Pittsburgh DUI Attorneys
A DUI charge does not necessarily end in a guaranteed conviction. Never let anyone tell you differently.
Thanks to Pennsylvania’s rules allowing random traffic stops in the hopes of minimizing the overall impact of drunk drivers, more people than ever before are arrested for DUI. Under Pennsylvania laws, there are now three levels of DUI which include:
- General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)
- High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)
- Highest BAC (.16% and higher)
The potential penalties that apply to DUI charges are based largely on what level you are being charged under as well as other factors including:
- Driver age – Any driver under the age of 21 who has a BAC of .02 will automatically be facing the same penalties as another driver charged with High BAC.
- Commercial truck drivers – Truck drivers who have been charged with a DUI and record a BAC of over .04 and under .159 will face penalties associated with a High BAC level.
- School bus drivers – Any school bus operator with a BAC between .02 and .159 will be facing penalties under the High BAC level.
Across Pennsylvania during 2014, there were more than 9,000 accidents involving impaired driving. Pennsylvania imposes stiff penalties for those first convicted of a DUI which are substantially harsher for second or subsequent convictions. The penalties and fines include:
First convictions for a general impairment level of DUI could result in up to six months of probation, mandatory alcohol education and in some cases, in a treatment plan. You could also face a fine of up to $300 if convicted. When someone has one previous conviction, fines could be up to $2,500, they could lose their license for up to one year and they may have to install an ignition interlock device for a period of one year. In some cases, a second conviction could also result in jail time of up to six months. Those convicted with two prior DUI convictions will be charged with a 2nd degree misdemeanor offense and face up to two years in prison, fines up to $2,000 and a loss of driving rights for a period of one year plus a mandatory ignition device for one year.
While treatment is always an option, regardless of BAC levels, the other penalties associated with a conviction are onerous. A first conviction could result in up to six months in prison, a one-year license suspension and a fine of up to $5,000. Those convicted for a second time could face up to six months in prison, mandatory use of an ignition interlock device for one year and a driver’s license suspension of up to 18 months in addition to steep fines. Any subsequent convictions could mean up to 18 months driving suspension, fines up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.
In addition to alcohol, these fines and penalties also apply to drivers who are arrested in possession of controlled substances. A first conviction could result in a six-month prison sentence, fines up to $5,000 and a license suspension of up to one year. Second convictions could mean a jail sentence of between 90 days and five years, fines up to $10,000 as well as an 18-month driver’s license suspension and one year use of an ignition interlock device. The most significant difference when a driver has more than two convictions is one year to five years in jail as well as higher fines.
Drivers who are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI should contact a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, any conviction will remain on your record for ten years and could mean you are paying higher insurance premiums in addition to the other penalties you will face under the law. Working with an attorney who has experience dealing with prosecutors can result in a lesser charge or dismissal of charges which can help you maintain a clean driving record and a clear criminal record. Even if you believe the charges against you are false, it is never a good idea to represent yourself against DUI charges; a skilled and aggressive attorney can help protect your rights and fight the charges against you.
First DUI Offense
A first-time DUI conviction carries with it criminal and administrative consequences. This means you could face expensive fines and jail time, as well as license suspension or revocation, among other penalties. If this is your first criminal conviction, you will also end up with a criminal record that may affect your opportunities to obtain housing, employment, financial support and other items in the future.
It is due to these sometimes excessive consequences that the state of Pennsylvania offers an alternative form of justice for first-time DUI offenders: the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program.
Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program (ARD)
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program is a pretrial diversion program aimed at giving a second chance to individuals facing their first DUI charges. There are three basic requirements that you must meet to be eligible for the ARD program:
- This is your first DUI charge, or is at least the first DUI offense within the past 10 years
- No one can have suffered injuries or died due to your drunk driving
- You did not have a minor under the age of 14 in your car
If you meet these requirements, and we do not believe we can get the court to dismiss your charges, we will quickly move to have you placed in the ARD program. By participating in and successfully completing the ARD program, you will earn a dismissal of the charges against you.
What You Can Expect While You Are in the ARD Program
The court can choose to implement a variety of conditions during your ARD program, all of which are geared toward rehabilitating you and getting you back on your feet and back on the road. These conditions include:
- Alcohol highway safety school course
- Restitution, court costs and other financial fees
- Restricted driving privileges or short-term license suspension
- Court-ordered treatment program
- Community services
It is important to note, however, that failure to follow through on any of the conditions of your ARD program will result in a reinstatement of regular court proceedings against you, along with a waiver of your right to a speedy trial. Speak to your DUI defense lawyer about whether the ARD program makes sense for your situation.
