DUI With an Expired or Suspended License in Pennsylvania

DUI With an Expired or Suspended License in Pennsylvania

If people receive license suspensions for refusing a chemical test or a DUI, they cannot drive until they receive their physical drivers’ licenses back. If you are caught driving before you have received your license back after a DUI or refusal, you could face another license suspension and time in jail. If you are charged with a DUI with an expired or suspended license in Pennsylvania, you will face charges for both the DUI and the driving on a suspended license. At DiCindio Law, we are prepared to defend people who are facing these types of charges and understand how to present a strong defense for our clients.

What is a DUI-related suspension?

A suspension of your driving privileges is considered to be DUI-related if your driving privileges were suspended after you were convicted of the offense or accepted alternative rehabilitative disposition. You can also be charged with driving with a DUI-related suspension if your driving privileges were suspended for refusing a chemical test or for a previous conviction for driving under a DUI-related suspension. If your driving privileges are suspended for one of these reasons, your suspension will continue to be considered to be DUI-related until you restore your license.

If your license is suspended, you must surrender your physical driver’s license. You will not be able to drive again until you receive your physical license back. Some people think that they can start driving again as soon as the suspension period ends. However, it is not a defense to a driving under suspension charge that the time had expired if you do not have your physical license.

What are the penalties for driving with a DUI-related suspension?

If you are charged with driving with a DUI-related suspension, you might not realize the seriousness of the penalties if you are convicted. Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1543(b)(1), a conviction for driving under a DUI-related suspension is a summary offense. However, a first conviction will result in a sentence of jail from 60 to 90 days and a fine of $500. You will also face a further suspension of your driving privileges. If you are convicted of this offense a second time, you will face a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. A third conviction for driving with a DUI-related suspension will be a third-degree misdemeanor carrying a minimum of six months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

The penalties will be more severe if you are caught driving with a DUI-related suspension and any of the following situations apply:

If you are convicted for driving with a DUI-related suspension in one of these situations, a first conviction will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. A second offense will be a third-degree misdemeanor with a minimum of six months of incarceration and a fine of $2,500. If you are convicted for a third offense, it will be a first-degree misdemeanor with two years in jail and a fine of $5,000.

A conviction for driving under a DUI-related suspension will also result in a longer suspension of your driving privileges. If your driving privileges were suspended when you were caught driving, you will receive another year’s suspension. If your driving privileges were revoked at the time that you were caught driving, your additional suspension will be for two years.

DUI with a suspended license

If you are charged with a DUI while you were driving with a DUI-related suspension, you will be charged with both offenses. You will face the more severe penalties as described above for driving under a DUI-related suspension with a BAC of 0.02% or higher or for refusing a test. You will also face the penalties associated with the DUI itself. If you are convicted for both offenses, you can expect to receive penalties for each. The penalties for a DUI conviction will depend on your BAC level and whether you have any prior offenses.

Penalties for driving on a suspended license that is not DUI-related

If you are charged with driving on a suspended license that is not DUI-related, the penalties are not as severe. It is a summary offense carrying a fine of $200. If you are charged with a DUI while driving on a suspended license when the suspension was not DUI-related, you will face the penalties for the regular driving under suspension charge and the DUI.

Contact DiCindio Law

If you are facing a charge of driving with a DUI-related suspension or a DUI charge while you were driving with a suspended license, you should get legal help as soon as possible. At DiCindio Law, Michael DiCindio is an experienced criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor who knows how these types of charges are prosecuted. This allows him to anticipate what the prosecutor might do so that he can build the strongest possible defense. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and to learn more about your options by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

What to Do if You are Pulled Over for a DUI

What to Do if You are Pulled Over for a DUI

Many people in Pennsylvania do not know what to do when they are pulled over on an officer’s suspicion that they are drinking and driving. So what to do if you are pulled over for a DUI? By handling a DUI stop in the right way, you might avoid being arrested or at least avoid making mistakes that could harm your defense to the charges. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law after being charged with a DUI offense might help you to obtain a better outcome for your charges. Here is what to do if you are pulled over for a DUI.

Stop your vehicle in a normal manner.

As soon as you see the officer’s lights behind you, pull over safely. Make sure to use your turn signal and stop your vehicle immediately. When you are being stopped for a DUI, how you pull over and stop is being recorded. After you come to a stop, make sure to remain calm. Police officers have dangerous jobs, so you should not do anything that might alarm the officer as he or she approaches your vehicle. Keep your hands on the wheel and avoid making sudden movements.

Be polite to the officer.

