I’ve been charged with DUI, now what?
If you’ve been charged with DUI, and you were arrested, you have already been arraigned and were probably given a date for a Preliminary Hearing before the district judge in the area where you were charged or alleged to have been driving under the influence. The officer may also have released you to a friend or family member. If so, you will likely receive a summons in the mail with a notice to attend a Preliminary Hearing. Every once in a while, if the person gave the officer a sample of your blood, the results come back less than the legal limit and that person may hear nothing further. In either scenario, NOW would be a good time to call an experienced DUI Attorney. Arming yourself with an experienced attorney will go a long way in ensuring that your rights are protected, while simultaneously easing the fears you may have as well.
I have been charged with DUI? Am I eligible for any sort of diversionary program that will not result in a conviction?
If you have never been convicted of a crime, there was no accident, no child in your car, and you had a valid license, the answer is yes; you are eligible for what is known as ARD. ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. If charged with a first offense DUI, you may be eligible for ARD. If so, ARD results in no jail time. In exchange, you will serve a period of supervision coupled with a license suspension of up 60 days (90 days for a minor).
If you have been convicted of a crime, were in an accident, had a child in your car or did not have a valid license, the answer is that you may still be eligible for ARD but you should hire an attorney to attempt to obtain such for you. In our experience, accidents and/or not having a valid license usually do not prevent our clients with a first DUI, with no criminal record, from receiving ARD. We have actually obtained ARD for clients who had prior convictions for DUI outside 10 years and for some that had convictions for crimes other than DUI within 10 years.
I have been offered ARD on my DUI charge. Should I accept such?
That is a question that you must discuss with a DUI Attorney, after he or she has carefully reviewed the police report and all other information pertaining to your case. ARD is a program that will result in dismissal of your DUI charge, after you complete certain classes and pay costs and fees. Your license could be suspended between 0 to 60 days if you are an adult and for 90 days if you are a minor, as a condition of your ARD. The length of your suspension depends on your blood alcohol content, whether you were in an accident, whether you refused chemical testing and/or whether you had ingested controlled substances. An experienced DUI Attorney may be able to get you into ARD with no suspension. This is particularly true if your blood alcohol content, while greater than .10, was barely higher than .10 and within a margin of error. If one has a blood alcohol content between .08 and .099, or the police did not obtain a blood sample but it is demonstrated that the person did not refuse chemical testing, the license suspension for such person who enters ARD is 0 days. Although your blood alcohol is greater than .10, an experienced DUI Attorney may be able to get you into ARD with no suspension.
Rejecting ARD is risky. There are rare situations where a DUI Attorney with experience can reasonably predict a finding of not guilty should his or her client, charged with DUI, proceed to trial. That DUI Attorney should not only know the law but have experience before the judge that your case is proceeding before. For instance, maybe you were sleeping in your car, parked right outside an establishment that serves alcohol. Maybe the officer says that you were stopped because you briefly touched the center line of a winding road, on one occasion. Even in these situations which often result in not guilty verdicts or dismissals, you must hire an experienced DUI Attorney and thoroughly discuss your case with him or her.
You may also hold a CDL. ARD will result in the loss of your CDL for one year or, in some situations, for life. It does not matter that you were charged with DUI in a situation where you were not driving or operating your commercial vehicle. If you have a CDL, it is imperative that you retain an experienced DUI Attorney.
If I am convicted of DUI or my license is suspended as a condition of my ARD, can I get a work license or a license to drive to work?
In Pennsylvania, a license allowing someone to drive for work purposes as part of a suspension is known as an OLL (Occupational Limited License). Prior to the 2004 amendments to Pennsylvania’s DUI laws, the answer to this was a clear no. For suspensions for DUI, the best way to understand Pennsylvania’s OLL is that, in no situation can you ever get an OLL for the first 60 days of suspension. If you receive a suspension as part of ARD, you will not get an OLL for your 30, 60 or 90 day suspension. If you are convicted of a first DUI, your suspension will be 0 days (BAC < .10 or police did not obtain a sample of your blood but you did not refuse, no accident and no controlled substances) or one year. In that instance, you may be eligible for an OLL for the last 10 months of the 12 month suspension.
On some second offenses and third offenses, the suspension can go to 18 months. In some of those situations, you can get an OLL for the last 6 months, if this is only your second DUI in a 10 year period.
To learn more about Pennsylvania’s Occupational Limited License, click here.
I was stopped at field sobriety checkpoint. Is this even legal?
A field sobriety checkpoint, properly carried out in accordance with Pennsylvania law, is lawful. Whether or not the field sobriety checkpoint you were stopped at was lawful can only be determined after an experienced DUI Attorney reviews your case. The police cannot choose to place a sobriety checkpoint anywhere they want. The police must have in place certain procedures that make the stop at the checkpoint limited in duration and some notice must be given of the checkpoint. Getting to the bottom of whether a particular checkpoint complied with the law can be difficult. When one is charged with DUI, the DA will turn over the relevant police reports, the documents showing the person’s BAC and how such was obtained and certain other materials. This is what is known as discovery. It is the rare case in which a DUI Attorney will receive, as part of this discovery, documents which answer any questions that he or she may have about a particular checkpoint. Often, the officer sent to the Preliminary Hearing is the officer who interacted with the person charged with DUI but is not the officer who set up the checkpoint. An experienced DUI Attorney can obtain the information necessary to properly advise you as to whether you should challenge the checkpoint you were stopped at, and thus challenge the stop that lead to your DUI charges.