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.

Why Not Having a DUI lawyer Could Cost You

While a charge of driving under the influence is a common offense, it is also very serious in Pennsylvania. Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs places the lives of the drivers and others around them at risk. Depending on your blood-alcohol concentration, criminal record, and other factors, you could potentially face jail, fines, community service, mandatory classes, and other consequences. You will also likely lose your driver’s license for a time and might be required to install an ignition interlock device following your period of suspension. If you have been charged with a DUI, you might wonder whether you need an attorney. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law thinks that you should know.

When will you not need an attorney?

You are allowed to represent yourself for a DUI and are not required to hire an attorney. However, it may be in your best interest to secure legal help. If it is your first offense, no one was injured, and the facts clearly show that you were driving under the influence, you might not need to hire a lawyer. In this type of scenario, you may enter a guilty plea and receive the standard sentence. If your BAC was between 0.08% and 0.10%, which is enough for a general impairment DUI, and the officer had other evidence that strongly indicates your impairment, you are likely to be convicted. The general impairment level is the lowest-level DUI offense, meaning that the prosecutor may be willing to give you a sentence to accelerated rehabilitative disposition or ARD instead of other penalties.

Even if your case fits this description, there might still be factors that might require legal help. If you are in doubt about your case, you might want to consult with an experienced lawyer before you decide to handle the matter on your own.

Why hiring a lawyer might be a good idea

If you are wondering whether you need a lawyer for your DUI charge, it is a good idea to put the question into perspective. Consider if you had a tooth that needed to be pulled. Ask yourself whether you would pull it out yourself with a pair of pliers or instead choose a trained dentist who could use anesthetic. When you are facing a criminal charge, a defense lawyer can make the process smoother and less frightening, and he or she may be able to secure a better outcome than if you tried to represent yourself.

The court system has set procedures, and the procedures and the law are complex. A good DUI attorney will possess more than a strong understanding of the law. He or she will also have negotiating skills to try to convince the prosecutor to reduce your charges. Experienced criminal defense lawyers often know all of the players in the court where you will appear, including the police officers, the prosecutors, and the judge. This can help your lawyer understand how to approach your case and the outcome that you might expect to receive.

An attorney may be able to identify problems with your case that you might not recognize. A lawyer might obtain the police reports, audio and video recordings, the maintenance and calibration records, and the testing logs for the breathalyzer machine. When you are defending against a DUI, you must know what to request, how to obtain it, and how to interpret the data.

If you do not hire an attorney, you will either have to defend yourself or ask for a public defender to be appointed to represent you. Because of the complex nature of the DUI law, it is often not a good idea to try to represent yourself. If your income is low, you might qualify for a public defender. None the less, a private DUI defense lawyer may have fewer cases, more experience, and more time to investigate your case so that he or she can build a strong defense.

Using a lawyer to obtain a DUI plea bargain

In many cases, an attorney may be able to obtain a plea bargain for you. This is especially true in cases in which a lawyer can identify issues with a case that will make it harder for the prosecutor to secure a guilty verdict. The state sometimes agrees to plea bargain DUIs to cut down on the number of cases that they have to litigate at trial. Trials are expensive and take away time from the docket. They may want to focus on cases that they believe are more serious. Experienced DUI lawyers know how to negotiate with prosecutors to obtain better deals. Prosecutors also sometimes try to bluff defendants about the strength of a case to get unrepresented people to plead guilty. An experienced lawyer can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a case to help you to obtain a more favorable plea. In some cases, a lawyer might be able to secure a plea to a wet reckless or obtain a dismissal of the charge against you.

Getting a lawyer’s help to reduce your sentence

There is a different range of potential penalties for each level of DUI offense in Pennsylvania. The state divides DUI offenses into three levels that are based on the BAC. Within each level, the judge has the discretion to sentence you within the assigned ranges. Many judges are willing to accept agreements to capped sentences in exchange for guilty pleas. For example, a middle-tier DUI, which is a DUI with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.1599%, carries a minimum of 48 hours up to six months in jail along with other penalties. An attorney might be able to secure a guarantee that you will only be sentenced to the minimum mandatory sentence of 48 hours instead of being exposed to a potentially longer jail sentence. He or she might also be able to get the prosecutor to agree for you to plea down to a general impairment DUI, which does not carry any jail time.

Talk to DiCindio Law

If you are asking yourself whether you need a DUI attorney, it is a good idea for you to at least schedule a consultation to learn more about your rights. At DiCindio Law, we offer free initial consultations. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us at (610) 430-3535.