When the officer comes to your window, be courteous and respectful. Remember that the conversation between you and the officer is being recorded. If you are rude, you are much likelier to be placed under arrest. Keep your conversation to a minimum, and be prepared to provide your driver’s license, insurance information, and registration. In Pennsylvania, drivers are required to provide this information when they are pulled over upon the officer’s request. Remain calm and remember that the officer is observing you to see how you act when you are retrieving the required information and handing it to him or her.

Avoid incriminating yourself.

Most people are nervous when they are stopped by the police after they have been drinking. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they can talk their way out of being arrested. Anything that you say to the police officer can be used by the prosecutor in your DUI case. The only thing that you are required to do is to provide your license, registration, insurance, and name to the officer. You are not required to answer questions or to say anything. If the officer asks you if you have been drinking, you can tell the officer that you do not want to answer any questions. Do not talk about where you have been, who was with you, or what you did. The fact that you chose to remain silent canhow to make nonilluminated signs pop not be used against you in a trial. Anything that you say can, however. Never volunteer any information that you are not required to provide.

The field sobriety tests are the tests that are performed on the roadside. These are standardized tests that are meant to help the police to build probable cause for a DUI arrest. Commonly, these tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-legged stand. You are not required to take the field sobriety tests. The fact that you refused to submit to them can be used against you, but the officer will have a lot more evidence against you if you agree to perform them. The tests are subjective, and many sober people fail them. If you refuse to take the tests, you will likely be arrested. However, the prosecutor will have less evidence of intoxication to use against you.

The preliminary breath test.

You should not confuse the preliminary breath test with the chemical test that is administered after a DUI arrest. The preliminary breath test or PBT is performed at the roadside and is an informal test that is meant to help the officer decide whether you should be arrested for a DUI. You are not required to submit to the PBT. However, if you are arrested, you will be required to submit to a formal chemical test at the police station or jail. You will not suffer any driver’s license consequences for refusing the PBT, but you will face a suspension of your license if you refuse to submit to the chemical test at the station.

The chemical test.

If you are arrested, you will be asked to submit to the chemical test at the station or processing center. If you refuse to submit to it, your license will be suspended for at least 12 months even if your DUI case is dismissed. Refusing to submit to the chemical test can also be used by the prosecutor against you at trial. People who refuse to submit to the required chemical tests in Pennsylvania are also potentially prosecuted for the highest-BAC level of DUI offenses in Pennsylvania. This means that if you are convicted, you may face the highest penalties for a DUI in the state even if your actual BAC would have been much lower if you had submitted to the test.

Document what happened after you are released.

After you are released from custody, write down everything that you can remember about your DUI, including the people you were with before your stop, what and how much you drank, whether you were taking any medication, the road conditions, where you were stopped, and what you ate. If you agreed to perform the field sobriety tests, write down the conditions where you performed the test and whether the ground was uneven. You should also write down what types of shoes you were wearing and whether you suffer from any medical conditions that affect your balance. All of this information can be helpful to your lawyer.

Contact DiCindio Law

You should contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible after you are released from custody. Getting help early can provide your attorney with more time to work on your defense. Your lawyer can appear with you at your preliminary hearing and can help you to navigate the confusing court process. Call us today to learn about your rights at 610.430.3535.

Types of field sobriety tests and their admissibility in court

Types of field sobriety tests and their admissibility in court

When people in Pennsylvania are pulled over by officers who suspect that they might be under the influence of alcohol, they may be asked to perform several tests at the roadside. There are types of field sobriety tests and their admissibility in court or known as SFSTs. There are three tests that officers might conduct to try to develop probable cause for a DUI arrest. These tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn. Unlike chemical tests after an arrest, people are not legally required to submit to SFSTs. However, if they do, they may wonder whether the tests are admissible in court. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law thinks that you should know about SFSTs and their admissibility.

What are the standardized field sobriety tests?

The standardized field sobriety tests are a battery of tests that were created and standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the 1970s and 1980s. When these tests are properly administered, the NHTSA claims that they are effective in helping to determine whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol. However, the tests are subjective and are frequently not administered according to the standards. They also do not work for all people because of medical conditions and other issues that might impact motor control and eye movements. The three standardized tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand. Officers might also ask people to submit to other field sobriety tests that are not standardized.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

The HGN test looks for an involuntary jerking movement of the eyes when they move to look to the side. Normally, nystagmus happens when people’s eyes are rotated at high side angles. In people who are under the influence of alcohol, the jerking motions are exaggerated and may be seen at smaller angles. People who are impaired by alcohol also have trouble tracking a moving object with their eyes. In this test, the police officer uses a pen and asks the person to track it with his or her eyes as the officer slowly moves it to the side. The officer observes the person’s eyes to watch for three things. The officer will look to see if the person’s eyes are unable to smoothly track the object. He or she will also look for distinct and sustained jerking motions when the eyes reach the maximum deviation and if the jerking is observed before the eyes reach a 45-degree angle from the center.

