How to Defend a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Case – A Primer
DUI/driving under the influence offenses are some of the most frequently charged criminal offenses in the Pennsylvania legal system. When someone is charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) offense they may immediately feel a sense of hopelessness because their liberty, driving privileges and reputation may be impacted irreparably by a conviction. This article is not meant to cover all options that are available to criminal defendant in a DUI case, but instead to give a general overview of the options and decisions a defendant may have/face.
For first offenders there are programs that may permit you to avoid conviction. For second or third (plus) offender cases there may be treatment court options or intermediate punishment programs. This article is solely meant as an overview of the litigation points of attack that need to be evaluated in every DUI case. Also, this is not to say that there will ALWAYS be legitimate issues in the following categories – these are the issues that a defense attorney (any worth his/her fee) MUST evaluate before making a recommendation to his client in any DUI case.
First – the legality of the of the stop: Before any law-enforcement officer may stop a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania they must possess either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Therefore, the first battle ground in any DUI case is whether or not the arresting officer possessed the requisite legal justification to pull over and/or come into contact with the driver of the vehicle. In these situations if the stop is found to be illegal/unconstitutional then all of the evidence that flows from it will be suppressed. If the stop is suppressed than the case must be dismissed.
Second – whether the officer possessed the requisite legal justification to take the driver individual for a chemical test of their breath or blood: Observations, field sobriety tests, defendant admissions, portable breath tests and more play into this evaluation. There are times where there is not the requisite legal justification to take an individual for further/formal chemical test of their breath or blood. When that is the case the results of the chemical test are suppressed and not permitted into evidence.
Finally – issues that may present themselves at trial: These issues typically involve two main categories outside of what has already been addressed. One of the main issues at trial is the factual argument that an individual was not driving. That is not always a defense that is available to him/her for obvious reasons. Another argument is based upon the scientific accuracy of the chemical tests of the breath/ blood.
There are many other arguments and defenses that may present themselves in DUI case. Each and every factual scenario is unique and this is not an exhaustive list by any means. Before making any decision in any criminal DUI / driving under the influence case – at a very minimum, these issues should be examined, evaluated and understood before deciding on a strategy.
The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes to the law that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments or the most complete legal issues for all cases These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.
Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale