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.

What You Need To Know About A Second Offense DUI

What You Need To Know About A Second Offense DUI

A second DUI offense in Pennsylvania is a very serious offense that carries hefty penalties. It has higher mandatory jail time, longer driver suspension, and higher fines than a first-time DUI conviction.

To help you understand a bit more about these charges, here is what you need to know about a second offense DUI.

Second Offense DUI Overview

While drunk driving is a criminal charge in all states, each state has its own DUI laws and penalties. Some states have higher penalties and mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment. Defenses available also can vary depending on the state of the DUI charges.

Repeat Offenders

The cost of a second DUI offense is typically higher than a first DUI offense due to steeper fines, higher attorney’s costs (typically), license suspension for longer periods of time and sometimes mandatory minimum periods of time, car insurance premium increases, possible lost wages from missed work if imprisoned, costs for court-ordered drug treatment programs, etc.

The laws are more complex for a second offense DUI. Also, a second DUI offense may result in a felony conviction depending on the facts of the case and the state where it occurred.

Given the increased risk of what is at stake for a second DUI offense, hiring a DUI attorney is suggested when facing a second offense DUI. A DUI attorney can help build a case by utilizing any available defenses, potentially negotiate a lesser charge in exchange for a guilty plea, assist with trial proceedings, and argue for a less severe sentence if the case goes to trial and you are convicted of the charges.

 

Costs of a DUI Offense

Fines and the cost of legal representation are higher for second offense DUIs. Penalties imposed if found guilty are also higher. However, these are not the only costs that can come from a DUI charge.

Other Costs of a DUI Offense

The cost of a DUI conviction includes the sentence imposed by the court, which can include steep fines. Additionally, other fines may result from related civil cases for car accidents or injury to another person, fees resulting from a suspension of driving privileges, and increased car insurance premiums.

DUI convictions are public and this may make future employment difficult. Additionally, driver license restrictions and jail time may lead to lost wages from missed work. You may also be responsible for the costs of mandated drug treatment programs and driving classes.

The average total cost of a first-time DUI offense is estimated at around $6,500 according to a study by Martindale-Nolo. Source: https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/criminal/dui-dwi/first-offense-dui.html. The total cost can increase substantially for second offense DUIs.

Second Offenses and Prior Convictions

If this charge or your first offense was due to you driving under the influence of a controlled substance instead of drunk driving, both are DUI charges and both will count for purposes of being charged for a second offense DUI instead of a first-time DUI offense. Additionally, a prior DUI charge that was expunged through successful completion of the ARD program will also be counted as a prior DUI conviction.

Moreover, this second DUI charge may violate the terms you agreed to with your first offense. For example, if you agreed to a plea bargain for a lesser sentence with the first offense, but violated the terms of your parole through the events that led to the second DUI charge, you may now have your first offense revisited or higher penalties imposed.

You may also face increased jail time if some of your jail time imposed by the court for the first offense was suspended jail time. A second conviction may lead to you having to serve any jail time that was suspended for the first conviction in addition to jail time imposed for the second offense.

Pennsylvania Laws and Penalties for a Second DUI Offense

Pennsylvania has a ten-year look-back period for DUIs. If you are being charged with a DUI and have a prior DUI conviction that occurred within the past ten years, then this is a second offense DUI. Second offense DUIs have mandatory jail time and license suspension.

The penalties you face for a second DUI conviction will depend on the individual facts of your case. As a starting point, know that Pennsylvania imposes penalties for DUI convictions based on three ranges for a person’s BAC. The tiers include the following BAC ranges:

  • First tier: 0.08%-0.099%
  • Second tier: 0.10%-0.159%
  • Third tier: 0.16% and higher, and includes persons that refuse to submit to a BAC test.

The penalties are more severe for higher tiers. Additionally, the following factors can result in more severe penalties:

  • Injuries to another person
  • Property damage from a car accident
  • Driving drunk and under 21 years of age
  • Prior DUI convictions

Pennsylvania’s penalties for a second offense DUI range from 5 days to 5 years in prison time, $500-$10,000 in fines, and a 12-18 month suspension of driver’s license.