Walk-and-turn test

The walk-and-turn test is the second of the three SFSTs. In this test, the officer asks the person to take nine heel-to-toe steps on a straight line. Once the person takes the steps, he or she is asked to turn around on one foot and return in the same way back to the starting point. The officer will watch to see if the person exhibits any of the eight following signs that might indicate that he or she is impaired:

  • Inability to maintain balance while being told the instructions
  • Starting to walk before the officer has finished giving the instructions
  • Stopping during the walk to regain balance
  • Not touching heel-to-toe
  • Extending arms out for balance
  • Stepping off of the line
  • Taking the wrong number of steps
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One-leg stand test

The one-leg stand test involves the officer asking the person to stand while having one foot extended in front of him or her around six inches off of the ground. While maintaining the foot off of the ground, the person is told to count by one thousand and one, one thousand and two, etc. until he or she is told to return his or her foot to the ground. The officer will time the person for 30 seconds. The signs that the officer will look for include swaying, extending the arms for balance, hopping, or putting the foot down early.

Problems with the tests

Multiple problems can make someone unable to complete the tests successfully. For example, some medical conditions or eye diseases cause nystagmus. Many people suffer from health conditions that affect their balance and their ability to complete the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. Generally, police officers should ask people whether they have any medical conditions or reasons that make them unable to complete the tests. If a person tells the officer that he or she does, the officer should write the condition down in the report.

Are the results of SFSTs admissible?

The NHTSA created a standard for the procedures for administering SFSTs in 1981. However, it is a federal standard that states are not required to follow. Out of the three SFSTs, the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn are generally considered to be admissible at trial. The third test, the HGN test, is not admissible at trial in Pennsylvania. However, it is admissible for use in a probable cause hearing. For the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn tests, a lawyer can review the administration of the tests and challenge the officer about any deviations from the standard established by the NHTSA. Since the HGN is based on the person’s eye movements that cannot be seen, it is more difficult to challenge how it was administered.

Your attorney may request copies of the video of your SFSTs during the discovery process. He or she can then review how the tests were administered and your performance on the tests. If the officer administered the tests incorrectly, your lawyer may file a motion to challenge their admissibility at trial in your DUI case. If the motion is granted, the prosecutor will not be able to present them as evidence against you at trial.

Contact DiCindio Law

Getting pulled over for a suspected DUI can be scary. If you were arrested after an officer performed standardized field sobriety tests, it is important to review the video carefully. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law understands how these tests should be administered and can challenge any errors that he observes. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us at 610.430.3535.

How Is a DUI Blood Test Conducted in Pennsylvania_

How Is a DUI Blood Test Conducted in Pennsylvania?

Following a DUI arrest in Pennsylvania, officers may choose to ask the defendant to submit to either a breathalyzer test or a blood test. If a blood test is chosen, the motorist will be transported to a local hospital after being placed in handcuffs and taken into custody. The motorist will either need to consent to the blood test, or the officer will need to secure a warrant. Then, the motorist will be taken to an area where his or her blood will be drawn by a phlebotomist. The phlebotomist will draw the blood and give it to the officer, and it will be placed in a bag for transporting that is sealed and labeled. Many people call the hospitals where their blood was drawn to ask for the results, but the hospital will not know them. The officers take the blood back to the police station where it should be refrigerated and then sent to a crime lab for analysis. If the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs, the blood sample might be sent to a lab to determine what drugs might be present in the blood. If you have been arrested for a DUI and have questions about your blood test, talk to the legal team at DiCindio Law.

In some jurisdictions, roving DUI patrols are becoming more frequent. For these, the police might have a phlebotomist at the police station. All of the DUI arrests during a specific night might have their blood drawn by the phlebotomist at the police station. The blood will then be packaged and left so that the officer can send it to the crime lab to be analyzed.

When does an officer use a blood test instead of a breath test?

The arresting officer is the person who chooses the type of chemical test that will be given after a DUI arrest. Some officers only administer breath tests. Other police departments do not own a breathalyzer machine and only ask for blood tests. The type of test that you might be asked to submit to after your DUI arrest will depend on the policy of the police department. In cases in which drug impairment is suspected, the officer will opt for a blood test since drugs are not reliably detectable with breath tests.

