If you are facing a third DUI offense and had a BAC of 0.160% or higher, you will face the following penalties if you are convicted:

  • Mandatory minimum of one year up to five years in prison
  • Mandatory minimum fine of $2,500 up to $10,000
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for one year
  • The court can require you to complete a treatment program
  • Collateral consequences of a third DUI conviction

Even after you have discharged your sentence, a third DUI conviction can cause consequences in other areas of your life. You will likely face higher rates for your automobile insurance. Your insurance provider might choose to drop your coverage because of your risky driving behavior.

A third DUI conviction will add to your criminal record, which can make it more difficult to find a new job. Your employer might also terminate you from your current job. If you have children and share them with your former spouse or partner, you could lose some of your custodial rights after a third DUI conviction.

In Pennsylvania, the court will take the last 10 years into account to determine whether you are facing a third or subsequent drunk driving charge.

What to do after you have been charged

If you have been arrested for a third DUI offense, the first step that you should take is to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can begin building your defense before you attend your first hearing. Getting help early provides your lawyer with more time to investigate your case so that he or she can identify potential defenses that might be raised.

When you have several prior DUI convictions on your record, your need for an experienced attorney is even higher. You will want to find an attorney who understands how to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for you. Before your first hearing, your defense lawyer can assess the circumstances that surrounded your previous DUI convictions, find out about the evidence that the state has against you, and start building your case based on the evidence.

After you have been released from jail, the court will mail a copy of the criminal complaint to you. You need to save this document and take it to your lawyer so that he or she can see the specific charges that you are facing.

The preliminary hearing is the first court appearance that you will have. It is a critical hearing because you will be presented with the options of negotiating a plea or taking your case to trial. Your lawyer can help you to understand your choices and advise you about the steps that you should take to obtain the best outcome.

Potential defenses

If you decide against trying to negotiate a plea offer and to take your case to a trial, your lawyer might raise several different defenses on your behalf. The defenses that might be available to you will depend on the circumstances. Some of the potential defenses that might be raised include the following:

  • The stop of your vehicle was not supported by probable cause.
  • The office did not have probable cause to ask you to submit to a DUI test.
  • There were problems with how the chemical test was administered.
  • The equipment was not properly calibrated.

If an officer stopped your vehicle without reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that you had committed or were committing an offense, your attorney may file a motion asking the court to suppress the evidence against you. If this motion is granted, your charges may be dismissed.

Contact DiCindio Law

Facing a third DUI offense can be scary. When you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney from DiCindio Law, you might be able to secure a more favorable disposition to the charges against you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by submitting your information through our online contact form.

What Happens if I am Convicted of Multiple DUIs?

While Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) convictions are based upon state law, typically, persons convicted of multiple DUIs need to know the possible penalties and situations that could increase the punishment. For the most part, multiple DUI convictions within a specific time period can increase fines, possible jail time, and driving restrictions. If you are concerned about a conviction of multiple DUIs, it is a good idea to learn more about the possible repercussions so that you can take action now.

Multiple DUI Convictions – The Basics

The penalties attached to a DUI will depend on the state in which you are charged with the DUI. However, for many states, if it is a second or third DUI, then DUI convictions from other states may count.

The reason why this becomes important is that having multiple DUI convictions can significantly impact the severity of the charge you receive for the subsequent DUI. In other words, if you have one DUI conviction on your record, then it is important to understand that a second or third DUI is likely going to result in a more serious charge than the first.

Additionally, you will likely have increased penalties if you are convicted of a subsequent DUI. These penalties could include mandatory minimum jail time as well as increased restrictions on your driving privileges. In some instances, you may have your driver’s license permanently suspended. Moreover, the fines will likely be higher. Additionally, if you have your license revoked, you may have increased restrictions and be forced to install breathalyzer equipment into your car. All of this can add up to a very costly situation.

Circumstances That Impact the Severity of the Charge for a Subsequent DUI Conviction

Having a prior DUI typically means you will be charged with a greater offense than your first DUI conviction should you be charged with a second or third DUI. While it depends on state law, there are some factors to generally be aware of when it comes to multiple DUI convictions.

Look Back Period for Purposes of Determining How Many Convictions Are Counted For the Offense Brought for the Subsequent DUI(s)

One issue to consider with multiple DUI convictions is when your last DUI occurred and how much time has passed. For instance, Pennsylvania law will look back ten years to determine the number of DUI convictions when it comes to deciding what charge to bring against you for a subsequent DUI.

