Your Rights During a DUI Stop

Under federal and state law in Pennsylvania, police officers can stop vehicles when they have a reasonable suspicion that the drivers have committed traffic offenses, are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that they have committed other violations of the law. Police officers are allowed to investigate drivers whom they believe to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, they must also respect the constitutional rights of the drivers during traffic stops. DiCindio Law believes that it is important for you to understand the police officers’ rights as well as your own during a DUI stop so that you know what to do and actions to avoid.

What actions by police officers are allowed?

A police officer cannot stop a vehicle based on a hunch. Instead, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver may be driving under the influence or has committed some other type of legal violation. An officer can pull you over for a different traffic violation and subsequently develop a reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence. In that circumstance, the officer can investigate both the reason for your original stop and whether you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Police officers may do the following things when they suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol:

  • Ask the driver about drug or alcohol use
  • Ask the driver about his or her driving
  • Ask the driver to submit to standardized field sobriety tests
    In some cases, search the vehicle
  • After developing probable cause, arrest the driver for a DUI
  • Ask the driver to submit to a breath or blood test to check the blood alcohol concentration

While police officers have many rights to gather evidence and investigate what happened to build probable cause for a DUI arrest, they also have some limitations. Police officers must follow specific laws and procedures when they conduct stops and investigations. Your attorney might review the stop and investigation to make sure that the officer followed the correct protocols at all points.

SFSTs and BAC tests

Police officers have the right to ask you to submit to roadside tests when they suspect that you are driving while impaired. These tests are designed to help officers determine whether you are under the influence. However, you are not required to agree to take roadside tests and can politely refuse. If you do agree to take the tests, the officer must follow the standards that have been developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, officers commonly make mistakes when they administer the SFSTs. If your lawyer identifies mistakes made by the officer in how he or she administered the SFSTs, he or she might challenge the tests and the evidence gathered as a result of them. Like the SFSTs, you also have the right to refuse to give a sample on the portable breath test device at the roadside.

If you are arrested for a DUI and are asked to submit a blood or breath sample for chemical testing at the police station, jail, or hospital, Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws state that you do not have the right to refuse those tests. If you do, you might face stiffer DUI penalties and driver’s license consequences.

Your rights at a DUI checkpoint

DUI checkpoints are legal in Pennsylvania. However, multiple laws govern how the police can establish them and operate them. A skilled DUI defense lawyer can review the actions of the officers to check whether they followed the laws governing DUI checkpoints in Pennsylvania.

While officers need reasonable suspicion to stop drivers in most cases, they do not need to have reasonable suspicion to pull people over at checkpoints. Instead, the officers stop drivers using a predetermined method of random selection. For example, the officers might stop every 10th vehicle. If you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the officer can talk to you, check for signs of intoxication, check your license and insurance information, and glance inside of your vehicle. Most drivers decide to submit to the interaction so that they can go on their way.

If you do not want to answer the officer’s questions, you can assert your constitutional rights to remain silent, to refuse to consent to a search of your vehicle, and to have an attorney. You will still need to provide your license, insurance, and registration information, however. If you choose to assert your rights or decide to comply with the officer’s investigation, make sure that you are polite. If you refuse to participate in the officer’s investigation, expect that you will likely be placed into custody. If you do choose to comply with the officer’s investigation, the officer may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests if he or she believes that you are driving while impaired.

Avoiding DUI checkpoints

Under the law, checkpoints must be planned in advance and must be published. Leading up to a checkpoint, the police must have clear signs to notify drivers. If you see signs warning you of a checkpoint ahead, you are legally allowed to turn off of the road onto a side street. However, making a U-turn is not advisable. If you do that, you will likely be stopped.

Talk to an attorney at DiCindio Law

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should get legal help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Working with a knowledgeable attorney might help you to secure a better outcome for your case. A lawyer at DiCindio Law can review how the police conducted the stop of your vehicle and the subsequent investigation. If the officers made mistakes, your attorney can challenge the admissibility of the evidence against you. Request a consultation today by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

How Do Police Determine Whether A Driver Is Under The Influence Of Drugs Or Alcohol?