Can you refuse a blood test?

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 2016 case that police officers must get a warrant to take blood for a blood test. The police do not have to get a warrant to obtain a breath sample, however. For blood tests, many police officers ask motorists to give them their blood and do not inform them that they have the right to demand a warrant. When that happens, an attorney can file a motion in court about your blood test and whether it was obtained unconstitutionally. If you refuse a blood test for which the officer did not have a warrant, your lawyer might argue that you should not be penalized because of the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, the state’s laws mandate that all drivers must submit to chemical testing in DUI cases, meaning that you can face driver’s license consequences for your refusal with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Are blood tests in DUI cases accurate?

For a test to provide valid results, it must be administered properly. Blood can ferment if it is not correctly refrigerated and stored and provide inaccurate results. Blood tests that are analyzed at a crime lab are more reliable than blood tests that are analyzed at a hospital. When people have their blood tested in a hospital after an accident, the doctors want to find out whether the person was injured and the types of drugs that are present so that they know what they can safely administer. Hospital labs do not have the same types of procedures in place that crime labs do.

Crime labs normally use gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy. The devices that are used for GC/MS tests are error-prone and are subject to introduced errors from improper calibration and maintenance. An attorney can request a packet of information from the lab to review to determine whether the lab produced valid results. In many cases, there are errors that have occurred. Your attorney can use any errors that he or she finds to seek to have the blood test results suppressed in court. If they are suppressed, the prosecutor will not be able to use the results as evidence against you.

What are some defenses to use against blood tests?

Your attorney will review the evidence to determine the appropriate defenses to raise. The GC/MS machine produces results and prints out a graph. The graph should include a line indicating alcohol. The graph could have other lines if there are other substances detected. Contamination is a large problem in blood alcohol testing. The machine has to be properly calibrated and maintained so that previous samples that have been tested do not contaminate subsequent samples. Your lawyer might also investigate whether the analyst used the proper solutions and whether they were expired. Your lawyer will go through a checklist to determine whether your blood was properly analyzed.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Many people think that blood test results are 100% accurate. However, that is simply not the case. Errors can be introduced during the blood draw, storage, transportation, and testing process. To learn more about your blood test results and your options, contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535.

What Percentage of DUI Cases Get Dismissed_

What Percentage of DUI Cases Get Dismissed?

Drinking and driving offenses in Pennsylvania have evolved. The threshold blood alcohol concentration level is lower today than it was years ago, and the police enforce the state’s drinking and driving laws much more stringently than they did in the past. Multiple parties are involved in the DUI process today, including third-party treatment providers, prosecutors, courts, police, probation departments, and monitoring agencies. DUI cases are complex and involve many moving parts with competing interests. Because of all of the factors and parties involved, it is rare for DUI cases to get dismissed. If you are facing drunk driving charges, working with an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to secure the most favorable outcome to your case that is available to you under the circumstances.

Why is it rare for a DUI case to be dismissed?

The dismissal rates for DUI cases are difficult to ascertain because they are infrequently reported. At the state level, the procedural rules, regulations, and statutes constantly change. The dismissal rates might appear to be higher because first-time offenders whose cases did not result in damage or injuries might be able to get their cases dismissed by participating in diversion through the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program. However, while you can ask the court to expunge your record after you complete ARD, your records with PennDOT cannot be expunged for a minimum of 10 years.

Prosecutors have a high rate of conviction for DUI cases. This can be partially explained by the great number of drivers who enter guilty pleas without understanding the consequences of doing so. If you plead guilty to a DUI without talking to a lawyer, you might not understand the serious impacts the conviction can have on your life.

How do you get a DUI dismissal?

More DUI cases would be dismissed if drivers hired experienced defense attorneys to evaluate the facts and circumstances leading to their stops, searches, and seizures. Some DUI cases are weak and should never have been filed in the first place. If your case is weak, it doesn’t make sense for you to plead guilty even if ARD is available to you.

A lawyer can analyze what happened and identify the weaknesses that exist in your case. Police officers must follow specific standards when they investigate suspected drunk driving cases. They must respect the constitutional rights of the drivers at all times. A DUI attorney can look at the reasons why the officer stopped your vehicle, how he or she investigated your case, how he or she administered any tests, and how the evidence was collected. The police must establish probable cause for your arrest properly, and the prosecutor must be able to prove every element of the DUI offense against you beyond a reasonable doubt.