The BAC you had at the time of arrest will determine the minimum penalty range. For example, if there was no injury to another person or property damage, the driver was at least 21 years old, and the driver had a BAC of 0.08%-0.099%, then the penalties for a conviction of a second offense DUI in Pennsylvania are; five days to six months of imprisonment, license suspension for 12 months, and fines between $300-$1,500. The penalties go up when there are aggravating factors and for BACs in higher tiers of intoxication.

What You Can Do if Charged with a Second DUI Offense

Here are a few steps to consider if you have been charged with a second DUI offense in the state of Pennsylvania:

  • Contact an experienced DUI attorney to discuss the facts of your case and learn more about potential defenses and whether they can assist you through representation.
  • Try to recall all facts as soon as possible around the time of arrest to provide a DUI attorney that you contact with pertinent information that they may use to establish defenses for your charges.
  • Research the options you have for representation. You can represent yourself or obtain legal representation from a public defender or by hiring a private attorney.
  • Gather all documentation for both your first DUI offense and your second offense DUI.

Given the severity of a second offense DUI in Pennsylvania, you should at least contact a DUI attorney for an initial consultation. The cost of representation by an experienced DUI attorney is likely much lower than the potential costs you may face if convicted of a second DUI offense without good representation by a seasoned professional to help get you the best outcome.

Need Help with a Second DUI Offense? Contact an Attorney Now

If you have been charged with a second DUI offense contact Mike DiCindio, Esq. today to learn how we can help. Fill out our contact form with your name, email, phone number, and any other information you would like us to know. Someone will call you back to chat about your case.

What Happens During a DUI Preliminary Hearing?

A drunk driving mistake can potentially result in negative consequences that last well into the future. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, the next steps can be overwhelming.

In most cases, the legal process is slow and painful, but in a DUI case, things move very quickly after you are arrested. Within 1-2 days after your arrest, you will appear before the judge to enter a plea. Then, you will be scheduled for a preliminary hearing. You should familiarize yourself with what to expect at the preliminary hearing, because it is a critical piece of the DUI process. Let’s dive in further and find out what exactly happens during a DUI preliminary hearing.

What is a DUI preliminary hearing?

A preliminary must take place in order for a trial to be held. It’s usually scheduled within 30-60 days from the date of your arrest. The preliminary hearing will take place in the same District Court where you were arraigned.

A preliminary hearing is sometimes confused with a trial, and that’s because it is very much like a trial. The judge will hear from witnesses on both sides, evidence is presented, and attorneys cross examine witnesses to evaluate credibility. The key differences are:

  • You appear before a judge without a jury
  • The duration of the hearing is much shorter than the long process of a trial
  • There is no decision of guilt or innocence at this stage

Inside the courtroom only the judge, the prosecution, and the defense will be present at the preliminary hearing. Additionally, the proceedings are open to the public so anyone, including family and friends, are welcome to attend.

During the preliminary hearing, the judge will review the facts and determine whether the case has grounds to go to trial. In making this determination, the judge uses the “probable cause” legal standard to decide whether enough evidence was produced to convince a jury that the defendant committed the crime. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, this proceeding may last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

What are the possible outcomes of a DUI preliminary hearing?

At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, there are a few different things that could happen. After reviewing witness testimony and the evidence presented, the judge may determine that there is not enough probable cause to go to trial. In this case, the judge will drop the charges at the preliminary hearing. Alternatively, if the judge thinks the evidence supports the prosecution’s case against you, then the judge will decide to move forward with trial. It is important to remember, that the preliminary hearing is not where the judge decides “guilty” or “not guilty.”

When does a DUI preliminary hearing not happen?

In most DUI cases, there is a preliminary hearing. The typical course of action is:

  • Arraignment
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Trial

There are a few exceptions to this typical course of action, however. When a person is arraigned and pleads guilty, then there is no need for a preliminary hearing. There are some certain circumstances as to why someone would plead guilty, such as overwhelming evidence of intoxication. Also, taking a plea bargain would eliminate the need for a preliminary hearing. In all of these cases, the judge has no need to determine whether your case should go to trial.

