Most Common Reasons for a DUI Charge in Pennsylvania
Many drivers today wonder if they need to be concerned about driving a vehicle after they have had one glass of liquor, wine, or a beer. Most people believe that “one drink” can’t cause them to be subject to a drunk driving charge if they are subject to a traffic stop. Unfortunately, it is not a simple equation: “one drink I’m fine, two or more I call Uber or Lyft”. With the expansion of the local breweries everywhere and the onslaught of IPA’s, it is not as easy to determine if one drink is alright or too much.
If you were arrested on DUI charges in Philadelphia or Bucks County areas, consult with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer at Young, Marr & Associates today. Call for a free consultation at our Pennsylvania law offices at (215) 372-8667.
Common Scenarios That Can Result in a DUI Charge in PA
The DUI statute in Pennsylvania permits prosecution under several scenarios.
Driver Deemed “Under the Influence” by Police
A person can be charged because they are deemed to be under the influence of alcohol or illegal or prescription medication, to a degree they are “incapable of safe driving”. In those situations, a police officer makes the determination that based on his or her observations of the driver, and experience, the driver should not be driving. This is often the case if you refuse a breathalyzer test or blood sample so the officer can determine with specificity what substance, and what amount of that substance is in the driver’s blood. Simply refusing to give the breath or blood sample does not prevent the person from being charged with DUI in Pennsylvania.
DUI Charge from Drunk Driving Accident
Another scenario where a driver can be charged under the DUI statute is when there is an accident, even if there was no witness to testify that the driver was drunk at the time. For example, the police can come upon a vehicle that has been driven into a tree, with no driver on scene. They run the registration (license plate) information and go to the owner’s house to investigate. Upon arrival, they question the people in the home, who may unknowingly point to the family member who had been driving the car, the person is approached by the police, and then taken from their home for a blood sample to determine his or her blood alcohol content (BAC). If the test comes back with a sufficient amount of alcohol or drugs, and the officer’s questioning of the person has confirmed that they had not had any alcohol or drugs since they returned home, they can and most likely, will be charged with DUI. Thus, simply getting away from the vehicle does not prevent a DUI charge, and will sometimes result in an additional charge of a “hit and run”, or leaving the scene of an accident charge.
DUI Charge in a Parked Car
Next, we have one of the most interesting cases; where a driver may be parked, with his or her engine running, and sleeping in the car. I always clearly explain to people, that when you believe you have had too much to drink, and you are thinking of pulling over on the side of the road and sleeping it off, you better think again! The law in Pennsylvania permits a person to be charged with DUI, even when they do what many would consider to be the right thing, and pull the car over when they realize they made a mistake by attempting to drive after they’ve had too much to drink. If a car is on the side of the road, such as a highway, the theory is that it obviously didn’t fall out of the sky to get to that location, and so if one person is in the car sleeping, that person must have driven it there. If there is no alcohol in the car, meaning the person could not have consumed alcohol after pulling over, then whatever the BAC reading is upon testing is relevant for the period of time when the driver drove. If the car is parked on a back road, where it could have been parked for hours with no one to notice it, these cases can be defended, and charges dismissed. However, in cases where the vehicle is on the side of a highway, the argument is made that it could not have been there too long without the police or a passerby noticing, and thus, under the “two hour rule” a DUI can be charged.
DUI Charge for Prescribed Medication
There is also the scenario where the driver is taking legally prescribed medications, in the amounts as prescribed, and can still be charged with a DUI offense. The Pennsylvania statute, permits prosecution for any amount of illegal drugs that are found in the person’s blood, as well as prescription drugs that are in the driver’s system in an amount that shows they are beyond the therapeutic range; even if they are taking the amount prescribed by their doctor but the amount is higher than normal due to the person’ tolerance to the drug over a long period of time. Many people are in fact charged with DUI based on having marijuana in their system, and as of this date, they could possibly be charged even if the marijuana is legally prescribed. This is because the law has not “caught up” yet with the legalization of medical marijuana.
What to Do If You Were Charged With a DUI in Pennsylvania
If you are pulled over for a traffic violation in Pennsylvania, know that if you have marijuana in your vehicle, and its odor is apparent, the police are permitted to legally search your car. Oftentimes, if you admit to the possession charge at the time of the stop, they will not pursue the marijuana DUI. However, it is imperative that you do not admit to smoking any time recently or they will usually pull you out of the car, have you perform field sobriety tests, and take you for a blood sample.
If you are tired and feel you have had too much to drink, do not pull over on the side of the highway, and go to sleep in the driver’s seat. If you can pull into a more “off the beaten path” location, you will be less likely to have police contact, and be able to sleep it off safely without receiving a DUI charge. If you must pull to the side of the highway, get into the back or the passenger seat, and do not leave your car running unless it is necessary due to the cold. If the police arrive to perform what they refer to as a “safety check” be respectful, but do not engage in any conversation about how you got there, how long you have been there, if you drank once you pulled over, or whether anyone else was with you when you stopped. Circumstantially, it may look like you drove there, but without information from you, they will not know for sure and the burden is on the state (Commonwealth/police) to show that you were the driver and were “under the influence to a degree you were incapable of safe driving” at the time. How do they know you weren’t with a spouse or a friend, had an argument, they got out and started walking home and got picked up by a passerby? You do not have to prove what happened; They do!
If you are stopped for a traffic violation, and the police officer approaches and sees you have a cast on or some other indication of an injury, the officer may ask you, seemingly innocently enough, “hey are you on any pain medication?”. As soon as you answer yes, what was originally a speeding ticket has now progressed to a possible DUI. Most times the police reports will say that a driver had bloodshot, glassy eyes, but the main reason for DUI, aside from an odor of alcohol, is an admission by the driver that confirms they have taken either illegal drugs or prescription medication. This is especially relevant when a driver is involved in a minor fender bender. People have accidents due to simply being fatigued, but if the driver admits to being on prescribed medication, such as Percocet or Xanax for example, a minor accident now becomes a DUI. It is always important to be respectful to the police and to answer their questions to a certain extent, but sometimes what we say talks us into a charge we would otherwise not have received.
Bucks County, PA DUI Defense Attorneys Offering Free Consultations
If you find yourself in one of these potential DUI scenarios, hopefully you will find this information helpful and utilize it to prevent yourself from receiving a DUI charge. However, if you are charged, please contact one of the criminal defense lawyers at Young, Marr & Associates so that we can represent you zealously, and prevent your situation from getting worse! The concepts discussed above, are supported by what is called, “case law” and we will do the research and use the case law to fight for your rights and get you the best possible outcome! Call today for a free consultation at (215) 372-8667.