While dismissal is an ideal resolution for your DUI charges, your attorney might try to secure an agreement for reduced charges if your case is unlikely to be dismissed. Your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to try to secure a plea to a lesser offense with fewer penalties.

Investigating the validity of your traffic stop

To stop your vehicle, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a traffic violation or a crime. Reasonable suspicion can include the officer’s observations of your driving behavior, including speeding, erratic driving, weaving, or others. An officer can have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle for defects such as a broken taillight. If the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to support your stop, any evidence that was subsequently obtained can be suppressed. If that happens, your charges would be dismissed.

Challenging the results of the field sobriety tests

After a DUI stop, an officer will normally ask you to step out of your vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. These are standardized tests that must be administered in a very specific way. While these tests are relatively accurate in helping officers to detect whether you are under the influence, they are also subject to errors. Your lawyer might review the video of your SFSTs to see if the officer administered them correctly or if he or she made mistakes.

Your lawyer might look at whether the pavement was uneven and if the lighting conditions were poor. He or she might also want to look at the shoes that you were wearing to see if they were improper for performing the tests. Your attorney might check the officer’s instructions to make sure that you were appropriately instructed.

One of the SFSTs, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, involves the officer checking for involuntary eye movements that can be caused by alcohol. However, there are medical explanations other than alcohol that can cause HGN to be present. Your attorney might review your medical history with you to determine whether there might be another reason for your failure of this test and use that information to challenge it. If your case is largely based on your failure of the SFSTs, your charges might be dismissed if your attorney can show that they were not administered correctly and can get the tests excluded from the trial.

Results of chemical testing

It is sometimes possible to challenge the results of chemical tests. If you took a breath test, your lawyer might investigate whether the machine was properly calibrated and maintained. For blood tests, your attorney might review the training of the phlebotomist and whether he or she properly drew your blood. He or she might look at how the sample was stored and sent to the lab to figure out if it might have been contaminated. If your lawyer can successfully challenge the results of your chemical test, it can weaken the prosecutor’s case against you.

Get help from DiCindio Law

While getting a dismissal of your DUI charges is not always possible, getting help from an experienced defense attorney at DiCindio Law might increase your chances of a successful resolution. Michael DiCindio can review your case to identify the potential ways to attack your charges. While he cannot guarantee an outcome, he will work to secure the most favorable resolution available to you. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Top Police Mistakes in a DUI Investigation

Top Police Mistakes in a DUI Investigation

If you have been arrested and charged for a drunk driving offense, you might think that you will automatically be found guilty as charged. Even if you were impaired, the prosecutor is still required to meet the burden of proof to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Police officers sometimes make mistakes that can lead to a dismissal of your charges or a not guilty verdict at trial. At DiCindio Law, we can review your case to determine whether the officer made mistakes that can be explored. Here are some of the most common mistakes that officers make in DUI cases.

Making an invalid stop

Police officers cannot stop cars unless they have reasonable suspicion to believe that the occupants have committed traffic violations or crimes. A stop cannot be based on the officer’s hunch without anything to support the basis for it. Typical examples of the types of things that could support a stop include traffic offenses or equipment violations. If the officer stopped you for an invalid reason, the stop can be suppressed. When a stop is found to be invalid, everything that the officer learns after the stop will also be suppressed. In a DUI case, this would include the officer’s observations of you, your performance on any SFSTs, your arrest, and the results of your chemical testing. When a stop is suppressed, it normally means that the prosecutor will be forced to dismiss the charges.

Improperly administered field sobriety tests

Three field sobriety tests, including the one-legged stand, the walk-and-turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus tests, have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When these tests are properly administered, they can indicate that a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Officers must undergo training on how to properly administer the tests. Despite this, many DUI stops involve mistakes made during the administration of the SFSTs. Your lawyer can review the tests and challenge any mistakes that the officer made. This can result in the tests being suppressed from the evidence, which can weaken the prosecutor’s case.

Mistakes made during the chemical testing

Chemical tests in Pennsylvania can include a breath test, a blood test, or a urine test. Most officers choose the breath or blood test. Breathalyzer machines can give inaccurate results if they are not calibrated correctly and maintained regularly. The officer who administers the test must also follow specific procedures and have current certifications. If any mistakes have been made, they can make the results suspect. If your lawyer can demonstrate that the breathalyzer test was improperly administered, your results might be thrown out.