Police officers in Pennsylvania must have reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing a traffic violation or a crime before they can stop them. After an officer pulls you over, the officer will make observations and will investigate the reason for your stop. If the officer suspects that you may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she might ask you several questions and perform tests. These observations, questions, and tests are designed to help the officer establish probable cause to place you under arrest. Knowing how an officer determines that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs is important and can help you to avoid making mistakes if you are pulled over. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in West Chester, DiCindio Law can advise you of the options that might be available to you.

Reasonable Suspicion For A Stop

Other than at a DUI checkpoint, a police officer cannot stop you unless he or she has a reasonable suspicion that you have violated a traffic law or have committed a crime. Reasonable suspicion must be based on objective facts and cannot be based on the officer’s hunch. In other words, an officer can’t stop you for any reason but must have a good one. Some examples of what might provide a reason for an officer to make a DUI stop include the following:

  • Erratic driving
  • Speeding
  • Driving too slowly
  • Crossing the center line
  • Failing to maintain your lane
  • Failing to obey traffic control devices
  • Driving the wrong way
  • Striking objects on the side of the road

Officers can also stop your vehicle for any type of traffic violation and subsequently develop a reasonable suspicion that you might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, an officer might pull you over because of a burned-out headlamp. After the officer walks up to your window and starts talking to you, he or she might decide to investigate you for a possible DUI if he or she makes observations that lead him or her to believe that you are under the influence. Some of these types of observations might include the following:

  • Odor of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs
  • Nervous or odd behavior
  • Fumbling when trying to retrieve your driver’s license
  • Bloodshot, watery eyes
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Alcohol bottles that are visible from the outside of the vehicle
  • Drug paraphernalia that is visible from the outside of the vehicle
  • Statements that you make
  • Slurred speech

Police officers commonly try to initiate a conversation as soon as they approach the window of a vehicle after a traffic stop. During this conversation, the officers will be listening, looking, and observing. An officer will try to assess your ability to speak, keep eye contact, and exercise motor control. If he or she notices any of the signs that indicate that you might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer will take additional investigatory steps to develop probable cause to support your arrest.

Police Officers Need To Establish Probable Cause Before Making DUI Arrests

If an officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from your driving and other observations that he or she has made, the officer will start by asking specific questions. You might be asked if you have had anything to drink or if you have used drugs. The officer will then ask you to perform some field sobriety tests. These are standardized tests that are administered by officers at the roadside and include the one-legged stand, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, and the walk and turn. If you agree to perform these tests, the officer will write down notes about your performance on each test.

You may be asked to submit to a preliminary breath test, which is a test of your breath performed by the officer using a portable device at the side of the road. If your PBT results indicate the presence of alcohol, the officer might then place you under arrest for a DUI. The probable cause to support your arrest will be based on the observations the officer made, your statements, your performance on the SFSTs, and your PBT results.

If your PBT results show that you are not under the influence of alcohol, the officer might call a drug recognition expert to the scene. This is a specially trained officer who has received training in recognizing the sciences of impairment by drugs. That officer might perform some tests, and if you perform poorly on them, you may be placed under arrest. In that case, the officer’s probable cause to arrest you will be based on the officer’s observations of you and your driving and your performance on the DRE tests.

If the officer believes that you are under the influence of alcohol, the officer will take you to the jail or police station and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test after your arrest. If the officer believes that you are under the influence of drugs, the officer will take you to a hospital to have your blood drawn. When you drive in Pennsylvania, you are deemed to have given your implied consent for a breath or blood test. If you refuse these tests, you will face civil penalties and increased criminal penalties if you are convicted of the DUI offense.

Should You Answer An Officer’s Questions?

When you are pulled over, you are required to provide the officer with your driver’s license, registration, insurance information, and name. Beyond the basic details, you are not required to answer any questions. Resist the urge to try to talk yourself out of being arrested. This does not work, and the statements that you make can be used against you at trial. If the officer asks you if you have had anything to drink, you can politely refuse to answer and tell the officer that you want an attorney. The fact that you choose to remain silent cannot be used against you in court. While the officer might place you under arrest based on his or her other observations, the prosecutor will not have any incriminating statements to use against you.