What are the Penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania?

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

2003 Act 24

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

The three DUI tiers are now as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD

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

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

License suspensions

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

Exemptions

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

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

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

Contact DiCindio Law

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

What is a hardship license?

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

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

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

Eligibility for an occupational limited license

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

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

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

Ignition interlock statute as another potential alternative

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

Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

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

What Is a DUI Arraignment?

 

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

After your arrest: The preliminary arraignment

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

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

The preliminary hearing

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

The formal DUI arraignment

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

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

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

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

Contact an experienced DUI lawyer

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

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

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

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

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

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

How is drug impairment measured?

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

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

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

Drugged driving per se

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

Effects of different drugs

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

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

Effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs

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

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

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

Get legal help

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

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

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

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

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

Drivers and employers that may be covered by FMCSA regulations

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

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

FMCSA and Pennsylvania blood-alcohol limits

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

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

Alcohol and drug testing for commercial drivers

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

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

Penalties for a commercial DUI

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

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

The importance of getting legal help for your commercial DUI case

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

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

Can You Get a DUI on a Bicycle?

In addition to being prohibited from driving a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may also face DUI charges for operating other types of vehicles when you have been drinking. It is even possible for you to be convicted of a DUI offense while you are operating a non-motorized vehicle such as a bicycle in Pennsylvania. Bicyclists who are charged with DUI offenses must go through the same criminal processes as people who are charged with DUI offenses while they are operating motor vehicles. If you are facing a drunk bicycling charge, contact an attorney at DiCindio Law.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided a case in 2014 that involved a DUI on a bicycle in the case of Bilka v. Commonwealth Department of Transportation Bureau of Driver Licensing, 92 A.3d 1253 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014). The decision in this case confirmed that the DUI laws in Pennsylvania cover bicycles and that bicyclists who are arrested for DUI offenses are not treated any differently than motorists. The court also found that bicyclists must submit to chemical testing under the state’s implied consent law or be subjected to penalties.

The Bilka case

James Bilka was stopped by the police on Sept. 15, 2011, after he rode his bicycle through a red light in front of a police officer. The officer said that Bilka’s speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, and he smelled of alcohol. The officer confirmed with the local prosecutor’s office that Bilka could be charged with a DUI, and he was placed under arrest. After his arrest, Bilka refused chemical testing of his blood.

His driver’s license was suspended for 18 months under the state’s implied consent law because he refused to submit to chemical testing. He filed an appeal of his driver’s license suspension, arguing that bicyclists do not have to get a license to ride bicycles and shouldn’t be subject to the implied consent law.

The Commonwealth Court found that the state’s DUI laws do cover bicyclists and that bicyclists must face the same types of penalties when they are charged with drunk biking. The court also found that cyclists are covered under the state’s implied consent laws, so they must submit to chemical testing after they have been arrested on suspicion of DUI or face the loss of their driving privileges.

Pennsylvania DUI laws

In Pennsylvania, you are not supposed to drive, be in actual physical control, or operate a vehicle after you drink alcohol. As the Bilka case demonstrates, a vehicle also includes bicycles in addition to motorized vehicles. In 2004, the state legislature changed the statute from motor vehicle to vehicle with the intent to extend the DUI law to all types of vehicles.

Pennsylvania’s implied consent law

When you ride a bicycle or drive a vehicle in Pennsylvania, you are considered to have implicitly agreed to the implied consent law. This law says that you implicitly agree to chemical testing when you drive, operate, or are in actual physical control of a vehicle.

After you are arrested on suspicion that you were driving or riding while drunk, you must submit to testing. If you refuse to take a chemical test, you will face a mandatory suspension of your driving privileges.

You can refuse a test either implicitly or expressly. If you expressly refuse a test, this means that you say no when an officer asks you to take a chemical test. An implicit refusal will depend on the circumstances. In those cases, the officers decide that you refused even though you did not say no. For example, you may have been too intoxicated to take the test, or you might have a medical issue that keeps you from doing so.

Police do not have to offer you an alternative test. While you are able to appeal a determination of an implied refusal to PennDOT, you will have the burden of proving that your medical condition prevented you from being able to complete the test.

If you refuse a chemical test either expressly or implicitly, you will have your driving privileges suspended for either 12 or 18 months. The length of your suspension will depend on whether it was your first refusal or first DUI.

Should you refuse a test or submit to it?

