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.