Pennsylvania has two main categories of DUI offenses, including general impairment DUIs and per se DUIs. How the prosecutor proves a DUI case will depend on whether it is a general impairment or per se DUI. The prosecutor can secure a conviction for a per se DUI by showing that you drove with an amount of drugs or alcohol in your body that was above the legal limit. To prove a general impairment DUI, the prosecutor will need to show that the alcohol or other substances that you consumed impacted your cognitive or physical ability to drive. IF you have been charged with either a general impairment or a per se DUI offense, the legal team at DiCindio Law is prepared to help you.
Per Se DUI’s In Pennsylvania
When you drive or operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania, the legal limit for your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(2). If you drive with a BAC at this level or higher, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI. The police might ask you to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test after your arrest to determine your BAC. If it is 0.08% or higher, the prosecutor can file a per se DUI charge against you.
A prosecutor will not be required to prove that you were intoxicated or that you were impaired to prove a per se DUI. He or she will only have to prove that your BAC was 0.08% to 0.099% to convict you of the lowest level DUI charge. Pennsylvania has three per se DUI levels, including 0.08% to 0.99% for the lowest level DUI. The high BAC per se DUI can be charged if your BAC is from 0.10% to 0.159%, and the highest BAC per se DUI can be charged if your BAC is from 0.16% or higher. If you have any amount of drugs in your system, you can be charged with the highest BAC DUI offense regardless of your level of impairment.
For example, if you have a few drinks but are not impaired and are pulled over by an officer for a burned-out taillight, the officer can still charge you with a per se DUI if your BAC tests at 0.08%. This means that you could be convicted of a per se DUI and face the penalties even if your driving was not impaired.
Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Laws
Like every other state, Pennsylvania has an implied consent law that is codified at 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547. Under this law, you are deemed to have given your implied consent to submit to a chemical or breath test in Pennsylvania when you drive or operate a vehicle in the state.
If you are arrested for a suspected DUI and refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, you will face administrative penalties, including a suspension of your driver’s license for 12 to 18 months, a restoration fee ranging from $500 to $2,000, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device. The length of your suspension and the size of your fine will depend on if it is your first refusal or if you have a prior DUI conviction or refusal. People who refuse a breath or blood test will also face penalties for the highest-level BAC even if their actual impairment was much lower.
How Are Impairment DUI’s Handled?
If you did not submit to a breath or blood test, the prosecutor can still try to prove that you are guilty of an impairment DUI. In this type of case, the prosecutor will focus on the officer’s observations of your behavior, speech, motor coordination, appearance, and driving. Since there is not a clear definition of what constitutes impairment, these types of DUI cases are more difficult for prosecutors to prove.
The prosecutor will have to present evidence to prove that your ability to drive was negatively impacted by the drugs or alcohol that you consumed. Some examples of the types of evidence that a prosecutor might present include the following:
- Weaving or other erratic driving
- Performing poorly on the field sobriety tests
- Slurred speech
- Watery, bloodshot eyes
- Odor of alcohol
- Odd behavior
Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(1), you can be convicted of a general impairment DUI if the amount of alcohol or drugs that you consumed was enough to render you incapable of safely operating or driving a motor vehicle. Beyond this description, no guidance is provided about what level of impairment is required for you to be convicted of a DUI.
Defending Against A Per Se DUI In Pennsylvania
People who are charged with per se DUI offenses in Pennsylvania are may fight their cases. In these cases, the defense will often focus on issues such as the accuracy of the testing process, the calibration of the machine, the administrator’s qualifications, the chain of custody problems, and other similar issues.
An experienced defense attorney will carefully review the data from the testing process and the records from the machine’s certifications, calibrations, and repairs. If you submitted a blood test, he or she might ask for the second vial of blood to be tested to review and compare the results. He or she might also challenge the chain of custody or how the samples were stored. A lawyer might also explain whether it is a better idea to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea offer to a lesser offense or if you should move forward to challenge the charge at a trial.
Get Help From DiCindio Law
If you have been charged with a per se DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you should retain an experienced DUI defense attorney from DiCindio Law as soon as possible. We can review the evidence in your case and explain the options that you have. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535 or by filling out our online contact form.