In most cases, you should submit to a chemical test instead of refusing. If you refuse, you will not be able to drive for 12 to 18 months no matter what happens with the DUI case. Even without the results of a chemical test, it is still possible for you to be convicted of a DUI based on other evidence in your case such as witnesses and police observations. If you refuse and are subsequently convicted of the DUI charge, you will have the suspension of your license in addition to all of the other penalties for your DUI conviction.

If you submit to the chemical test, your lawyer can challenge how the test was administered and the results of the test. If your attorney can show that the police officer who administered your test did not do so properly or that the machine was not correctly calibrated, the test results may be suppressed so that the prosecution can’t use it as evidence against you. By contrast, evidence of a refusal can be used against you in a DUI case.

Get help from an experienced DUI lawyer

It is possible for you to be charged and arrested for a DUI when you are riding a bicycle. If you ride while you are under the influence of alcohol, you may face severe penalties for the DUI as well as the requirement to submit to chemical testing. An experienced lawyer at DiCindio Law may be able to successfully defend you against your charges. Contact us today by filling out our online contact form.

Can Passengers Drink Alcohol In a Car?

While you likely know that you are prohibited from driving while you are drinking or have used drugs, you might wonder whether it is legal for passengers to drink alcohol while they are riding in vehicles. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a passenger or a driver to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle regardless of whether you are actually drinking from it. The legal team at DiCindio Law can defend you if you have been charged under Pennsylvania’s open container law.

Open container laws

A majority of the states have open container laws that prohibit open containers, including bottles and cans, of alcoholic beverages in vehicles. In Pennsylvania, the open container law is codified at 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3809. Under this statute, drivers and passengers are both prohibited from having open containers of alcoholic beverages in their vehicles. It does not matter if the driver or the passenger is actually drinking alcohol from the container at the time of the stop.

Forty-three states, including Pennsylvania, have open container laws, and 40 have laws that follow the standards outlined in the federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. This law mandates a variety of different traffic safety measures, including the enactment of open container laws.

Drivers may be cited under the open container law if they have an alcoholic container on them or within their reach. Passengers who have open containers may also be cited. If a passenger has an open container, both the passenger and the driver may be cited under the open container statute in Pennsylvania.

Is the legal use of alcohol a defense?

You can’t defend against a violation of the open container law simply because you are legally permitted to drink alcohol. The prosecution simply has to prove that you violated the law or had an open container of alcohol in your vehicle.

Other substances

The law also prohibits passengers and drivers from consuming drugs in a motor vehicle. This includes any drug that is defined in the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. This means that a passenger who is prescribed medical marijuana cannot ingest it while he or she is riding in someone else’s car.

Open container exceptions

Every state that has an open container law also has exceptions to it. State exceptions to open container laws can be divided into two main categories, including the following:

  • Certain areas of the vehicles- Open containers typically can be kept in the vehicle’s trunk or an area that is not easily accessible to the passengers or driver.
  • Certain types of vehicles- Many states permit storing open containers in the living areas of motor homes. Many states also allow passengers to drink alcohol and to have open containers in limousines, party buses, or taxis. Some states also permit you to transport an open container of wine home from a restaurant. However, in states where this exception exists, you will still be required to store your wine bottle in your trunk or in another area that is not accessible.

In Pennsylvania, there is not an exception listed in the law for transporting open containers in your trunk or in an area that is not easily accessible. The law does include two exceptions, however. You are allowed to have alcohol in the living area of a motor home or trailer. You can also have an open container in a taxi, party bus, or limousine that is a for-hire vehicle.

Penalties for violating the open container law

An open container offense is punishable as a summary offense, which is the lowest level of offense in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of violating the open container law, you can face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.

Why you should get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer

If you have been charged with a violation of the open container law, it is a good idea for you to seek help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law. Just because you have been charged does not mean that you will necessarily be convicted. Our attorneys will review the facts and circumstances of your stop to determine the potential defenses that might be available to you. If we identify problems with how the stop and search of your vehicle were conducted by the police officer, we may be able to file evidentiary motions to suppress the evidence against you.

Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe that you had an open container in your vehicle. They cannot conduct an illegal search of your vehicle in order to discover evidence to use against you. If the officer in your case conducted an illegal search, we may be able to have the search and the evidence against you deemed to be inadmissible. This could lead to a dismissal of the charge against you. Even if the officer conducted the search in a lawful manner, we might still be able to identify other potential defenses to raise on your behalf. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation so that you can learn more about your case and the potential defenses that might be available to you.