Blood tests are also subject to errors. Your lawyer might review the training of the person who drew your blood to make sure that the protocols were correctly followed. He or she might also review how the sample was stored and sent to the lab. Finally, your attorney might ask for the second vial of blood to be tested if he or she suspects that your sample might have been stored incorrectly or contaminated.

Lack of objectivity

Officers are expected to be fair and impartial when they pull people over. Part of this expectation includes making fair observations and being willing to admit when someone passed the standardized field sobriety tests. When an officer is not objective, videotape evidence often exposes the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in their reports.

Failing to document everything

Some police officers fail to save their field notes. These officers might subsequently claim that the people they stopped acted in a specific way or failed a field sobriety test. When an officer who fails to properly document everything is asked to support his or her conclusions and report, it is common for the officer to claim that he or she does not remember or to rely on a summary that he or she created from memory. Officers should never destroy field notes until after a case has been completed.

Assuming that the DUI case cannot be lost

A common mistake that police officers make is believing that their DUI cases cannot be lost. When officers make this mistake, they are likelier to make other errors in their testimony and their courtroom demeanor. Officers who are overconfident in their abilities to sway juries and judges are often unprepared. This can leave them open to a vigorous cross-examination and an exposure of their mistakes.

Ignoring the rights of the defendant

The criminal justice system recognizes the constitutional rights of defendants. Charges are not evidence of guilt, and people have numerous rights against unfair prosecutions. Some police officers treat the criminal justice system as a game and look at defendants as nothing but pawns. These officers tend to ignore the rights of defendants and may be disrespectful to the suspects, witnesses, jury, lawyer, and the prosecutor. An officer who behaves in this way only serves to harm his or her case. If he or she has violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, the officer runs the risk that the entire case will be thrown out. Disrespectful officers also tend to harm the state’s case when they behave poorly in the courtroom.

While police officer mistakes can make your DUI stop and subsequent case emotionally difficult, they can be potentially helpful in securing an outright dismissal or a plea to a lesser offense. To learn more about your case and whether the police officer might have made critical errors, contact Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law today by calling 610.430.3535.

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.

Does hiring a DUI lawyer make a difference?

If you have been charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania, you might wonder whether you need to hire a DUI lawyer or if you can handle the case on your own. There are several reasons why you should seek legal advice from an attorney when you are facing drunk driving charges. An experienced lawyer might help you to minimize the penalties that you might face and to secure a more favorable outcome. Understanding when you should retain a lawyer can help you to avoid jail and could potentially help you to avoid losing your driving privileges. The DUI lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to understand the options that you have.

Why hiring a DUI lawyer is important

Being arrested for drunk driving is serious. A DUI is a criminal offense that could result in severe penalties and having a criminal record. Depending on whether it is your first offense, a second or subsequent offense, and your blood alcohol concentration, you could face a sentence to jail or prison, lose your driving privilege, be assessed stiff fines, and face other penalties. Being convicted of a DUI can also cause problems with your job and your future ability to find employment. If you caused a DUI accident that injured or killed someone else, you might also have to deal with psychological trauma on top of the penalties.

A DUI charge is not a minor traffic violation. While it is possible for people to handle some types of legal issues on their own, a drunk driving arrest should prompt you to seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer who understands how to handle your case. An experienced DUI attorney understands the drunk driving laws and the types of potential defenses that might be raised. He or she might challenge specific aspects of your case because of his or her knowledge about blood or breath testing, DUI stops, standardized field sobriety tests, and others. Because of the knowledge and legal experience of a DUI attorney, he or she might be able to help to protect your driving privileges and to secure a reduction of your charges.

Hiring a DUI lawyer for a first DUI offense

Some people think that they do not need to hire a DUI attorney to represent them for a first DUI offense. They might think that because they do not have criminal records, the courts will be more lenient. However, the DUI laws in Pennsylvania provide for stringent penalties based on your blood alcohol concentration at the time of your arrest. If you are convicted, your penalties will fall within the range given for your BAC level regardless of the fact that you previously had a spotless record.

If you are convicted of a first-offense DUI with a BAC of 0.10% or higher, you will also face an automatic suspension of your license. An experienced lawyer might help you to secure a plea to a lesser offense or assist you with obtaining an occupational limited license so that you can get to your job.

People who hire private DUI attorneys are likelier to secure better outcomes to their charges than people who are represented by public defenders or who try to represent themselves. Public defenders often have huge caseloads and might not have sufficient time to spend on your case. If you represent yourself, you may not have the requisite knowledge to identify problems with the state’s case against you. Prosecutors are less likely to extend favorable plea offers to people who represent themselves. A private attorney may have more time to investigate your case and to build a strong defense case for you. This might help you to obtain a better offer or to win dismissal of your charges.

