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Do the police need a reason to stop me?
Yes. An officer must have a valid reason to stop your vehicle or else your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure are violated. Valid reasons for a stop include probable cause that you are violating any provision of the motor vehicle code or PennDOT regulations, or a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in any criminal activity. Swerving, crossing center or fog lines, wide turns, any faulty equipment or lights, are generally valid reasons for initiating a traffic stop. An invalid stop can be challenged by filing a pretrial suppression motion asking the Court to exclude evidence. Although difficult to win, I have filed a number of successful pretrial motions.
What are SFSTs?
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) include a battery of three separate tests that have been accepted by Pennsylvania Courts as valid for establishing probable cause for police officers to arrest suspected DUI motorists.
These tests can be difficult to perform properly when totally sober and under ideal circumstances. Even if you think you performed well, it is likely the officer noted numerous "clues" or deviations. However, the reliability of the tests and how they were administered are subject to challenge at trial.
Do you have to perform the Field Sobriety Tests?
No. Any field sobriety test is voluntary, and you are not required to submit to them. There is no penalty for refusing these tests. Because the results of the tests can and will be used against you, most DUI attorneys recommend politely refusing to perform the tests. Do not confuse the SFSTs with the blood-draw request- see below.
Do you have to submit to the blood draw request?
You can refuse, but if you do, you will automatically lose your license for a year (or 18 months for repeat refusals). Additionally, you will still likely face the DUI charge, and the refusal can be used against you at trial. You do not have the right to consult an attorney before deciding whether to submit to the test, and anything less than a definite "yes" will be deemed a refusal.
Does the Officer have to read me my Miranda rights prior to arresting me for a DUI?
No. The Courts have determined that because a DUI arrest to take you in for a blood draw is a temporary detention, no Miranda rights need to be given.
What are the basics of PA's DUI Law?
The law is broken into sections based on the BAC (Blood-Alcohol Concentration) level and/or drug levels in your system.
The penalties increase with each Tier.
How many DUIs was I charged with?
Although you likely were charged with more than one section of the DUI statute, it is only one DUI. Most everyone is charged under the "general impairment" section, which is the catch-all section alleging that you were under the influence to a degree that rendered you incapable of safe driving. Additionally, if your blood was tested, you will be charged with the section specific to yourblood-alcohol level. If you also had drugs in your system, you likely will have additional sections charged. Ultimately, even if you are found guilty, you will be sentenced for only one DUI.
Why does my paperwork say "First Offense" even though I had a prior DUI?
For whatever reason, some forms sent out by the MDJ Offices all say first offense. This is a form only and should not be relied upon as accurate.
Can I get the charges dismissed if there are errors in the complaint?
No. Technical defects, such as misspellings, typos, and even some incorrect descriptions, will not result in a dismissal. The only time errors such as these really come into play is when there is an identification issue; i.e., whether they charged the right person or have the right vehicle.
Will I go to jail if I am convicted of a first offense DUI?
Many first offenses are eligible for the ARD Program, which will not result in jail time; see below. If you are convicted, there are mandatory minimum jail sentences under Tier II (48 hrs) or Tier III (72 hrs). The maximum sentences for a first offense is six months. However, as long as there are no bad facts (e.g., an accident with injuries, fleeing, extremely high BAC, children in vehicle, belligerence, etc.), you may be able to avoid jail through York County's approved Intermediate Punishment (or I.P.) Program, where you can serve a combination of house arrest and wearing an alcohol monitor (called a SCRAM monitor) instead of going to jail.
What is the ARD Program?
ARD (or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) is an opportunity for first-time offenders (or those who have not had a DUI charge within the last 10 years) to complete a program and have the charges dismissed and arrest record expunged. Click here for more info.
What are my trial rights?
You have the absolute right to take your case to trial. If it is a first offense DUI, you do not have the right to a jury trial for the DUI; your case would be tried to a judge. If it is a second offense highest tier, or any third or subsequent offense, you have the right to a jury trial. We can discuss in further detail trial rights and strategies during a consultation.
What are my chances at trial?
Each case depends on its own unique circumstances. We will discuss the prospects of your case going to trial at our initial meeting and then throughout each step as the case moves forward. Going to trial is not a decision to be made on day one, but we certainly begin preparing on day one. We will take all appropriate cases to trial, but will not do so on false hopes just to earn a fee if it is not in your best interest.
Will I lose my license?
If the charge is anything above the lowest tier, there will be a license suspension upon conviction or entry into ARD. For a first offense conviction in the middle or highest tier, it is a one-year suspension, with the possibility of applying for a work-restricted license (officially called an OLL [Occupational-Limited License], unofficially called a "bread-and-butter" license) after 60 days of no driving. If it is a second offense, highest tier or more, you are facing an 18-month suspension. See the ARD section above for applicable suspensions in the ARD program.
Any way to avoid or reduce the license suspension?
No. This is one of the most common questions and biggest sources of frustration for most clients. Unfortunately, PennDOT does not have any mechanism in place to hear hardship exceptions to license suspensions; it is cut-and-dry. We can't negotiate the license suspension with the DA or plead for leniency with the Judge; the suspensions go through PennDOT only. This goes for convictions or ARD. Of course, we can challenge the case on the merits if we have a valid defense.
If this is your second or subsequent DUI offense within the last 10 years, you were likely charged on the date of arrest, placed on supervised bail and required to wear a SCRAM monitor. This is an electronic anklet that measures alcohol in your system. You are on zero tolerance and will go to jail if you drink. This is part of the "Target 25" program, aimed at preventing you from committing another DUI before getting to court on this one. Rather than trying to answer all the issues involved with subsequent offenses, it is best to immediately schedule an appointment with me to discuss your case, including the possibility of DUI Treatment Court.
Throughout the process, you will have to undergo a preliminary Drug and Alcohol Evaluation and follow through with any recommendations for treatment. We can discuss options such as DUI Treatment Court, Inpatient Rehabilitation, Partial Hospitalization Programs that allow you to go to work, Intensive Outpatient Programs, and other types of treatment. Your health is the most important thing to focus on, and we can help you achieve whatever level of treatment is needed., ms of
What are your fees?
Fees of course are always a topic of discussion. I do primarily DUI work, and, therefore, am able to use a flat-fee schedule for most cases; so you will know up front what the total legal fees will be to handle your case. I won't lay out the schedule here, but I can tell you that, based on my experience doing DUI work in York County, my fees are definitely in the ballpark with other experienced DUI attorneys in the area. Our office accepts cash, checks and most major credit cards. We can also work out a payment plan if necessary.
The most important thing, when you get right down to it, is whether you are getting your money's worth for your hard-earned dollar. You should feel comfortable that, not only does your attorney know what he is doing, but also that he is available to you to answers questions. On that note, all of my clients have my cell phone number, and texts or emails work great for me as well. We can discuss fees in more detail during your free, no pressure consultation.
There are way too many questions that come up to handle them all here, so please come in and see me, and I will gladly answer all of your questions.