The Field Sobriety Tests And The Preliminary Breath Test

Many people think that they have to perform the field sobriety tests when they are asked to do so by the police. You have the right to refuse the field sobriety and preliminary breath tests. You should avoid these tests because they are simply used by the officer to build probable cause and to add circumstantial evidence of your impairment. If you refuse to talk, to perform field sobriety tests, and to submit to a preliminary breath test, the officer might still place you under arrest based on other observations that he or she has made, such as your driving, any odors that the officer smelled, your appearance, and your motor control when retrieving your license. However, it will be more difficult for the prosecutor to meet the burden of proving your case beyond a reasonable doubt based solely on the initial observations made by the officer.

Searches Of Your Vehicle

If an officer sees alcohol bottles or drug paraphernalia from outside of your car, he or she can confiscate them as evidence since they were in plain view. If an officer does not have probable cause to believe that evidence of the crime for which you have been stopped will be discovered by searching your car, the officer will have to develop probable cause before searching or obtaining a search warrant. If you are placed under arrest, the officer can search your person as a search incident to a lawful arrest. If an officer asks for your permission to search your vehicle, you do not have to agree. Consenting to a search is an exception to the warrant requirement. Officers sometimes ask for permission to search vehicles when they do not have sufficient probable cause to arrest people or to believe that evidence of crimes will be found inside of their cars.

Understanding Your Miranda Rights

Some people think that police officers must read their rights to them before asking any questions. The police do not have to Mirandize people that they have pulled over until after they take them into custody. Any statements that you make can be used against you, so be sure to avoid making incriminating statements to the officer. After your arrest, assert your rights to remain silent and to have an attorney. Any questioning by the officer will then have to stop.

Submitting To Breath And Blood Tests

Unlike the preliminary breath and standardized field sobriety tests, you do not have the right to refuse a post-arrest breath, urine, or blood test. If you refuse, your license will be suspended for at least 12 months or longer if you have prior convictions. People who are convicted of DUIs after refusing breath or blood tests will also face penalties for the highest BAC level. The prosecutor can also use your refusal of a breath or blood test against you at trial.

What Are The Police Allowed To Do During A Pennsylvania DUI Stop?

Police officers have the right to stop you if they witness you committing a traffic offense or if they reasonably believe that you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or have committed another crime. Officers have the right to investigate whether you are driving while impaired, but they must also respect your rights.

Officers can stop motorists when they have a reasonable suspicion that they might be impaired or have committed a traffic violation. After the stop, officers can investigate further to determine whether to charge and arrest the motorists. Some of the permissible actions that an officer can take during an investigation include the following:

  • Ask for your driver’s license, name, registration, and insurance card
  • Ask about the reason why you were stopped
  • Ask if you have taken drugs or consumed alcohol
  • Ask where you are coming from
  • Ask your permission to search your car
  • Ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test and perform field sobriety tests
  • Ask you to submit to a post-arrest breath, blood, or urine test
  • Arrest you if the officer develops probable cause

While officers have numerous rights during investigations to allow them to secure evidence, they are required to follow certain laws and guidelines in how they carry out their actions. An experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law can review how the officer investigated your case to determine whether the investigation was conducted properly. If there were problems, your lawyer might file motions to seek the suppression of some of the evidence against you.

Get Help From DiCindio Law

If you are charged with a DUI involving alcohol or drugs, you have legal rights. Criminal charges are not evidence that you have committed a crime, and there may be defenses that are available to you. Getting help from an experienced criminal defense and DUI attorney at DiCindio Law can allow you to learn about your rights and your legal options. Michael DiCindio is a former prosecutor who understands how prosecutors and police build their cases. This helps him to anticipate what the prosecutor might argue and build strong defenses against the DUI charges that have been filed against his clients. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling us at 610.430.3535.

How long does it take to receive DUI charges in PA?

People who are arrested for DUI offenses normally are not provided with complaints by the arresting officers. A complaint is a document that lists the charges against people who are charged with crimes. Typically, an officer will wait until blood test results arrive or wait to file the complaint even though a breath test was administered. Instead, you might be told that your summons will be mailed to you when you are released from custody. The summons to appear tells you when to appear in court for your preliminary hearing and may not be mailed to you for several weeks after you receive the complaint. In some cases, a couple of months might pass before a driver receives the summons to appear and the complaint. If you have been arrested for a DUI, an attorney at DiCindio Law can explain what to expect next.