This means that if you had a DUI conviction more than ten years ago and you are now facing charges of another DUI, then it is possible that you will not have a charge brought against you for multiple DUI(s) because of the amount of time that has passed. Thus, you would be only facing a first offense DUI (in the ten year look-back).

However, if it has been less than ten years or there were other extenuating circumstances, then you may still face an increased charge for multiple DUIs with a subsequent DUI conviction.

Additional Factors to Consider with Multiple DUI Convictions

In addition to the look-back period for purposes of counting DUI convictions when bringing charges, other factors can enhance the severity of the offense. These include multiple DUI convictions and the severity of the penalties. Again, this is state-specific.

However, some common factors that may enhance the severity of the charge and punishment include:

  • The blood alcohol content (“BAC”) level you had when you were charged with one or more of the DUIs
  • Whether anyone was injured because of your DUI
  • Property damage occurred as part of any DUIs
  • Past criminal history record
  • Refusal to submit to a sobriety test
  • Passengers in the car at the time of the incidents, especially when it includes minor children.

 

Depending on the applicable state law, these extenuating factors may further enhance the severity of any charges and penalties brought on by multiple DUI convictions.

Whether Other State DUI Convictions Are Considered

If you received DUI convictions in different states, then you should be aware of whether the state in which you are charged with a later DUI conviction will consider the prior DUI conviction that occurred in the other state. Typically, the previous conviction is considered, even if it happened in another state. As such, there will likely be an enhanced charge with more severe penalties should these DUIs occur within a specific amount of time.

Why Contacting a DUI Attorney is Wise

If you want to learn more about the facts that impact your situation, it is wise to contact a DUI attorney about your case. Given that DUI laws are complicated and are state law specific when multiple states are at play, consulting with an attorney is a good idea if you are not otherwise familiar with this area of law. Additionally, an attorney may help you navigate through the system to obtain a more favorable outcome.

Consequences of Multiple DUI Convictions

The severity of the consequences will depend on the state in which you received the DUI convictions. Extenuating circumstances, such as harm or injury caused to a person or property during the incident and the amount of time that passed between the multiple DUI convictions, will also play a role in the decision.

The penalties may be lessened depending on the applicable state’s laws and whether you have potential defenses or mitigating factors. Additionally, if there has been a greater period of time in between DUI convictions, then for many states, this may result in a lesser charge. On the flip side, driving under a suspended license and multiple DUIs within a short period of time could enhance the charges brought against you.

Programs completed after a DUI conviction such as drug and alcohol abuse treatment may help lessen the severity of consequences that you may face for later DUI convictions. Additionally, a good DUI attorney may be able to negotiate the charge down to one that does not result in the more severe offense of multiple DUI convictions.

Multiple DUI Convictions Are a Serious Offense

If you have been charged with multiple DUI convictions, you should expect to face enhanced penalties and a more severe charge. These penalties may mean increased jail time, higher fines, enhanced or permanent driving restrictions, and equipment installed on your car. These are only some examples. It will depend on the state in which you are charged for each of the convictions.

If it is your second DUI conviction, then penalties are typically not as severe as for the third DUI conviction. For either a second or a third DUI conviction, it is crucial to know that if you are charged with a subsequent DUI when your license is restricted due to a prior DUI conviction, then you are likely facing even more severe penalties and charges. You could very well lose your driving privileges entirely and face increased jail time.

If You or Someone You Know is Facing Multiple DUI Convictions, Contact an Attorney Today

Since DUI laws are complicated and multiple DUI convictions carry severe consequences, it is wise to obtain advice from a DUI attorney that specializes in this area of law. Many issues come into play when it comes to the severity of the charge and penalties that someone may face should they receive multiple DUI convictions.

An attorney who specializes in DUI law can help navigate through the relevant facts and provide you with a better understanding of the charges and penalties you may be facing, as well as whether there are any possibilities for obtaining a lesser sentence.

To discuss the facts of your case, fill out our contact form. We will get back to you as soon as possible to learn more about your case and discuss what help we may be able to provide.

Do You Need A Drunk Driving Attorney?

If you are facing DUI charges, then you need to consider whether you want to represent yourself or obtain legal representation. While you can represent yourself in court as a right, you also have a right to representation by a public defender appointed to you by the court. Then there is the option of obtaining legal help from a private practice attorney. Consider some of the information outlined below to help you assess whether you need a drunk driving attorney.