How to prepare yourself for a DUI preliminary hearing

Knowing what to do to prepare yourself for a preliminary hearing can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to best present yourself for your case.

Dress appropriately

A judge has the ability to make a split decision about your future, so it is important to give them the upmost respect that they deserve. Part of that is being mindful about your appearance when you go to your preliminary hearing. That doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit, but dress and act professionally. Don’t plan on wearing:

  • Blue jeans
  • T-shirts or wife beaters
  • Shirts with obscene language or pictures
  • Crop tops
  • Skirts that are tight fitting or extremely short
  • Any other clothing that would be deemed inappropriate by today’s standards

Remember that first impressions weigh big with judges.

Understand that the preliminary hearing is not to establish guilt or innocence

As mentioned before, it is important to remember that the preliminary hearing is not the end all, be all. It is not the trial. So even if the judge decides to go through with the trial, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no hope for your case.

If the witness is lying on the stand, be sure to maintain your composure.

Not everyone tells the truth on the stand. It is hard to hear a witness, especially a police officer, twisting certain facts when your future is at stake. But it is extremely important that you do not make faces or interrupt during the testimony. A judge can see your conduct and anything inappropriate could work against you in the end. Remember it is your attorneys job to defend you.

No one is out to get you

Too often, people think that the judge and the DA is out to get them. This is not true. They are just doing their job. The DA’s job is to convince the judge to go to trial and the judge’s job is to make a determination based on the law whether you should go to trial on some or all of the charges presented.

Hire an attorney to fight for your rights

Your best bet to prepare yourself for the preliminary hearing is hiring an experienced attorney. Without a legal background, you would have a difficult time representing yourself at a preliminary hearing. It is the attorney’s job to point out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, cross-examine witnesses and call evidence into question. An experienced DUI attorney can help you understand your rights in the process and help you obtain the best possible outcome.

The attorneys at DiCindio Law have significant experience trying DUI cases in Pennsylvania. To connect with an experienced DUI attorney, fill out the contact form today.

Can You Have a DUI Conviction Expunged?

If you have a DUI conviction on your record, then you are probably already aware of the impact it can have on your life, particularly when it comes to applying for loans or to jobs. You may want to consider an expungement of the DUI conviction which will seal records pertaining to this conviction from public databases and background checks.

However, not everyone is eligible for expungement. State law differs on this subject greatly and is complex. To help provide an understanding of whether you can have a DUI conviction expunged, here is what you need to know.

Expungement Overview

Expungement is a legal process in which a person can petition to have their criminal conviction sealed from public databases. This will essentially erase records of the DUI conviction from background checks and public records.

This can be especially beneficial when:

  • Searching for job
  • Applying for financing with a lender
  • When looking for housing landlord.

When a conviction is expunged from your record, a background check by any potential employer, landlord, lender, educational institution, or simply the general public will no longer show your prior DUI conviction or any records of it.

There are some exceptions to note. If a conviction is expunged, the record will still be available in certain instances. Most law enforcement agencies will have access to view any prior conviction records and arrest records. Also, courts will be able to see prior convictions that were expunged for purposes of determining if there have been repeated offenses, also known as the “second strike” rule, that can lead to elevated charges and higher penalties.

Expungement laws vary greatly by state. Whether you can have a DUI conviction expunged will depend on the state expungement laws for which your DUI case was brought.

State Law

Since expungement eligibility is based upon state law, the first step is determining whether your DUI conviction was in a state that permits the expungement of any conviction. Not all states permit the expungement of prior criminal convictions. Some limit it to arrest records for non-convictions while others will not expunge records of prior criminal charges. Additionally, some states limit the types of crimes that may be expunged.

If the state permits expungement of DUI convictions, there are still procedural rules and other requirements to be aware of that may also impact your eligibility.

