When you or someone you know is arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, you deserve and should get the best DUI lawyer possible. That is not the question. When a person’s freedom, driving privileges, job, professional license, gun rights, and many other things are on the line everyone wants and deserves the best. The question is how does someone accused of DUI in Pennsylvania find the best DUI lawyer in Pennsylvania?
There is no one best person practicing DUI defense in Pennsylvania, for that matter, in the Country. Having been a criminal defense lawyer for over twenty years, I have seen four categories of lawyers practicing DUI defense the General Practitioner, the Criminal Defense, the DUI Lawyer, the Teaching DUI Specialist. The first category is General Practitioners. These are attorneys who advertise that they handle DUI cases, family law, wills, estates, landlord-tenant, and lots of other things on their websites, business cards, and ads. They treat DUI cases as commodities and aside from the occasional suppression motion filing, they generally plead their clients guilty or get them an ARD without analyzing the case. They think that blood test results cannot be challenged, or if they do, they do not know how to do it. Their idea of a good resolution is obtaining house arrest or the mandatory minimums.
Since I am in court often, I get to see many guilty pleas and sentencings. Sometimes when I am watching other cases I cringe when I hear the DA read the facts of a case. One time I watched a fellow citizen being sentenced to a second offense DUI with a BAC of .164. That person now has a first-degree misdemeanor, did a minimum of 90 days in jail with a maximum of 5 years. That person lost their license for 18 months and their right to ever own a firearm. That result drove me crazy and continues to do so. I knew the lab that tested that man’s blood, even assuming the blood test was done right, that lab’s uncertainty (margin of error) at that level was at least .010. In fact, all the forensic labs in Pennsylvania have an uncertainty (margin of error) in their test results that would have put this man below .16. This is easy defense in a DUI case, but one that is missed quite often by lawyers who treat DUI casually. I see similar things like this all the time. It is a travesty to people when it happens to them. I am still surprised when some lawyers do not even know basics like the correct license suspension for their clients. If you do not know the law, you should not be practicing in that area of law.
I was once in court and watched a man be sentenced to a felony aggravated assault while DUI where it was alleged, that he was taking bath salts, particularly alpha-pvp. Now admittedly I do not know all of the facts of the case, but I do know that alpha-pvp test results are inadmissible in Pennsylvania because there is no minimum detection level set by the PA Department of health as outlined in 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1547 (C)(4). As I said, I did not know all the facts in that particular case, but I did know the lawyer handling the case did not file motions to suppress the blood test results. This can be easily I looked up in the statewide docketing system. No matter what the facts are in a DUI case, if you can keep the blood test results out of court, this gives you incredible leverage to get a better outcome for your case.
The second type of lawyers are lawyers who do nothing but criminal law and handle DUI cases, but who do not have any advanced training in DUI defense. Training such as field sobriety training and scientific training in blood testing. While going to a lawyer who does nothing but criminal cases is better than the general practitioner, it is still not much better. A lawyer who only handles criminal cases is generally more knowledgeable of new decisions in DUI cases and should be able to find more legal angles to defend people charged with DUI in Pennsylvania but that still is not enough. Police pulling over people illegally and messing up when they ask for blood and other legal errors do not happen often. However, this does happen, just not in a lot of cases. The facts in an average case are there is an equipment violation or some bad driving. The motorist is pulled over. The cop asks some brief questions, then guesses that the driver is impaired. The cop forces the person to get out of the car to do tests that have never been scientifically certified to detect impairment. Then the cop takes the driver in for a blood or breath test. Just knowing the law is not enough in these cases.
The third category of lawyers who defend people in Pennsylvania charged with DUI are the lawyers who concentrate in DUI defense and get training in how to defend these cases. Training consisting of field sobriety training. Both practitioner and instructor training in the exact same courses that the police take. That and advanced courses in blood testing and defense. These are the lawyers someone charged with a DUI should begin their search looking for. They have the training necessary to challenge field sobriety testing and blood or breath testing. These lawyers are fully competent to handle DUI cases.
When looking for the best DUI lawyer in PA there is the fourth category. These are the defense lawyers who teach other lawyers. They are not only trained in criminal defense techniques. They have the specialized training in field sobriety testing and blood and breath testing. What truly sets them apart is they teach what they know to other lawyers. They speak across the state on DUI defense topics. They know how to challenge not just the law but how to use their field sobriety and scientific training to teach other lawyers how to properly challenge and defend DUI cases in Pennsylvania. The truly elite attorneys in DUI Defense in this category also speak across the country. So how does one find lawyers in the third, and especially the fourth categories? I will cover that in my next blog. How to Find the Best DUI Lawyer in Pennsylvania.