The Difference Between Representation by a Public Defender and Hiring a Private Attorney

 

Public Defender

If you cannot afford your own counsel, then you have right to an attorney appointed by the court. Court-appointed attorneys are usually from the public defender’s office, but they also include private attorneys selected from a panel. You cannot change court-appointed attorneys once one is assigned to you.

Public defenders and court-appointed attorneys often have very large caseloads. This may lead to feelings that your case is not being given much attention, which can be true in instances of attorneys being too busy. It is a downside with not being able to pick the attorney yourself.

An upside is that public defenders only work in criminal court. As such, they are likely very familiar with DUI laws and defenses, as well as local court procedures. They also may have built relationships through working with the state prosecution and the court in prior matters. This can be helpful to someone that is unfamiliar with the law.

DUI laws are complicated and it is difficult for someone to know what defenses may be available to them if they are not already familiar with this area of law. Also, a DUI lawyer that knows the local district attorneys and judges may know their patterns and have an advantage in negotiating more favorable terms through a plea bargain or at sentencing.

Administrative Per Se Hearings

If you have other proceedings that are not in criminal court such as proceedings with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), then a public defender will likely not help you with those. A public defenders’ representation is limited to cover the criminal court proceedings. Most DUI charges also result in DMV proceedings as well.

In most states, the DMV can suspend your license following DUI charges, even before you are convicted. If this happens, then you usually need to request an administrative per se hearing to have your license suspension revoked pending the outcome of your case for the DUI at court. If you are concerned about representing yourself for this, then you may want legal representation from a private attorney that can assist with both.

Private Attorneys

Usually if you hire a private drunk driving attorney, then you hire that attorney for the criminal DUI charges as well as any civil proceedings, such as administrative per se hearings. Private attorneys may cost $1,000-$5,000 or more. However, if you can afford this, then it may be worth it and may save you substantially with lower fines and a lesser sentence.

Some other benefits of seeking representation from a private drunk driving attorney include finding an attorney of your choosing and being able to pick one that specializes in DUI law. This can make a big difference in plea bargains and sentencing, especially if there are any potential defenses or mitigating factors.

Moreover, even though public defenders or court-appointed attorneys likely have experience with DUI law, a benefit in hiring a private attorney is that you can obtain representation from an attorney that specializes in DUI law. This can be important for when your case may contain nuances. However, if you are unfamiliar with the law, then obtaining advice from an attorney is a good starting point to understand what possible defenses you may have.

Cases Where You May Not Need an Attorney

If this is your first DUI offense, there were no injuries, and there is strong evidence to prove that you were intoxicated such as a very high blood alcohol content level (BAC) over 0.08%, a field failed sobriety test, witnesses that can attest to you driving unsteadily, or officer testimony that you were acting intoxicated (e.g., slurring speech, smell of alcohol on your breath, poor motor skills, etc.), then you may get the standard sentence from the court regardless of whether you have representation.

Obtaining Legal Representation

 

Plea Bargaining and Sentencing

An experienced DUI attorney may be able to help with plea bargaining, trial, and sentencing. During plea bargaining, some attorneys can negotiate for a guilty plea with a conviction of a lesser offense. This may be good if the outcome of going to trial will likely be that you are convicted guilty.

An attorney can also help at trial if there are any areas that the state prosecution must prove that can be questioned, such as the BAC level, the reason you were pulled over, etc.

Moreover, if you go to trial and you are found guilty, an attorney may be able to negotiate with the judge a more favorable sentence. This will depend on the facts of your case and the applicable state law. That is why it is a good idea to contact a lawyer to understand your options.

Obtain a Consultation

Most DUI attorneys offer a free consultation and so it is worth it to seek out one of these if there is any doubt that you will likely be convicted based on the facts of your case. You also should consider one if there are aggravating factors because you may face a higher sentence. An experienced DUI attorney could help negotiate a lower one if that is the case.

Obtaining advice or a free consultation from a drunk driving attorney can help you better understand what defenses you may have or if there are aggravating factors that could potentially lead to a much higher charge, such as possession of controlled substances, driving over a certain speed, etc. This depends on the state law and an experienced drunk driving attorney can help you get an idea of what your situation is like under the laws of your state.

You do not have to hire an attorney if you simply meet with them for a free consultation. If you decide you want to hire an attorney after a consultation, you are free to first meet other attorneys experienced in DUI law before making this decision.

