Frequently Asked QuestionsFind some commonly asked questions and answers here
Will I go to jail?
It’s no secret, DUI in Pennsylvania carries mandatory jail time for most offenses. The amount of jail time depends on your Blood Alcohol Content and whether or not you have priors. This chart lays out what you can expect if you are convicted.
DUI Sentencing Chart (https://www.dmv.pa.gov/Information-Centers/Laws-Regulations/pages/dui-legislation.aspx)
The officer took me to get blood but released me without charging me.
Arrests in Pennsylvania isn’t what you are used to seeing on TV. The vast majority of DUIs are charged by summons. This means that you will be released to a relative or friend, or held until your BAC is less than .02 and charges will be sent in the mail. Most counties the charges will take 3 to four weeks to arrive at your home. As a practical reality, if you were taken for blood or breath, you are eventually going to get charges.
The Officer wouldn’t tell me what the breathalyzer said before asking me to give blood?
Roadside breathalyzers are an interesting issue for both police and defendant’s. The Courts have held that they are not admissible for proving the amount of blood in a person’s system, only to show that there was or was not alcohol present. This is because there is no way to certify their accuracy (spoiler alert, they are very inaccurate). However, the Courts still allow them to be used to form probable cause that a person is under the influence. Most officers will tell you if there was alcohol present but they don’t have to. If there is alcohol present, in all likelihood they will take you into custody and ask you to give either a blood or breath sample (on a machine that is certified).
Should I have given blood?
This question is oft debated and there are no easy answers. The things you need to know are that refusing a breath test in Pennsylvania leads to a 1 year suspension of your license. This is entered whether you are convicted or not and is in addition to any DUI penalties you will have. This means if you refuse and are convicted of DUI you will serve a 2 year license suspension. While there are certainly reasons to refuse, it can lower the tier of DUI you are facing and can make your defense better, the decision to refuse testing carries penalties in and of itself that you need to be aware of.
Will I lose my license?
Probably. Although it is temporary most DUIs (all but the lowest tier) carry some sort of suspension. A first offense highest tier carries a one year suspension of your license. Some or all of which can be served with a Ignition Interlock limited license. These devices allow you to blow into them to operate your vehicle. ARD can vastly shorten these suspensions, which is why it is often the least worst outcome for a first offense DUI.
Can I get a “bread and butter” or Occupational Limited License for my DUI Suspension?
While Pennsylvania used to permit Drivers to apply for an Occupational Limited License, in 2017 they disallowed this. Instead persons convicted of DUI may apply for an Ignition Interlock Limited License.
What is an Ignition Interlock Limited License or ILL?
Pennsylvania mandates that second offense DUIs must have an Ignition Interlock Limited License before getting their license fully reinstated. Additionally, first time offenders may serve some or all of their suspension on an Ignition Interlock Limited License. An Ignition Interlock Limited License is exactly what is sounds like. In order to operate your car you must have a device installed that measures the alcohol in your breath at all times. If you are caught operating your car without such a device than you can be subject to criminal charges. Importantly, not all Ignition Interlocks meet the state standards so make sure you are using a device that is approved, and has been installed by a site that was approved.
Please see here for additional information. https://www.dmv.pa.gov/Information-Centers/Suspensions/Pages/Ignition-Interlock-Limited-License.aspx
What is ARD?
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. This is a program for first time non-violent offenders where completing certain conditions allows you to have the charges dismissed and the case expunged at the conclusion. It is not a perfect solution but for first offense DUIs it is often the least worst outcome.
Many District Attorney’s Offices have taken much harsher stances on ARD for first time DUIs now that the Superior Court has ruled an ARD cannot be counted as a first offense DUI for sentencing on subsequent DUIs. It is important to check with a local attorney to keep abreast of the changes in these rules.
The officer said I was speeding but I wasn't!
There are usually three legal reasons to challenge a DUI. The first is whether the officer had probable cause to stop your vehicle. The two most common reasons for DUI stops are speeding and weaving. If you feel the officer was wrong in his reasons for stopping you, you can challenge that basis through a suppression hearing. This requires an analysis of the video camera from the car. If the stop is suppressed than all the evidence gathered from it is also inadmissible. A word of caution, if it is your word vs. the officers, the judge will often side with the officer.
What is a suppression hearing?
The mechanism for challenging the legality of an arrest or stop is called a suppression hearing. The motion for this relief is called an omnibus pretrial motion and must be filed within 30 days of arraignment. You are asking the judge to suppress evidence which was unlawfully gathered. This is a powerful tool in DUI defense as often this can decide the case. If the stop or arrest was found to be illegal any evidence gathered would be fruit of the poisonous tree and would be inadmissible in your trial.
Can a DUI be charged as a felony?
For years in Pennsylvania the answer to this question was no. However, in 2018 the DUI law changed. Pennsylvania Act 153 of 2018, established Pennsylvania’s felony DUI offense. You may be charged with a felony DUI when you have three prior convictions for a DUI at any level within the last 10 years.
Can I have a jury trial?
Sometimes. Again, real life differs from television in that not every case ends with a jury trial. In Pennsylvania a case must expose you to more than one year of penalties to be eligible for a jury. All first offense DUIs and lowest/middle tier second offense DUIs have a maximum penalty of six months. This means for those offenses you are not eligible for a jury trial. As a practical matter, this means if you do not have a legal issue (suppression) your likelihood of prevailing is less.
How much is this going to cost me?
Again, it depends. All DUIs in addition to a license suspension and mandatory jail time have mandatory fines. The fines vary with the tier of the offense and prior history. A good rule of thumb is around is to plan for $5000.
Do I need an attorney?
This is something only you can answer. Strictly speaking m, no one has to have an attorney. Many counties require an attorney for ARD. Importantly, if you choose to represent yourself you are responsible for knowing all the rules and deadlines that your attorney would. Attorneys are experts in the law. They are often the best insurance against an unexpected bad outcome. DUI law is very technical and case law driven. At the very least you should consult with an experienced DUI attorney to understand the potential outcomes. Most people find that DUI attorneys cost less than they think and they can relieve a lot if the stress that comes with being charges and appearing in court.
How do I find a good attorney?
There are a lot of good attorneys that practice DUI Law. Focus your search on attorneys that have good reviews from clients. Experience is also something you want to see from an attorney. An experienced attorney will have a good relationship with the police officers and prosecutors which can help solve your case down the road. While price is important, there may be a reason attorney charges less money including lack of experience. Most importantly, talk to a couple of attorneys. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with. Your attorney is going to have an important role in your case and you want it to be somebody that you not only trust but believe has your best interest at heart.