What happens when someone is arrested for a DUI?

When people are arrested for DUI offenses, they are transported to the police station and will be asked to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test. Breath tests use machines to analyze the amount of alcohol contained in a person’s breath. If the officer wants to obtain blood samples, the person will be transported to a hospital so that a phlebotomist or nurse can draw it. For blood testing, two vials of blood are drawn and sent to a laboratory. The analysis of blood samples can take three or more weeks, and the blood test results will not be provided until the analysis is completed.

Police officers rarely ask people to provide urine samples. However, an officer might request a urine sample for a DUI offense in which the officer suspects that drugs might be involved.

When you drive in Pennsylvania, you are considered to have given your implied consent to chemical testing when you are asked to do so by an officer. However, police officers still need to establish probable cause to arrest you and to take you to the police station to test your breath or to the hospital to get blood samples.

After your release from custody

After you are released from custody, you will be mailed a summons to appear and a complaint. Instead of waiting to talk to an attorney until after you receive these documents, it is a good idea to get help from a lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest. This will give your lawyer more time to conduct an initial investigation. Interviewing witnesses soon after the event occurred might help to make certain that they remember things accurately. If an accident happened, getting pictures of the scene and the damage can be important.

Time for the complaint and summons

In some cases, the complaint will be filed in court before the lab results return. In these cases, the prosecutor will disclose the blood test results during the preliminary hearing. The summons and complaint are typically mailed to defendants within 15 to 30 days after their arrests.

The preliminary hearing

The summons to appear will provide you with the court name, court date, and the time for you to appear at your preliminary hearing. This hearing gives your lawyer the chance to talk with the arresting officer and the prosecutor. In some cases, the officer might agree to withdraw the complaint or some of the charges. The preliminary hearing also gives your lawyer the chance to question the officer and other witnesses that the prosecutor might call at the hearing. The preliminary hearing is held to allow the prosecutor to present evidence establishing probable cause to believe that the DUI charges occurred. Establishing probable cause doesn’t require nearly as much evidence as what a prosecutor has to present at a jury or bench trial. If the court finds that the prosecutor has established probable cause, the case will be scheduled for further proceedings.

Attorneys may contact the police officers before the preliminary hearing to find out what the blood test results are. Many times, the police officers do not return the calls. However, if a lawyer can learn what the results are before the preliminary hearing, he or she can explain the potential penalties for the DUI offense based on the client’s BAC level. In Pennsylvania, there are three tiers for DUI offenses that are based on your BAC level. If you are convicted for a DUI offense, your breath or blood test results will determine the penalties that you will face. The highest BAC offense level or drug DUIs will carry much greater penalties than lower-level DUI offenses.

Blood test results might not be available on the date of the preliminary hearing. This can happen when the police officers send the samples to the state lab instead of a private lab for analysis. When this happens, a lawyer might ask for the preliminary hearing to be rescheduled for a later date. The attorney might try to reach the police officer before the scheduled hearing date to find out whether the blood test results are back so that he or she can request a continuance from the court if necessary.

Get help from an experienced lawyer at DiCindio Law

If you are arrested based on an officer’s suspicion that you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you should get legal help. An experienced DUI defense attorney might begin working on your case before the preliminary hearing. Depending on the facts and circumstances, it is possible for a lawyer to get the officer to withdraw the complaint before the preliminary hearing. You should not wait to contact an attorney until the complaint and summons arrive in the mail. When you do this, you prevent your lawyer from taking important initial steps in investigating your case. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation so that you can learn more about your case and what to expect by calling our firm at (630) 430-3535 or by filling out our contact form.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Pennsylvania?