Time That Has Passed Since the DUI Conviction

Some states require that a person waits for a set number of years following the conviction before they are permitted to seek expungement. This differs in each state and can range from one to ten years since the conviction. However, this is not always the case and can be complicated by factors such as additional offenses since the DUI conviction and your age when you got the DUI conviction.

Also, some states have programs that may allow for expungement, such as the ARD program in Pennsylvania. In this case, the program terms would guide when you are eligible to petition for an expungement of a DUI conviction.

Usually, states require that persons have an otherwise clean criminal record prior to petitioning the court for the expungement of a DUI conviction.

Clean Record

Regardless of the time period that is set by the state law for when a person can petition for expungement, most states will require a clean criminal record for the time period since the conviction and the beginning of the expungement process. This would hold true for a DUI conviction if the state permits conviction for this type of crime.

Some states may permit minor offenses or other criminal charges, depending on the severity and facts of the conviction or arrest and the amount of time that has passed since those offenses.

If you have multiple DUI convictions, or other convictions, especially felony convictions, since the DUI conviction for which you are seeking expungement, then it is unlikely that you are eligible. However, there are a few exceptions. As such, it is good to consult with an attorney about the facts of your case and whether you are eligible for a DUI conviction to be expunged based on the applicable state law if this is something you want to pursue.

Can a Felony DUI Conviction be Expunged?

Generally speaking, felony convictions are more difficult to get expunged and are only permitted by some states. Since it will depend on the applicable state’s law, it is good to seek counsel if you are unclear as to which state’s law would apply for your conviction.

Some states will allow DUI felony convictions to be expunged depending on the facts of the case and whether there was an injury.

For states that permit expungement for DUI convictions that are felonies, it will be difficult to be eligible for expungement if there were aggravating factors such as injury to another person, property damage, or endangering the welfare of a child (which may be as simple as a young child was in the car at the time of the DUI arrest).

Pennsylvania Law

In Pennsylvania, you cannot get a DUI conviction expunged. The only option for getting DUI records is if the defendant enters the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The ARD program is only permitted for misdemeanor charges that did not result in a criminal conviction.

Process for Expungement

If you are eligible for expungement, then you will need to submit a petition with either the court or the district attorney’s office. It will need to follow the process for the state that entered your DUI conviction. It is a complicated and involved process.

After submitting the petition, then you may have a hearing in some states. In others, the judge or district attorney reviews your application to determine whether to grant your request for expungement. Typically the application to expunge a DUI conviction is reviewed alongside other pertinent factors, such as:

  • Your driving history since the DUI conviction
  • Whether there have been any charges brought against you since the conviction
  • The amount of time that has passed since the conviction
  • Whether any drug treatment and rehabilitation programs were completed
  • Whether your license was reinstated by the DMV if your DUI conviction resulted in a suspension of your license
  • How much time has passed since having your driving privileges restored.

Are You Eligible for a DUI Conviction? Contact a DUI Attorney

If you have a DUI conviction and think you may be eligible to petition for it to be expunged or need help determining whether you are eligible, then you may want to seek the advice of a DUI attorney. A DUI attorney can also help you navigate through the process of expungement.

If you need help with the expungement process for a DUI conviction and would like to discuss your case with us at DiCindio Law, LLC, fill out our contact form and we will contact you as soon as possible.

When Is It Too Late For A DUI Plea Bargain?

The DUI process moves quickly after an arrest. It is important to understand your options in the process. If you are considering taking a plea bargain read on to find out when is the best time to accept for your criminal case.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is another term for an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor. The terms of the agreement require the defendant to plead “not guilty” in exchange for a negotiated alternative to undergoing a jury trial. Typically, the plea bargain involves:

  • A lesser charge
  • A lighter sentence

When should you accept a plea bargain?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, a plea bargain may be a no brainer. However, there is some strategy to accepting a plea bargain. Too many people accept a plea bargain without realizing that there could be more advantageous options available.

So, how do you know when you should accept a plea bargain? The first plan of action should be to talk to your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney during the DUI process, you should definitely consider getting one. An attorney who is familiar with the DUI criminal process will know whether the deal you are being offered is a favorable one or not.