Questions? Contact an Attorney

If you are not represented by a public defender and are considering a plea deal that has already been offered to you, it is also wise to first get the opinion of an attorney. You can choose not to hire them, but at a minimum you should consult a local drunk driving attorney for a better understanding of possible defenses.

Some attorneys may charge a small fee for a consultation but that consultation may help give you a better understanding of your case. Additionally, evaluations may be offered for a smaller fee than full representation. This can help you with advice on how to proceed with the expert knowledge from someone experienced in this area of law.

Conclusion

If you or someone you know is facing potential DUI charges and are wondering if you need legal help, fill out our contact form to include your information and we will get back to you to discuss your options.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving in PA

At DiCindio Law, we receive many questions from people about DUI charges in Pennsylvania. To help you gain some answers to the questions that you might have, we have compiled the following list of the most frequently asked questions that we regularly receive.

If I am convicted of a DUI, can I go to jail?

If you are convicted of driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, you may be sentenced to serve some time in jail. Pennsylvania has three levels of DUI offenses. For a first-offense general impairment DUI conviction, there is no mandatory jail sentence. However, if you are convicted of a first-offense middle-tier DUI offense, which is an offense for which your BAC tested at 0.10% to 0.1599%, you will face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 48 hours. If you are convicted of a high-BAC DUI as a first offense, you will face a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 72 hours. Depending on your prior record, you could receive a sentence of up to one year in jail. If it is your first offense, you might be eligible for the ARD program. This program doesn’t carry any jail sentence. If you complete it successfully, the charges will eventually be dismissed.

What will happen if I am supposed to receive my DUI charges by mail?

If you are to receive your DUI charges by mail, you should usually receive them within 15 to 30 days. They will be sent together with a summons for your appearance in court for your preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the police will have to show that there is enough evidence for your charges to be bound over to the Court of Common Pleas. You must appear at this hearing at the scheduled time and date or risk a warrant for your arrest.

Do I need to hire a DUI defense attorney?

You are allowed to represent yourself against a DUI charge. However, representing yourself will place you at a serious disadvantage that may be exploited by the prosecutor and the police officer. When you represent yourself, you are held to the same standard as the prosecutor and will be expected to understand the laws and the procedures that apply. When your freedom is at stake, you should hire an experienced DUI defense attorney instead of trying to handle the charges on your own.

Can an offer charge me with a DUI when he or she did not see me driving?

To be convicted of a DUI in Pennsylvania, the police officer and the prosecutor must present evidence showing that you were driving, in actual physical control, or operating a vehicle. The officer does not need to have witnessed your driving. He or she can present other evidence that the car was driven. A defense case will be stronger when the officer did not directly observe you driving, however.

What if the officer did not read me my Miranda rights?

It is a common misconception that Miranda warnings must be read before you can be arrested. The police are not required to read you your Miranda rights when you are arrested. They are required when you are already in custody and are asked questions about the incident that could incriminate you. Since DUI cases normally involve an officer’s observations of you and your blood alcohol testing results, Miranda warnings are normally not given. If you did answer questions that could be incriminating and were not read your rights, your attorney could file a motion with the court to ask for your statements to be suppressed. Having your statements suppressed will not mean that the charges will be dismissed, however. It simply means that the prosecutor won’t be able to use your statements against you.

Can an officer stop me without a valid reason?

Police officers cannot stop people if they do not have a reasonable suspicion that a crime or traffic violation is being committed. If the officer stopped you without reasonable suspicion, your attorney should file a motion to suppress the evidence against you. A hearing will be scheduled, and the officer will have to prove that he or she stopped you for a valid reason. If the court finds that the stop was unconstitutional, the evidence will be suppressed, and your case will be dismissed.

Can I refuse to submit to a breath or blood test?

When you drive on the roads of Pennsylvania, you are considered to have given your implied consent to be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs in your system. If you refuse a test, you will lose your driver’s license for at least one year after the officer notifies PennDot. This loss of your driving privileges will be in addition to any penalties you might receive for the DUI. Once you receive the letter of suspension, you will be given 30 days to appeal it. If you do, a hearing will be held to determine whether the officer followed the appropriate procedures in your case. If you win your hearing, your driving privileges will be restored. If you lose, your license will be suspended for one year or more.

Will being convicted of a DUI cause me to lose my driver’s license?

If you are convicted of a DUI, you will lose your license for one year. However, you might be eligible for an Ignition Interlock Limited License from PennDot.

What if I was taking legally prescribed medication?

You can be convicted of a DUI if you were taking legally prescribed medication that impaired your ability to drive. When you take certain types of medications, you are not supposed to drive.