If you are facing charges for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, you might wonder how long the offense will remain on your record. A drunk driving charge is a misdemeanor criminal offense and will appear on your criminal, credit, driving, and insurance records. Criminal convictions in Pennsylvania are considered to be public records. If you are convicted of a DUI, your record will be updated in the National Driver Register with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The national credit reporting agencies will be notified and can include the information about your DUI conviction in your credit history. This means that when a potential landlord, employer, insurance company, or car rental agency asks for a credit report or background check, they will see your DUI conviction unless you are given limited access relief or have it expunged. DiCindio Law can defend against your DUI charge or help you to gain limited access relief to prevent most people from being able to see it.

Consequences of having a DUI on your record

Being convicted of a DUI means that you will face multiple penalties, including potential jail or prison time, substantial fines, alcohol classes, and others. Once you complete your sentence, a DUI conviction can cause ongoing problems in many areas of your life, including employment, housing, and insurance rates.

Many employers ask applicants to submit to background checks for employment. Some companies cannot hire workers who have prior convictions for driving under the influence, and others refuse to hire people who have DUI convictions. Employers that enter into government contracts or that have their employees drive company vehicles may be unable to hire you if you have a DUI on your record. You might also encounter problems with obtaining a professional license for jobs that require them, including real estate agents and attorneys.

Like employers, many landlords and property managers ask applicants to submit to criminal and credit background checks before they will agree to lease apartments or homes. Any type of criminal conviction on your record might cause a landlord or property manager to reject your rental application.

Having a DUI conviction on your record will cause your insurance rates to go up and can harm your ability to find affordable car insurance. Drivers in Pennsylvania who have DUI convictions on their records may have car insurance rates that are twice as much as people who do not have DUI convictions. Even if a DUI conviction was a first offense, it can continue to cause problems for you throughout your life.

Can DUIs in Pennsylvania be expunged?

Expunging a criminal conviction from your record means that it will be sealed from public and state views. DUI convictions can be expunged under limited circumstances. A DUI can be expunged if a court orders you to complete the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD program after you successfully finish it. You have to apply for acceptance by the ARD program. If you complete it successfully, your DUI will be dismissed. This means that you will not have a conviction.

If you participate in the ARD program, you may be required to perform community service and participate in a substance abuse program. If you have any victims, you will be required to pay restitution to them. While you are participating in ARD, you will be supervised in the county where your DUI happened.

Pennsylvania

A DUI that was dismissed before or after a jury or bench trial can be expunged. In 2016, a new expungement law went into effect in Pennsylvania. Under this law, you might be able to secure limited access status for your DUI conviction. A conviction for which limited access has been ordered will only be accessible by state agencies and law enforcement agencies. It will not be viewable by most employers or landlords.

How do you obtain an expungement of a DUI?

To have a DUI expunged from your record in Pennsylvania, you must meet the requirements that are outlined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122 and file a petition with the court. However, there is no guarantee that your request will be granted. DiCindio Law can work to help you to expunge your DUI from your record if you are eligible, and we can discuss other options that might be available to you if you are not eligible for an expungement.

Is it possible to get a clear driver’s license in a different state?

In the past, it was sometimes possible for people to get clear driver’s licenses by going to different states. That is no longer possible, however. The driving records for people in every state are now included in the problem driver pointer system with the NHTSA. When you try to get a driver’s license in a new state, the motor vehicle department will check the national database to see the status of your license and your driving history nationwide. If you have a conviction or have previously had your license suspended, revoked, or denied, the department of motor vehicles in a new state will see it. This means that you will not be able to get a clear driver’s license in a new state.

Get help from an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law

The only way to prevent a DUI from causing problems in your life is to avoid being convicted. You can avoid a DUI conviction by not driving your vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, people make mistakes, and you might be facing a DUI charge.

A DUI charge is not evidence and does not mean that you will be convicted or have a permanent record of conviction. If you are facing DUI charges, you should seek help from an experienced DUI defense attorney at DiCindio Law. An experienced lawyer can review the evidence to identify potential defenses that might be available and explain the options that you have. Michael DiCindio has years of experience defending against DUI charges. Contact DiCindio Law today by calling (610) 430-3535 or by filling out our contact form.

What Is in the DUI Police Report?

If you are arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania, the police officer will write a police report. The officer’s report will document your arrest and the evidence against you. Normally, officers prepare their reports immediately after they arrest people for DUI offenses. After they write their reports, the officers submit them to the prosecutor’s office and the court. The report will also be sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. If you are facing DUI charges, you will want to get a copy of the police report. DiCindio Law can review it with you and explain your options.