Dealing with aggravating factors

If your case has aggravating factors, you can face enhanced charges and more serious penalties. Some examples of aggravating factors include a repeat offense, an accident causing property damage, injuries, or fatalities, driving under the influence with a child in your vehicle, and others. If your DUI case involves these types of aggravating factors, hiring a lawyer may be critical for your future. An attorney might work to gather mitigating evidence to try to secure a better outcome for you.

Obvious reasons when you should retain a lawyer

If you did not drink anything and were arrested for a DUI, hiring a good DUI defense attorney is very important. A lawyer can review the circumstances of your stop and arrest and the testing that was performed. You should never assume that you will win your case simply because you are innocent. A lawyer can challenge how the standardized field sobriety tests were administered, the reason for your stop, and any inaccurate breath test results.

How an attorney can help

When you hire a lawyer to defend you against DUI charges, your attorney can help you to prepare for court and to understand what to expect. A lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf and file motions to challenge certain types of evidence if there were problems in how the police investigated your case. In some cases, a lawyer might secure a plea to a non-DUI traffic offense or win a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.

While hiring a lawyer might cost money, having the help of an experienced lawyer might help you to obtain a better resolution to the charges against you. If you can afford to hire an attorney, choose someone who is experienced in defending people against DUI charges. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law is an experienced criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor. This experience allows him to have insight into how prosecutors build cases against people who are charged with driving under the influence so that he can anticipate the arguments that might be raised. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by submitting your information with our contact form online.

Do I have to take a breath, blood, or urine test if I’m stopped for driving under the influence?

When people are pulled over because of an officer’s suspicion that they might be driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances, the officer will conduct an investigation. The investigation might include officer questioning, observations, and field sobriety tests. If the officer develops probable cause to believe that a person has been driving under the influence, he or she might take the person into custody and transport him or her to the police station for further testing of the breath, blood, or urine. Some Pennsylvanians think that it is better to refuse chemical testing so that the police will not have evidence to use against them. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law believes that you should know about refusing breath, blood, or urine tests in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s implied consent law

Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547, people who drive vehicles in Pennsylvania are deemed to have implicitly given consent for their breath, blood, or urine to be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs in situations in which police officers have reasonable grounds to believe that they have been driving under the influence. If a driver refuses to submit to testing, the police officer can seek a search warrant to get a blood sample. While it is not a criminal offense to refuse a test, there are civil penalties attached to refusal. People who are convicted of a DUI offense for which they refused testing will also face stiffer penalties.

Refusing to take a preliminary breath test

If a police officer thinks that you might be driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer might ask you to perform several field sobriety tests, including the walk and turn, one-legged stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. These are physical and cognitive performance tests that are conducted at the roadside. The officer might also ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test. This is a roadside test in which people are asked to blow into a portable device so that the officer can determine whether they have alcohol in their systems. The implied consent law does not apply to standardized field sobriety tests or preliminary breath tests. You do have the right to refuse the SFSTs and the PBT. However, if an officer has other indications that you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including the smell of alcohol, your speech, bloodshot eyes, and your appearance, the officer might take you into custody and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test at the police station.

Breathalyzer test at the police station

If you either refuse a PBT or take one with results that indicate the possible presence of alcohol, the police officer will likely take you to the police station for further testing. You do not have the right to refuse this second chemical test. Most people are asked to submit to breathalyzer tests at the law enforcement agency. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you will face civil penalties and stiffer criminal penalties for the DUI offense. The breathalyzer test is administered by a trained police officer who must follow a specific protocol for the test. He or she will have you blow into a machine, and the machine will analyze your breath and print the results out. If the test shows the presence of alcohol, the penalties that you might face will depend on the blood alcohol concentration that is revealed by the breathalyzer test and on whether you have any prior DUI convictions within the last 10 years.

Blood tests

In some counties in Pennsylvania, police officers transport DUI suspects to a hospital to have their blood drawn by phlebotomists. Police officers might also file affidavits for search warrants to obtain blood samples when they have probable cause to believe that the people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An officer might ask for a blood test when a person submits a PBT result that shows no alcohol in his or her system, but the officer has probable cause to believe that the person is under the influence of other substances. Like a breath test, people in Pennsylvania are deemed to have given implied consent to a blood test when they drive in the state.

Urine tests

Urine tests are rarely used in Pennsylvania DUI cases because they are unreliable. When you submit to a urine test, it will show the presence of metabolites without differentiating between them and the active drug in your system. Urine tests are generally not used in cases involving alcohol, but they might be used in DUI-drug cases if a blood test is not available.

