Pennsylvania DUI Attorney
If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Central Pennsylvania, you may think that your options are limited. However, with a skilled DUI defense lawyer in Perry County, Juniata County, or New Bloomfield, PA, you have a good chance of having the DUI charges against you reduced or dismissed.
DUI Traffic Stop
When you are pulled over for a suspected DUI, it can be an intimidating situation. After you see the lights in your rearview mirror, the police officer will likely approach your driver or passenger side window. They may ask you to step out of the vehicle and you may be asked to complete a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs) or a breathalyzer test. You may refuse those tests, but you may still be arrested based on the officer’s other suspicions.
Common FSTs used by officers include:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test – The officer may ask you to follow a slowly moving object, such as a pen, with your eyes. Involuntary jerking movements may indicate impairment.
- Walk-and-turn test – You may be asked to take nine steps in a heel-to-toe fashion, then turn around on one foot and return in the same manner. Inability to balance may indicate intoxication.
- One-leg stand test – You may be asked to stand on one leg with the other foot raised six inches and count aloud. This is often done for a period of up to 30 seconds. Inability to balance while multitasking can indicate inebriation.
In general, the officer is looking for the following signs that you may be intoxicated:
- The smell of alcohol or drugs in your vehicle
- Slurred speech
- Glassy or bloodshot eyes
- Jerky movements
- Inability to balance
- Poor coordination
These can all be signs of medical conditions, so you should inform the officer if you have a condition that might cause you to seem impaired.
DUI Laws & Arrest
If your breathalyzer test indicates that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit of .08 percent, or if the officer has enough probable cause otherwise to believe that you are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, then you may be arrested. You may be held in police custody for a few hours or a few days, depending on when you are arrested. Your car will likely be impounded as well. You have a right to call a Pennsylvania DUI attorney if you are arrested. You should refuse to answer any questions until you can talk to an experienced drunk driving attorney.
Pennsylvania has an “implied consent” law which states that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who believes that you have been driving under the influence, then you consent to take a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your BAC. Recently, however, the reliability of BAC tests has been called into question. Regardless, these tests typically take place at the police station. While you can refuse to submit to a chemical test, refusal is punishable by up to a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
After your arrest, you will appear before a bail commissioner who will set your bail. If you are released on bail, you must return for your scheduled court date or a DUI bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will also lose any money that you paid in bail. You will then be given a subpoena which will state when you should appear in court. A summons detailing your charges should arrive via mail within a few weeks.
Your Rights During the DUI Process
Whether or not you are found to have a BAC level above the legal limit, it is important to know and exercise your rights during a DUI traffic stop and throughout the arrest process.
- You have the right to remain silent. You are only required to provide the officer with your driver’s license and insurance card. You should speak calmly and only answer necessary questions. Once you inform the police that you want your DUI / DWI attorney, remain silent and do not give any written or verbal statements before your DUI defense attorney arrives.
- You have the right to an attorney. It is important to have a skilled PA DUI attorney represent you as soon as you are arrested, and to fight for you during the legal process that follows. Be sure to inform the police that you want an attorney as soon as possible.
DUI Court Process and Procedure
When you are charged with a DUI, the court process can be stressful and overwhelming. Whether in the Court of Common Pleas in Juniata County or Perry County, it is important to have an experienced DUI attorney working for you during this time. Depending on the strength of the case against you, and the decisions you make with the help of your lawyer, the court process may include:
- Preliminary Hearing – The preliminary hearing is the first time that you will appear in court. This is not a hearing where you can be found guilty of a DUI, but rather it is where the prosecutor must show probable cause that a DUI was committed, and that you could be the guilty party. If the magistrate overseeing this hearing finds in favor of the prosecutor, then the state will be able to send your case forward to your arraignment. However, your DUI attorney can use this hearing to show that some or all of the charges against you are baseless and should be dismissed.
- Arraignment – If the magistrate at your preliminary hearing allows for the case against you to continue, you will be arraigned in Juniata County or Perry County at a date scheduled after your preliminary hearing. This is when the state formally files charges against you.
- Pennsylvania ARD Program – After arraignment, you may have the opportunity to take part in the Pennsylvania Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program, which is optional for first-time offenders who did not cause a death or injuries. If you are approved for the program, you do not have to plead guilty and you do not receive a conviction. Instead, upon completion of the program your charges are dropped.
- Pre-Trial Conference – During the pre-trial conference your DUI defense attorney can meet with the prosecution and request information that they have against you such as lab results and witness testimony. Additionally, your DUI lawyer can assess the evidence and possible DUI penalties and determine if negotiating a plea agreement for you is the best decision at this time.
- Trial – If your case goes to a trial, it will then be determined if you are guilty of the charges against you. If you are found guilty you will be sentenced by the judge. However, your DUI attorney can also file an appeal after you receive a guilty verdict. In an appeal, your attorney will have to show that the verdict against you should be thrown out due to some error in the criminal proceedings against you.
Pennsylvania DUI Penalties
Penalties for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania can be severe. The amount of time you spend in jail, fines, and other penalties depend on the number of times you’ve been convicted, whether you injured anyone as a result of DUI, your BAC level, and other case-specific situations. Penalties include:
- First-Offense DUI in PA – Up to six months in jail, up to six months of probation, a fine of up to $5,000, and up to a 12-month license suspension
- Second-Offense DUI in PA – Between five days and five years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, and a 12 to 18 month license suspension
- Third-Offense DUI in PA – Between 10 days and five years of incarceration, up to $10,000 in fines, and a 12 to 18 month license suspension
All DUI convictions will likely require mandatory substance abuse treatment and driver safety school. An Interlock Ignition Device (IID) is also required for drivers who have been convicted of a second or subsequent DUI.
When considering DUI punishments, Pennsylvania will consider a “look back period” that includes all convictions you’ve received in the last 10 years. Thus, if you received a DUI nine years ago, you will face penalties of a second-offense DUI. In some cases a DUI lawyer may be able to get a prior DUI expunged. You should contact an expungement lawyer from Czekaj Law, LLC to discuss your options.
Deana’s Law Could Increase Your DUI Penalties
Act 59—known as Deana’s Law—increases DUI penalties for repeat offenders. The law states that someone who:
- Commits a DUI and refuses a breath or chemical test
- Has a BAC of .16 or higher; OR
- Commits a DUI involving a controlled substance
will face third-degree felony charges if they have two prior offenses. You could spend up to seven years in prison if convicted. Individuals with three or more prior offenses face second-degree felony charges, resulting in up to ten years in prison. The law also states that your sentence will be served consecutively with any other sentence the court imposes.
How a DUI Attorney Can Help You
If you receive DUI charges in Perry County, Juniata County, or New Bloomfield, PA, it is best to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. This will allow your DUI lawyer to properly evaluate your situation and plan the best approach going forward. Although you may be concerned about the cost of legal representation, the fines and collateral consequences impacting your job and life can be much more costly.