Being charged with a DUI offense can be scary. When you get the help of an experienced DUI defense lawyer, your attorney may identify defenses that are available to you. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling (610) 430-3535.

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.

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

How to Avoid a Criminal Record for First-Time Offenders

If you have a criminal record, it can seriously impact your life. A conviction can cause you to lose your job or to have problems finding a new position. Some convictions may cause you to lose your ability to get financial aid for school. You could also lose your government benefits and have trouble getting into a college of your choice or into the military. If you are a first-time offender of a minor offense, you might be able to participate in a diversion program to avoid a conviction.

Every county in Pennsylvania has its own district attorney’s office. These offices have their own diversion programs and admission requirements. At DiCindio Law, we can advise you about whether you might qualify for a diversion program and help you to apply if you do. The benefit of these programs is that your charges could be withdrawn, and you might be able to have them expunged from your record. Some of the diversion programs that are available in Chester County include the following:

• Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program or ARD
• Drug Court
• Mental Health Court pre-plea or post-plea diversion

What is a diversion program?

A diversion program allows you to have your criminal case diverted away from going to trial. Depending on whether your diversion is pre- or post-plea, you might not have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. You may be assigned a probation officer who will supervise your progress in the diversion program. When you successfully complete it, the charges against you may be dismissed or withdrawn. They can then be expunged from your record. Commonly, these programs require you to pay fines, perform community service, attend drug and alcohol treatment, and attend other classes. You may also be required to meet with the probation officer and to submit to drug and alcohol tests. If you are placed in a diversion program, it is important that you comply with all of the instructions so that you can complete it and have your charges dismissed.

The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD)

The ARD program was created by statute and is available in all counties in Pennsylvania. If you do not have any prior arrests or have a very limited history, you might be eligible for the ARD program. The ARD program may be available to you if you are facing charges for a low-level misdemeanor, including the following types (depending on the county you are charged in):

  • DUI
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Theft
  • Harassment
  • Simple assault
  • Criminal mischief
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Retail theft
  • Passing bad checks
  • Simple possession

The District Attorney determines who can be admitted into the ARD program. Even if you are facing one of the previously listed charges, the circumstances might result in you being rejected from ARD. Conversely, if you have been overcharged, it is possible that you might gain admission to ARD even if you are facing more serious charges.

Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney may help you to gain admission to the ARD program. An attorney might know how to complete the application and who to talk to at the DA’s office in order to give you the best chances of being admitted.

Drug Court

The Chester County Drug Court Program was the second such program in the state of Pennsylvania. This program is available to people who are charged with non-mandatory drug crimes or DUIs with drug offenses who do not have any record of violent offenses. In order to be eligible to participate, you must waive your right to a preliminary hearing and legally reside in the U.S.

The District Attorney has discretion about who to admit to the drug court program. Your lawyer can submit an application on your behalf, and you will have to complete a drug and alcohol assessment. If you are accepted, you will be assigned to a probation officer for intensive supervision. You will go through several phases during the program, and you must submit to drug and alcohol tests, appear before the court for regular reviews, and comply with all of the program’s rules. You will also have to actively seek or maintain a job or engage in productive activity each day and pay costs and fines. If you successfully complete all of the phases of the drug court program, maintain your sobriety, and have stable employment (among potential other conditions) the court will dismiss your charges and you can expunge them from your record.

If you violate any of the conditions of the drug court program, you can be removed from it or receive sanctions. The program takes from 12 to 24 months and goes through four phases. If you violate the program, the program may last longer. If you are removed from it, you will face the underlying charges and will have to handle them through the regular criminal court process.

Mental health court

The mental health court program is available on a pre-plea or post-plea diversionary basis or as a referral from probation. You may be eligible for mental health court if you are diagnosed with a mental illness or a dual diagnosis of a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder and have been charged with a misdemeanor or certain felony offenses. The mental health court staff complete screenings to determine eligibility. If you are accepted into the program, you will move through four phases. If your participation was completed on a pre-plea diversionary basis, the charges may be dismissed upon your successful completion. If you were referred and accepted to the program on a post-plea diversionary basis, you will be required to complete the programs supervision requirements after pleading guilty.

Contact DiCindio Law

If you are a first offender of a low-level misdemeanor offense or are facing charges for certain felony drug offenses, you may be eligible for a diversion program. Contact DiCindio Law to learn more about diversion and whether it might be a good choice for you.


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