Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Laws in Pennsylvania
Can I Go to Jail for a DUI in Pennsylvania?
Yes, if you are convicted (found guilty) of Driving Under the Influence there is mandatory jail time that is determined by the Legislature. A Mandatory sentence means that a judge has no discretion and must sentence an individual to jail time which can range from 2 days in jail to 1 year, depending on prior record. Intermediate punishment such as Work Release or House Arrest is determined by the sentencing judge. A majority of the hundreds of multiple offenders that we have represented receive house arrest, rather than several months in jail.
However, if this is a first offense an individual may be eligible for the ARD program in which there is no jail time and the charges are eventually dismissed by the DA after successful completion of the program.
What Happens if I Am to Receive DUI Charges in the Mail?
A: Usually within 15-30 days, you will receive the charges in the mail, along with a Summons to appear in District Court for your Preliminary Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing is the evidence hearing in which the police must prove that there is sufficient evidence to bind the charges over to the Court of Common Pleas.
Do I Need a DUI Defense Lawyer in Pennsylvania?
A: In the criminal justice system any individual can represent himself for any matter. However, an individual that represents himself is at a severe disadvantage which the police officer and the DA will probably exploit in court. If you do not know what you are doing in a Courtroom, it is akin to attempting to fix your car with a blindfold on — you will do more harm than good. Your freedom and your driver’s license is at stake when you appear in court on a criminal matter and the consequences can be dire if you represent yourself. As the saying goes, “a lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client.” According to the Supreme Court, “Even a skilled lawyer who represents himself is at a disadvantage in contested litigation. …He is deprived of the judgment of an independent third party, in framing the theory of the case, evaluating alternative methods of presenting the evidence, cross-examining hostile witnesses, formulating closing arguments, and in making sure that reason, rather than emotion, dictates the proper tactical response to unforeseen developments in the courtroom.”
Can I Be Charged With a DUI if the Police Did Not See Me Driving?
A: In order to be convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania, the police must prove that you were driving, operating or in actual physical control of the vehicle. If there is other evidence that the vehicle was driven, the police do not necessarily have to observe you driving. However, the defense case is stronger when there are no driving observations as Pennsylvania Courts have consistently held that more evidence is needed than the defendant found behind the wheel with the motor running.
Can I Be Charged If I Was Not Read My Miranda Rights?
A: Contrary to popular belief, Miranda warnings are not required when someone is arrested. Miranda warnings are needed when an individual is in custody and is asked a question by police, which will incriminate the individual. Since DUI cases generally involve the officer’s observations and/or Blood Alcohol amount, Miranda is not typically given. However, if you answered questions that could incriminate you and Miranda was not given, you could file a Motion to Suppress to attempt to have your statements thrown out of court. The case will not be dismissed for lack of Miranda warnings, just the incriminating statement.
Can a Police Officer Stop Me For No Reason?
A: If the police did not have “reasonable suspicion” or probable cause for the stop, a Motion to Suppress Evidence should be filed in the Court of Common Pleas. At this hearing, the police must prove that the stop was valid. If the judge rules that the stop was unconstitutional, then all of the evidence of the case is suppressed and the case gets dismissed.
Can I Refuse a Breath Test or Blood Test?
A: If the police officer notifies Penndot of the refusal, then you will lose your license for a minimum of one (1) year. This penalty is in addition to the penalties for DUI. Upon receipt of the suspension letter, you have 30 days to appeal the suspension to the Court of Common Pleas, in which a hearing will be held to decide if the police followed proper procedures in the case.
Will I Lose My Driver’s License If I Am Convicted of DUI?
A: The law states that any conviction for a DUI shall result in at least a one (1) year license suspension. However, in certain cases, an Occupational Limited License (bread-and-butter license) may be approved by Penndot.
Can I Be Convicted of a DUI If I Was Taking Prescription Medication?
A: Yes. The DUI law encompasses intoxication by alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. If a blood test reveals that you had medication in you system to such an amount that it could impair your driving, then you can be charged with DUI.