Importance of the police report in DUI cases

The police report is among the most important documents in a DUI case because it contains the arresting officer’s observations of you and the circumstances that led to your arrest. When an officer testifies in a DUI case, he or she can ask for permission to refresh his or her recollection with the report. In most cases, officers testify to what is in their reports. If they deviate, it can harm the state’s case against you.

What is included in a DUI police report?

The police report in your DUI case will include information about what led the officer to pull your vehicle over, the stop itself, and observations that the officer made to make him or her that you were impaired by alcohol or drugs. Often, the police reports contain just enough information to justify your arrest and to result in a conviction.

The police report will contain the officer’s report about your driving, your appearance, your speech, any odors, and the results of any field sobriety tests that were conducted. The officer’s observations about your driving will be what led him or her to pull you over such as weaving, speeding, driving too slowly, or other indicators of impairment. Typical observations about people’s appearances in DUI reports include such things as watery, red eyes, a disheveled appearance, and others. The officer might note that he or she smelled alcohol on your breath or that your speech was slurred.

DUI police reports include a checklist for the various field sobriety tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-legged stand. Horizontal gaze nystagmus is a twitch of the eye at an angle of less than 45 degrees. The officer will use a pen and ask you to track it with your eyes as it is moved from side to side to look for this indicator. If it is observed, the officer will note it in the DUI report.

The officer’s report of your performance on the other standardized field sobriety tests will also be included. If the officer questioned you, he or she will include the answers that you gave to his or her questions. Finally, the officer will include information about the chemical tests that were administered and include a printout of the results. If you took a preliminary breath test at the roadside, a printout of it will be included. If the officer administered a breathalyzer test to you at the police station, the results will be included together with the machine’s serial number. Lab reports will be included if you submitted to a urine or blood test.

What should you look for in a DUI police report?

Officers sometimes exaggerate the facts in their DUI reports to make defendants appear worse than they were. For example, the officer might say that you slurred your speech, had a disheveled appearance, had red eyes, and struggled to get your license out of your wallet to hand to the officer. Even if these statements are untrue, it will be difficult to fight them on your own. An experienced DUI defense attorney at DiCindio Law might challenge the report by contesting the accuracy and validity of the following things:

  • The blood, breath, or urine test results
  • Whether the field sobriety tests were conducted properly
  • The reason for your stop
  • Probable cause for your arrest

Blood and Urine Test

If you are able to call strong witnesses or have other evidence such as video or photos that contradict information that is contained in the officer’s report, it can be helpful. If your lawyer is able to prove that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull you over or failed to build sufficient probable cause for your arrest, some or all of the evidence against you may be deemed inadmissible. This can result in the dismissal or reduction of your charges.

Getting a copy of the police report

In most cases, you will not be able to see the police report until your first court appearance. Once the case is filed against you, your lawyer can request a copy of the police report as a part of the discovery process.

Contact DiCindio Law

When you are charged with a DUI, that does not mean that you will be found guilty of the offense. Police officers sometimes make mistakes when they stop vehicles, complete observations, and place people under arrest. An experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law can review the police report and the evidence to identify any issues with how the stop, search, and seizure were conducted. Your lawyer can also examine the testing that was performed to identify any issues with the machine or the lab tests that were used. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by filling out our online contact form or calling us at 610.430.3535.

How much time can you get for a DUI in PA?

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is treated seriously in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of a DUI offense, you will face serious penalties. The consequences for a DUI conviction will depend on your blood alcohol concentration within two hours of driving and whether you have had any previous DUI convictions. DiCindio Law can help you to understand the penalties that you might face if you are convicted and the potential defenses that might be raised in your case.

How Pennsylvania classifies DUI offenses

Pennsylvania uses a three-tier DUI system to classify DUIs by the driver’s blood alcohol concentration when he or she is arrested. While the state has a threshold of 0.08% for DUI offenses, the penalties are increasingly more severe as the BAC level goes up. The three tiers of DUI offenses include general impairment DUIs, high BAC DUIs, and highest BAC DUIs. Similarly, the penalties increase for subsequent convictions at all three BAC levels.