Additionally, an attorney can look at the weight of the evidence that is against you to determine whether the charges could potentially be dropped or lessened. Your defense attorney could cause the prosecution to realize that their case doesn’t have all of the elements to make a strong case against you, causing the prosecutors to offer a better deal. It is important to understand that prosecutors are paid to get convictions, so having an experienced attorney fighting for your rights is essential. There are many different strategies to take in the plea bargain process, and a skilled attorney can help map out the best course of action.

Is it really a bargain?

Usually the first offer from the prosecution is not very favorable. In fact, it may not even be a “bargain.” Both prosecutors and public defenders are charged with moving cases through the justice system as quickly as possible and the plea bargains offered are not always your best option. They know that given your situation, it is easy to leap at the first bargain offered. This is why it is important to have a private attorney who is motivated to fight for your best interests.

What are the advantages of a plea bargain?

The plea bargain is generally a favorable option for both the defendant and the prosecution. For most defendants getting a lesser charge or a lighter sentence is a better option than going to trial with the possibility of getting convicted of every charge to the fullest extent. In fact, most criminal cases are settled with a plea bargain. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of a plea bargain on both sides.

A conviction is guaranteed

Prosecutors get paid to secure convictions. With a plea bargain, not only does the defendant get a deal that can put them in a better situation, but the prosecutor also gets a guaranteed conviction. By going to trial there is always the chance that the jury will find the defendant not guilty. This is why plea bargains are very common, because each side benefits. The defendant will still have a penalty that can still bring a measure of justice that may have not been otherwise.

It brings the cost of trial down

The cost of trial can be very expensive. Now a DUI case may not be as expensive as a drug case, but the fact is every case that goes to trial costs money. For example, the O.J. Simpson trial went on for 135 days, was televised, and the prosecution costs alone was over 9 million dollars.

It reduces jail populations

Because of high crime, Pennsylvania jails are known for overcrowding, so much that at one point they were shipping inmates to other states. However, that practice has been on a downward trend in the last few years as the numbers of inmates are dropping. Part of this downward trend is due to plea bargains. With plea bargains moving cases through the justice system much faster, jails have become less crowded than in the past.

What are the disadvantages of a DUI plea bargain?

While there are many advantages to a plea bargain, there are also some disadvantages that should be noted. Let’s take a look at the negative impacts of plea bargains.

It eliminates the right to trial by jury

The US constitution gives everyone the right to a trial by jury. However, the plea bargain acts as a workaround to this amendment. There may be cases where the plea bargain is seen as a coercive way to eliminate that right. Every defendant should have the option and right to go to trial for the plea bargain to be effective.

The plea bargain may lead to insufficient investigation processes

Because the majority of criminal cases are settled by plea bargain, there could be an argument presented that investigatory processes are impacted. Time may not be spent on investigating evidence because the expected outcome of the case is for the accused to plea out. Instead of obtaining justice, the goal is to secure a deal.

A criminal record is created for the innocent and no real justice is served

When an innocent person is charged with a crime, it can be devastating. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, it may be in their best interest to take a plea deal, even if they were not at fault. There are many reasons why an innocent person would accept a plea deal, but in the end, there is not real justice.

Being charged with any criminal charge is a scary situation. That is why you need to make smart decisions when going through the process. The decisions you make now can have an effect on your future. Talking with a private DUI attorney is key to knowing whether you should take that plea bargain or not. If you are looking for an experienced DUI attorney, contact the attorneys at DiCindio Law, LLC today.

Is There A Difference Between DUI And DWI In Pennsylvania?

In many cases in Pennsylvania, drivers who are charged with DUIs first realize that they are about to be arrested when police officers turn on their flashing lights to pull them over. The police officers may have pulled them over because they were weaving or speeding, or they may simply have had something wrong with their vehicles such as a burned-out turn signal or taillight. Once the drivers are stopped, the officers may then suspect them of drinking and driving because of observations that they make. The drivers might have bloodshot, watery eyes, speak with slurred speech or smell of alcohol. The officers might then ask them to take standardized field sobriety tests, and if the drivers fail to perform the SFSTs to the satisfaction of the officers, they will likely be arrested.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a majority of drunk-driving arrests are first offenses. Most first-time DUI offenders do not know the court process or the options that might be available to them. They also might not understand the penalties that they might face. If you are facing charges of driving under the influence, getting help from an experienced DUI defense attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to navigate through the legal process.