Defense Strategies for 1st DUI Offenders
The first item we will pursue is a complete dismissal of the charges against you. To obtain this result, we will analyze everything to identify missing elements or loopholes in the prosecution’s case against you, including:
- Did the police have probable cause to pull you over in the first place?
- Did the police administer any tests, such as the Breathalyzer or sobriety tests, appropriately?
- Are there inaccuracies in the police report?
- Did the police read you your Miranda rights upon your arrest?
- Are there any issues with any of the evidence the police gathered?
If we cannot get the court to dismiss your case based on the above, and we all agree that the ARD program is not the best choice for you, we will aggressively defend your rights at trial. Our former experience as prosecutors gives us an advantage during case preparation and while in court.
Second Offense DUI
Being arrested and charged with a DUI is worrisome enough but when you have previously been convicted of a DUI and you are now facing a second charge, you are uncertain as to what your options are and what possible charges you may be facing. Some of the questions you may have could include whether or not you could be facing felony charges.
Is a DUI a felony?
Driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is nearly always charged as a misdemeanor. In cases where there has been a death or bodily injury, drivers could be facing felony charges. However, since Pennsylvania has a ten-year look-back period on all DUI charges, the penalties you are facing could be far more severe for a second DUI. Under the current laws of Pennsylvania if someone other than the person driving drunk could face felony DUI with injury charges which could result in up to six months in jail, loss of your license for one year and fines of up to $5,000. These penalties apply in the event of minor injuries that resulted in an accident.
Difference between a DUI and DWI
DUI means driving under the influence (drugs or alcohol) while DWI means driving while intoxicated. In Pennsylvania, drivers typically are facing DUI charges versus DWI charges which allow law enforcement more flexibility. If you are impaired because of drugs, you could be facing the same fines and penalties as if you were under the influence of alcohol.
DUI Accidents in Pennsylvania
During 2014, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were more than 10,000 alcohol-related accidents and more than 300 deaths resulting from drunk driving incidents. Pennsylvania has tried to stem drunk driving incidents by implementing sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.
Breathalyzer Tests and DUI Arrests
In some instances, drivers may believe they would be better off refusing a breathalyzer test believing that without such a test, it would be impossible for a prosecutor to prove their state of inebriation. However, it is important to keep in mind that if you refuse such a test, you will automatically face charges under a tier 3 DUI which is considered “highest impairment” regardless of your BAC.
While Pennsylvania law does not specifically charge an arrestee with an aggravated DUI, there are specific circumstances which can result in enhanced charges. Keep in mind, Pennsylvania has three levels of DUI charges, each of them a misdemeanor and all with specific fines, potential jail time, loss of driving privileges and the potential for forcing a driver to use an ignition interlock device when their right to drive is restored. In addition, Pennsylvania has a 10 year look-back period on all drunk driving convictions. Some of the situations that can result in enhanced punishment due to being considered an “aggravated” DUI include:
- Children in the vehicle – If a driver has children under the age of 14 in their vehicle and they are charged with drunk driving, they may face an enhanced charge. For example, if the driver would face a charge under General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC) the charges may be enhanced to the same charges a driver who was charged under High BAC would face.
- Accident with injuries – Drivers who are involved in a collision and are charged with drunk driving, as a result, could be charged with an aggravated DUI particularly if someone other than the driver was injured as a result of the accident. Pennsylvania law would nearly always result in charges under the High BAC penalties regardless of how low your BAC is at the time of the accident.
- Driving with a revoked license – Some drivers may lose their license for up to one year after a first drunk driving charge. If they are stopped for drunk driving while they are operating on a suspended revoked license, they may be charged with an aggravated DUI as well as more serious penalties.
- Traveling at high speeds – Those who are charged with a DUI and also traveling faster than the speed limit or faster than is safe for road conditions could face enhanced charges resulting in steeper fines and increased insurance costs.
- Multiple DUI convictions – At the discretion of the prosecutor, drivers who have been arrested for a subsequent DUI could potentially face charges under the “higher” level even if their BAC falls under the lower charges.
- Refusing breathalyzer tests – Under Pennsylvania law, you could face enhanced charges if you have refused a breathalyzer test. Pennsylvania drivers agree to “implied consent” when they get their driver’s license.
- Certain drivers – Drivers who are under the age of 21, commercial truck drivers and school bus operators will nearly always face aggravated DUI charges under Pennsylvania laws. These drivers also face lower blood-alcohol levels; drivers under 21 must have a BAC lower than .02, truck drivers BAC cannot be higher than .04 and school bus drivers must not have a BAC over .02.
Fighting Aggravated DUI Charges
Drivers who are facing any charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should contact a criminal defense attorney who understands the laws in Pennsylvania. While you may have a BAC that exceeds the legal limits, oftentimes, we can fight your charges by demonstrating these tests can be inaccurate. Just because you are charged with a DUI does not mean you will be convicted.