First-offense DUIs in Pennsylvania

The penalties that you might face for a first-offense DUI conviction will depend on your BAC at the time of your arrest. General impairment DUI offenses may be charged if your BAC results fell between 0.08% and 0.99%. You may be charged with a high BAC DUI if your BAC tested from 0.10% and 0.159% within two hours of driving. Finally, you may be charged with the highest BAC DUI offense if your BAC tested at 0.16% or higher within two hours of driving.

Penalties for a first DUI offense

If you are convicted of a first DUI offense in Pennsylvania, the penalties that you will face will depend on your BAC level. The penalties for a first offense general impairment DUI include the following:

  • $300 fine
  • Up to six months of probation
  • Alcohol highway traffic school
  • Treatment if ordered

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

  • 48 hours up to six months in jail
  • Fine from $500 to $5,000
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment may be ordered
  • License suspension for 12 months

If you are convicted of the highest BAC DUI, you will face the following penalties:

  • 72 hours up to six months in jail
  • Fine from $1,000 up to $5,000
  • Suspension of your license for 12 months
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment if ordered

Options for a first-offense DUI

Pennsylvania offers the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD program for first-time DUI offenders. You have to apply for acceptance to ARD to participate in it. If you are accepted and complete all of the requirements, your DUI charge will be dismissed. This can help you to avoid having a first DUI conviction on your record. You can then petition the court to have your DUI expunged from your record.

Penalties for second-offense DUIs in Pennsylvania

If you are convicted of a second DUI offense in Pennsylvania within 10 years, the penalties will be more severe at each BAC level. A second conviction for a general impairment DUI offense will carry the following penalties:

  • Five days up to six months in jail
  • Fines from $300 to $2,500
  • Suspension of your license for 12 months
  • Treatment may be ordered

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

  • Jail from 30 days up to six months
  • Fines from $750 to $5,000
  • Suspension of your license for 12 months
  • Treatment may be ordered

If you are convicted of a second DUI with the highest BAC, you will face the following penalties:

  • From 90 days up to five years in prison
  • Fines from $1,500 to $10,000
  • Suspension of your license for 18 months

For second offenses at all BAC levels, you will be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle for 12 months. The court will order you to complete up to 150 hours of community service.

Penalties for third DUI offenses

If you are convicted of a third DUI offense within 10 years, the penalties will become even more severe at each BAC level. A third general impairment DUI offense with a BAC of 0.8% but less than 0.10% is a second-degree misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:

  • At least 10 days in jail
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 12 months
  • Fine from $500 to $5,000

A third DUI offense within 10 years with a BAC of 0.10% up to 0.1599% will result in the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • 90 days up to five years in jail
  • Fine from $1,500 to $10,000
  • 18-month driver’s license suspension

If you are convicted of a third offense with a high or highest BAC level, you will face the following penalties:

  • Third-degree felony
  • From one to seven years in prison
  • Suspension of your license for 18 months
  • Fine from $2,500 to $15,000

The penalties for a third conviction at the highest BAC level are similar to those listed for the third conviction of a DUI at a high BAC level. All third convictions will also require you to attend an alcohol highway safety school, complete alcohol treatment, and install an ignition interlock system in your vehicle.

Penalties for minor DUI convictions

Pennsylvania has more serious penalties for minors who are convicted of DUI offenses. You can be convicted of a minor DUI if you are under age 21 and have a BAC of 0.02% or higher. For the first conviction of a minor DUI, you will face the following penalties:

  • Jail from 48 hours up to six months
  • Fine from $500 to $5,000
  • 12-month license suspension
  • Drug and alcohol evaluation followed by potential treatment
  • Up to 150 hours of community service

A second conviction of a minor DUI will carry stiffer penalties. The minimum jail sentence will be increased to 30 days up to six months, and the fine will be increased to $750 up to $5,000. If you are convicted of a third minor DUI, you will face a minimum jail sentence of 90 days up to six months, and your fine will range from $1,500 up to $10,000.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Being convicted of a DUI will result in serious penalties. You should talk to an experienced defense attorney at DiCindio Law to learn about your rights and the options that you might have. Schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Will I do jail time for my first DUI in PA?