Is there a difference between a DUI, a DWI, and an OWI?

Driving under the influence is labeled differently in different states. In Pennsylvania, the correct term is a DUI, which stands for driving under the influence. In other states, the offense might be labeled as a DWI, which can stand for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. Other states label the offense as an OWI or an OUI, which stands for operating while impaired or intoxicated or operating under the influence, respectively.

In Pennsylvania, the only acronym that is used is DUI. This term can refer to driving under the influence of alcohol or driving under the influence of drugs.

Regardless of the particular acronym that might be used, every state characterizes a driving under the influence of alcohol offense as occurring when someone drives with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. If you are pulled over and have a BAC that tests at this level, you can be taken into custody and charged with drunk driving. The potential consequences of a conviction vary from state to state. Within Pennsylvania, the consequences also vary based on your level of impairment as measured by your BAC.

Pennsylvania divides DUI offenses into three levels as follows:

  • General impairment DUI- BAC from 0.08% to 0.099%
  • High DUI- BAC from 0.10% to 0.159%
  • Highest DUI- BAC from 0.16% and higher

There are also different laws for certain classes of drivers. Under Pennsylvania’s zero tolerance law, drivers under the age of 21 can be charged with a DUI if they have any alcohol in their systems. School bus drivers have a legal limit of 0.02% BAC, and other CDL drivers have a legal limit of 0.04% BAC. This means that if you fall into one of these categories, you can be charged with a DUI even though your blood alcohol content is much lower than the minimum for other drivers.

Driving under the influence of drugs

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI if you drive while you are under the influence of drugs. When an officer pulls you over and suspects that you are under the influence of drugs, he or she might call an officer who is trained in identifying signs of drug impairment. You may be arrested if you fail this screening and asked to submit to a blood test. While the procedures might be different than they are for alcohol, you can still be charged with a DUI if you are under the influence of drugs. This offense can be charged even if you are under the influence of a legally prescribed drug such as a painkiller.

You can be charged with a DUI offense involving drugs if you have a schedule 1 drug metabolite in your blood. You can also be charged if the officer thinks that you are under the influence of alcohol and drugs to the extent that you are unable to safely drive. An officer might charge you with a DUI involving drugs if he or she believes that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol but you test negative for alcohol on a preliminary breath test on the roadside.

It is important to keep in mind that tests for chemical substances are not infallible. They may be improperly administered. Some roadside drug tests have been demonstrated to be unreliable. The New York Times has reported that many innocent people have been arrested after faulty roadside drug tests returned false positives, for example. Getting a positive result on a roadside drug test might mean that you will be arrested, but it does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted of a DUI involving drugs. An experienced DUI defense attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to challenge the faulty results.

One important thing to note about driving under the influence of drugs charge in Pennsylvania is that it is charged as a highest-BAC DUI. This means that you will face the penalties that come with the highest-BAC DUI even if the amount of drugs that were in your blood was not enough to truly impair you. An experienced lawyer might be able to successfully defend against this charge by identifying the defenses that might be available to you.

Contact DiCindio Law

If you have been stopped and charged with DUI, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has handled numerous DUI cases. Michael DiCindio of Dicindio Law is a former prosecutor and an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands this offense from both sides. This allows him to anticipate the arguments that the prosecutor might raise so that he can effectively counter them. Call us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 610.430.3535. You can also contact us online by filling out our online contact form.

Is a DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor In Pennsylvania?

Driving under the Influence charges are among the most common types of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania. While everyone makes mistakes, a DUI charge is not something that can be solved by paying a traffic citation and continuing on your way. Instead, a DUI charge is serious, exposing you to serious penalties. It is a good idea for you to seek help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer if you have been charged with a DUI. At DiCindio Law, we have represented many people who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and understand how to build strong defense cases for our clients. In most cases, a DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor. However, certain aggravating factors can transform a DUI into a felony offense. While a misdemeanor DUI conviction can bring serious penalties, the potential consequences of a felony offense are much more severe.