The Ten-Year Look Back Period
Pennsylvania laws allow prosecutors, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and your insurance company to review the prior ten year period when assessing charges for DUI, deciding on license suspensions and when setting your insurance rates. While the DOT will expunge your driving record after 10 years, you may still have a criminal charge if you have been previously convicted. In some cases, Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program can help you have your criminal record expunged after ten years. However, if your arrest and subsequent conviction had aggravating conditions like injury, a child in the car or a second DUI arrest, this may not be an option.
The penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania are very serious even when there are no aggravating conditions. Any driver who is stopped and charged with drunk driving should contact a criminal defense attorney who understands the laws as they apply to drunk driving. Working with the right attorney, it may be possible to have the charges reduced or dismissed depending on the severity of the charge.
Know Your Rights As A Repeat DUI Offender in Pittsburgh
Since 2003, when Pennsylvania enacted Act 24, there has been a multi-tiered system in place for determining whether a driver is DUI or DWI. Act 24 lowered the legal blood alcohol content limit to 0.08%. In addition, court mandated alcohol treatment programs were added to the penalty programs for offenders.
DUI and DWI penalties in Pennsylvania vary based on the number of offenses and the level of impairment that is documented in each incident. As the number of incidents increase and/or as the level of impairment increases, the severity of the penalties imposed is intended to increase as well.
Repeat Offenders Do Have Options
Despite the state’s stringent DUI laws, this does not necessarily mean you will serve jail time or lose your job, or even your driver’s license. In fact, in Pennsylvania, you must first be convicted of a DUI offense before your license may be revoked. A DUI attorney in Pennsylvania can be crucial to managing your defense so that your case has the potential to be resolved before it escalates into a trial or conviction.
While the recently enacted laws were written with the intent to send repeat DUI offenders to jail, depending on your case’s specific circumstances, it is not a given that you will be ordered to serve jail time.
Bad Stops For DUI and DWI
A DUI criminal defense attorney can challenge the legality of the traffic stop that resulted in your DUI. If the stop is ruled as improper or illegal then everything that occurred subsequently will be inadmissible as evidence. So, if your DUI or DWI stop is ruled to be illegal or improper then even if you failed a breathalyzer or sobriety test, that information may not be admissible in court.
Your DUI Defense Strategy
We do not use cookie-cutter defense strategies at our firm. However, what we do use is our high level of skill and unique knowledge to craft individualized strategies geared toward beating or minimizing the charges you face:
- First DUI offense: If you did not already know it, you can face DUI charges even in situations where your blood alcohol content (BAC) was not over the legal limit. You can also face increased DUI charges if you refuse to take a Breathalyzer test. But did you also know that Pennsylvania offers special programs for first-time DUI offenders that allow them to keep the crime off their records? If you are facing your first DUI offense, turn to a team who knows the steps to take that may help keep your record clear.
- Multiple DUI offense: If you already have one or more DUI convictions on your criminal record, you must act quickly and carefully to do everything you can to avoid adding another. Multiple DUI offenders, especially those with felony DUI charges, face strict and lasting consequences. These include jail or prison time and a permanent loss of your driver’s license. When you work with us, we will put our first-hand knowledge of how the prosecution will likely approach your case to build an aggressive defense strategy.
Key Traits of Qualified DUI Lawyer
Throughout our years of practicing law, both for the prosecution and for the defense, we have found that the most successful DUI lawyers in Pennsylvania all share the following five traits:
- Years of experience: The more hands-on experience a criminal defense lawyer has represented clients in the courtroom, the higher the likelihood that this lawyer will understand all of the potential defenses and defense tactics available in any given case. Our team has more than 45 years of combined experience handling both sides of the criminal justice system.
- Knowledge of the prosecution’s tactics: As we’ve stated, each of our lawyers spent time working as district attorneys, representing the government in criminal legal matters. This gives us a more intimate understanding of what the prosecution must do and prove in any case. We find this knowledge extremely valuable when defending our clients in and out of the courtroom.
- Ability to use alternative forms of justice: Our breadth of experience has allowed us to become incredibly familiar with the alternative forms of justice available to individuals facing a DUI conviction. We will analyze all the options available and pursue those that make the most sense for you, now and into the future.
- Dedication to personal service: We are firm believers in providing each of our clients with the dignity, respect and trust they deserve. Individuals facing criminal charges are not criminals, and we will never treat them as such. What we will provide are individualized services that are prompt, personable and private
Knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI Defense Lawyers
Our aggressive DUI defense team at DRK Attorneys refuses to take any criminal charge at face value. Instead, we spend the time and resources necessary to attack a case at multiple angles, always seeking to find the best result possible. Contact us today for a Free Consultation of your legal rights.