Being charged with a first DUI offense involving alcohol or drugs can be scary. If you are facing charges for a DUI in Pennsylvania, you are likely worried about how a conviction might affect you in the future. You may be worried about the possibility of being sentenced to serve time in jail. DUI offenses are serious, and it can be frightening when you do not know what to expect in the court process. Whether you might be sentenced to jail for a first offense will depend on your blood alcohol concentration and other factors. DiCindio Law can explain the penalties that you might face and help to defend you against the charges you are facing.

DUI penalties and your BAC in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, the penalties for a DUI differ based on the BAC of the driver at the time of his or her arrest. A BAC level from 0.08% to 0.099% is considered to constitute general impairment. First DUI offenses for general impairment typically do not include jail time by themselves. However, if you caused an injury or fatality accident or refused to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test, you could end up spending time in jail. If you are younger than 21, you could face a jail sentence for up to six months even if your BAC was much lower than the general impairment offense range.

Pennsylvania changed the DUI laws in 2004. It lowered the threshold BAC level to 0.08 in response to federal law. The federal government said that states could only receive federal money for highways if they lowered the threshold level to 0.08. Pennsylvania also reduced the penalties for first offenses and increased the penalties for subsequent convictions. The state also passed increased penalties for people who have higher BACs at the time of their arrests.

In Pennsylvania, DUIs are divided into three tiers that are based on the BAC levels of the defendants. The tiers are called general impairment DUI offenses, high rate of alcohol DUI offenses, and highest rate DUI offenses. Most people refer to the top two tiers as middle and high to make them easier to understand.

General impairment DUI offenses are charged when the drivers have BAC results from 0.08% to 0.99%. High BAC DUIs are charged when the drivers’ BAC results are from 0.10% to 0.159%. The highest BAC offense includes BAC results of 0.16% or higher. Drivers who refuse to submit to chemical tests will be charged with general impairment DUIs. However, they will face the same penalties as people who are charged with the highest offense level. All DUIs involving drugs are charged as the highest rate DUI offenses even when the drivers only have trace amounts of drugs in their blood and are much less impaired than drivers who have BACs in the middle offense range.

To make the sentences for DUIs more consistent across the state, convictions for DUIs have mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory minimum sentences for first-offense general impairment DUIs include the following:

  • Probation of up to six months
  • Minimum fine of $300
  • Alcohol classes
  • Alcohol treatment if ordered by the court

A first offense of a general impairment DUI does not carry mandatory jail or the suspension of your driver’s license.

The mandatory minimum penalties for a middle-tier DUI offense include the following:

  • Jail for 48 hours with six months of parole
  • Driver’s license suspension of one year
  • Mandatory fine ranging from $500 to $5,000
  • DUI classes

The penalties for a first offense for the highest BAC level include the following:

  • Minimum of 72 hours in jail with six months of parole
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for one year
  • Fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000
  • Alcohol classes

Most people who are charged with first-offense DUIs choose to participate in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD program. This program allows people to reduce the consequences of a DUI conviction. If you successfully complete the ARD program, you will not be sentenced to jail and will have a shorter suspension of your driver’s license. People who successfully complete the ARD program will have their DUI charges dismissed, which means that they will not have a DUI conviction on their records. You can also ask an attorney for help with expunging a DUI record after you have completed the ARD program. Expungement can be very important for people who are entering the job market as well as for adults who want to switch jobs.

Get help from an experienced DUI attorney

The best method for dealing with DUIs is to simply avoid driving your vehicle after you have consumed alcohol or drugs. If you want to go out, you should plan to take public transportation, a cab, or a ride-share. If you drive yourself to a bar, ask if you can leave your car in the parking lot. You should never think that you will be okay to drive home after you have been drinking. Doing so places both you and others around you on the roads at risk.

If you have been charged with a DUI as a first offense, getting help from an experienced defense attorney at DiCindio Law can help you to determine the options that might be available to you. We can evaluate your case and provide you with an assessment of the defenses that might be available. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling us at (610) 430-3535 or by submitting your information on our contact form.

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.