When an individual is arrested in West Chester, Chester County or any of the surrounding counties for a first offense DUI / DWI / drunk driving charge, there are specific considerations for a criminal defense lawyer before making a recommendation of how to proceed. Despite being a “first time DUI offender” of the DUI statute, the potential punishments are still severe. Depending on the level of alcohol in the accused individual’s blood, there may be mandatory prison sentences that may come into play, harsh fines, a license suspension and other conditions.
There are four main ways that an individual may be convicted of a first offense DUI in West Chester, Chester County, or anywhere in Pennsylvania.
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First, you may be found to be incapable of safely driving. Which means that you are below the legal limit of alcohol (therefore not “per se” DUI) but due to the alcohol that you have consumed you are incapable of safely operating a vehicle. Second, you may be found to be “per se” DUI. This occurs when your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit of .08%. Whether or not you were “impaired” no longer is important, the only question is whether the Commonwealth is able to prove that you are above the legal limit within two hours of operating a motor vehicle – if they can do that, you are guilty of DUI in Chester County and Pennsylvania as a whole. Next, is by being under the influence of drugs of a combination of drugs that are found in your blood. This also may be proven by a “per se” DUI or by a proof of impairment due to the drugs or combination thereof. Finally, is if you are under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. (These categories of DUI may be broken down more – this is solely a general overview)
As a first offense DUI offender, you may be facing mandatory prison time. For a first offense DUI the mandatory prison sentence comes into play once an individual has risen to the BAC level of .10% or greater. Also, if an accused has refused a chemical test and proven to be incapable of safely driving based upon alcohol consumption, that may also implicate a mandatory prison sentence. Further, starting at the .10% BAC level is a mandatory license suspension.
The first step in a successful first offense DUI defense is analyzing whether there are any available legal defenses to the charge or the stop of the vehicle itself. There are a few common defenses (not exhaustive) that are typically used when defending against a first offense DUI.
1. Challenging the stop of the vehicle if there are any constitutional violations that were committed by the arresting officers.
2. Challenging the instrument that was used to determine the blood alcohol content.
3. Challenging the identity of the driver.
4. Challenging the “proof” of operation of the motor vehicle. While this is not an exhaustive list – these are things that a criminal defense attorney MUST consider in every first offense DUI case.
If there are no legitimate grounds for a defense of a first offense DUI, many first time driving under the influence offenders, make an application to the County ARD Program (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition). This program will provide for a reduced punishment and the ability to have the DUI charge dismissed upon completion of the program – therefore no conviction is ever recorded and no guilty plea entered into.
It must be known though – not all first offense DUI cases will be eligible for admission into the ARD program. An extremely high blood alcohol content, an accident with bodily injury, or having a minor in the vehicle are just a few of the potential facts that may make a case ineligible for the program in West Chester, Chester County and the surrounding area. (You can read more about the ARD Program in the ARD section of the website.) The case specific factors make it crucial to secure representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help guide you through the process of defending against a first offense DUI charge, making an application to the ARD program, or negotiation and advocating on your behalf in order to gain entry into the program.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI / DWI / driving under the influence offense in West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania or any of the surrounding counties, call West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer Mike DiCindio directly today and schedule your free consultation.
DUI Offenses In Detail
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The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please contact DiCindio Law for a consultation and to discuss what law is relevant to your case.
Mike DiCindio is a West Chester criminal lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes 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 as well as in Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County, Bucks County and Berks County.