Penalties for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test

The civil penalties for refusing a breath, blood, or urine test in Pennsylvania include the following:

  • Automatic 12-month suspension for a first refusal
  • Automatic 18-month suspension if you have a prior refusal, a prior DUI conviction, or another similar prior offense
  • Restoration fee of $500 up to $2,000
  • Ignition interlock device installed
  • Refusal can be used as evidence against you in court in your DUI case

People who refuse chemical tests may also face the same penalties of the highest BAC DUI if they are convicted.

Get help from an experienced DUI defense attorney

Understanding the consequences of refusing to submit to chemical testing is important so that you can weigh your options. If you are charged with a DUI, an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law can review the test that was performed and potentially identify problems with how it was conducted. Your lawyer might also look at the circumstances that surrounded your arrest to determine whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause to arrest you. Depending on what happened, a lawyer might be able to win suppression of some or all of the evidence against you. Contact DiCindio Law to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our online contact form.

Can I get a DUI for sleeping drunk in my car?

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI if you drive, operate, or are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. What constitutes being in actual physical control of a vehicle is determined by the totality of the circumstances. Depending on several factors, you can be convicted of a DUI after sleeping drunk in your car. An attorney at DiCindio Law can review the evidence and explain whether you might want to fight the charges or negotiate a favorable plea offer.

Frequently, this type of DUI offense occurs late at night in parking lots of bars, nightclubs, or along the roadside of streets. However, even if you thought that you would sleep it off in your car, a police officer might still charge you with a DUI.

Factors That Might Result In A DUI Charge While Sleeping In Your Vehicle

An officer might charge you with a DUI after finding you asleep in your vehicle based on the following types of evidence:

  • Sleeping in the driver’s seat
  • Keys in the ignition with the car turned on
  • Appearing as if you had the intent to drive
  • Parked on the side of the road alone while sleeping drunk
  • Lights on with the engine running while in park

Being asleep in the driver’s seat might not be enough to secure a conviction for a DUI by itself. However, if there are other indications that you either drove to the position where your vehicle is found or had the intent to drive, you might be convicted of a DUI even though the officer did not see you driving. For example, if you were asleep in the driver’s seat, had your keys in the ignition, and had the vehicle and the lights turned on, you might be convicted of a DUI even though the engine was not running. That was what happened in Commonwealth v. Winowitch, J-S58023-18 (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 16, 2018).

In that case, a man was found asleep in the driver’s seat of his vehicle with the keys in the ignition in the on position. The engine was not running, but the lights were on. The man’s vehicle was found in the parking lot of a ballfield close to a nearby bar, and he was parked in a crooked way across the lines of the parking space. The man also admitted that he had made a withdrawal of cash at the bar two hours before the officer found him sleeping. After the man was convicted, he appealed. The Superior Court upheld the decision of the Court of Common Pleas and found that under the totality of the circumstances, he could be found guilty of a DUI.

Where in the car that you were sleeping and where your vehicle was found are important. You might be less likely to be charged for this type of DUI if you were sleeping in your car’s backseat without the keys in the ignition. You might especially be less likely to be charged if you were sleeping in the backseat with your keys in the glovebox while your vehicle was still parked in the bar parking lot where you spent your evening. If an officer still charged you, your attorney might be able to get the prosecutor to dismiss the case.

Why Sleeping In Your Vehicle While Drunk Can Be Grounds For An Arrest

Many people wrongly believe that they cannot be charged or convicted of a DUI when the police did not witness them driving and simply found them sleeping drunk in their vehicles. The police can charge you for a DUI even if you were parked and sleeping in your vehicle, depending on the circumstances. Your attorney might be able to secure a dismissal of the charges based on a lack of probable cause by the officer, however. Your attorney will review the specific details of how and where you were found in the vehicle, the position of the keys, and other circumstances to try to get the prosecutor to dismiss the charges.

The prosecutor does not need actual evidence of driving to prove his or her case against you. Instead, he or she can prove a DUI charge with circumstantial evidence even though the officer did not see you driving the vehicle.

Get Help From An Experienced DUI Defense Attorney In West Chester

If you were charged with a DUI after a police officer found you sleeping in your vehicle, you should get legal help as quickly as possible. It may be easier for your attorney to get the charges dismissed early in the case rather than later. An experienced attorney from DiCindio Law can rely on current case law and the circumstances of your case to build a strong defense to your charges. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.