What happens if you are charged with a DUI?

Driving under the influence can be charged when you are driving, operating, or are in actual physical control of a vehicle when you have more than a prescribed maximum amount of alcohol in your blood. The offense can also be charged when your driving is impaired by any amount of alcohol or when you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test.

The three levels of impairment and their penalties for a first offense are as follows:

  • General impairment DUI with a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099% – Up to six months of probation, a fine of $300, highway traffic safety school, and an ungraded misdemeanor conviction
  • High BAC DUI with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.159% – two days to six months in jail, 12-month driver’s license suspension, fine of $500 to $5,000, highway traffic safety school, 12-month ignition interlock suspension, ungraded misdemeanor conviction
  • Highest-BAC DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher – three days to six months in jail, 12-month driver’s license suspension, $1,000 to $5,000 fine, highway traffic safety school, ungraded misdemeanor conviction

As you can see, a first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor at all levels. However, there are aggravating circumstances that can transform DUI cases into felonies.

Problems with DUI cases

A police officer might suspect that you are driving under the influence if he or she sees you weaving, speeding, or driving too slowly. He or she might pull you over and ask you to submit to a series of roadside tests called standardized field sobriety tests or SFSTs. There are three standardized tests along with three others that are not standardized. These tests rely on the officer’s observations of you as measured against some guidelines. If the officer decides that you have not passed these tests, he or she may take you into custody and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test at the police station.

Breathalyzer tests are not always accurate, and several factors can cause them to give wrong results. For example, if you have diabetes or are following the keto diet, you may have high levels of acetone in your blood. These acetone levels can read as ethanol on the breathalyzer. Breathalyzer machines that are not correctly calibrated can also produce inaccurate results, and other factors can similarly lead to challenges of the results. If you are certain that your test results are false, you should hire a lawyer who can challenge the results or secure a reduction in your potential penalties.

When DUIs are misdemeanors

In general, a first-offense DUI in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor, but the penalties will vary based on your BAC level. As previously described, misdemeanor DUI convictions in Pennsylvania may carry jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties. While a DUI offense might be a misdemeanor, that does not mean that you should attempt to represent yourself. Getting help from an experienced DUI defense attorney might help you to secure a better outcome.

Second and third DUI offenses are also misdemeanors in most cases in Pennsylvania. However, now a third DUI offense within 10 years at the highest level as well as any forth offense within 10 years will now be graded as felony offenses.

DUIs as felony offenses

In certain situations, what would otherwise be a misdemeanor DUI offense can be charged as a felony. A felony conviction will have consequences that last much longer than a misdemeanor and can seriously impact your life. Here are some situations in which a misdemeanor DUI offense might be charged as a felony:

  • Felony DUI causing as an injury
  • Aggravated assault while under the influence
  • Homicide while under the influence

You may be charged with a felony DUI offense if you cause an accident while you are impaired in which someone is injured. To be charged with this offense, the injuries that were caused do not need to be serious. If you are convicted of this offense, you will face up to six months in jail and have a felony on your record even if it is your first DUI.

You may be charged with aggravated assault while under the influence if you cause an accident while you are under the influence that results in serious bodily injuries to others. Serious injuries include those that could result in death, those that leave people with permanent impairments, and those that cause permanent disfigurement. This offense is a second-degree felony that carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Homicide while under the influence may be charged when you cause a fatal accident while you are under the influence. This is the most serious type of DUI offense and is a second-degree felony. It carries from a mandatory minimum of three years in prison up to 10 years and a fine of $25,000 for each count with which you are charged.

If you are charged with a felony DUI offense, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles both misdemeanor and felony matters.

Contact DiCindio Law

Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony DUI offense, a conviction can have severe consequences. Getting help from an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to secure a better resolution to your charges. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 610.430.3535.