Getting arrested and charged with driving under the influence can be a shock. Pennsylvania has strict and complex DUI laws in place, with penalties ranging from fines and probation to as many as five years in prison. The key to dealing with a DUI charge is turning to an experienced DUI attorney for help. A DUI is a serious criminal offense, not a traffic violation, and good representation is essential.
How DUIs are Defined in PA
Pennsylvania defines driving under the influence in two ways. First, it is a crime to drive or control the movement of a motor vehicle after drinking enough alcohol to render yourself an unsafe driver. This is known as “driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while impaired” (DWI). Second, it is illegal to drive or control a motor vehicle after drinking enough alcohol that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is more than 0.08 within two hours of your arrest, the legal limit in every state. This is known as the “per se” rule. Typically prosecutors rely on the per se rule, while the other definition serves as backup. But sometimes prosecutors use the distinction between these two statutes to double-charge defendants, charging them once for having alcohol or drugs in their blood and again for driving erratically due to intoxication.
Different DUIs for Different Drivers in Pennsylvania
DUI cases in Pennsylvania are divided into a three-level system:
1st Level DUI
Defendants charged with blowing between 0.08 and 0.099. For a first offense, penalties at this level include six months probation, classes, treatment and fines.
2nd Level DUI
Drivers charged with blowing between 0.10 and 0.159 fall into the 2nd DUI level. So do drivers from the first level whose charges involve property damage or personal injury.
Specific types of drivers automatically fall into the 2nd DUI level as well, such as:
- Commercial drivers who blow 0.04 or higher.
- School bus drivers who blow 0.02 or higher.
- Minors who blow 0.02 or higher.
First offense penalties here include between two days and six months in jail, plus a one-year license suspension, classes, treatment and fines.
3rd Level DUI
Drivers who blow higher than 0.16, as well as impaired drivers who refuse to submit to breathalyzers or other BAC tests. This group faces penalties including between three days and six months in jail on a first offense, plus a one-year license suspension, classes, treatment and fines. Penalties at each of these levels increase substantially for subsequent offenses.
DUIs and Drugs in Pennsylvania
The most common drug we see associated with Drug DUI charges is marijuana. However, prescription drug DUIs are also very common.
Driving under the influence of any controlled substance is illegal in Pennsylvania unless the drug has been lawfully prescribed — and you have a prescription to prove it. There is no legal limit; driving or controlling a vehicle with any amount of any illegal drug in your bloodstream constitutes driving under the influence.
This includes drug metabolites, which in some cases can linger for days or even weeks after drug use. In other words, it isn’t a question of impairment, it’s a question of presence: The presence of any illegal drug in your system while driving is a DUI.
This is a third-level DUI offense, punishable by three days to six months in jail on a first offense, along with a one-year suspension, classes, treatment and fines.
Admissibility & Field Sobriety Test Misuse
VIDEO: Attorney Manchester explains PA statutes on the minimum drug levels required to convict you and field sobriety testing.
A crucial aspect of Drug DUI cases that you have to understand is that before test results can even come into a Pennsylvanian court, a statute dictates that there is a minimum amount of drugs that must be present in your system.
Because the PA Department of Health often can not keep up with new drugs, it may not have established minimums for whichever drug you are convicted of using, and tests that detect those are not admissible.
Furthermore, just because they say they found a drug in your system does not mean they actually did.
What should happen when you’re charged with a Drug-related DUI, is that your lawyer should already be educated in examining the results of your blood test and will look into it themselves. The lawyer must determine the following:
- Did they actually identify the drug right?
- Was the quantity of the drug measured correctly and does it meet or exceed standards required to be evidence in court?
He or she can determine these by reading through the test results, which often are around 200 pages long.
Field Sobriety Tests Misuse
Police will use Field Sobriety Tests to assist in charging you with Drug DUI offenses. Although these tests are meant for alcohol-related DUIs, they will use them to fish for signs of impairment and often will incorrectly claim that you are impaired.
Thus, it is important to hire a lawyer that has taken the same training as police do to conduct these tests. For example, Attorney Manchester has and he uses this knowledge to point out mistakes an officer made while conducting the test and inconsistencies in their evaluation.
DUI Lawyer Near Me
At Manchester and Associates, our team of lawyers are constantly in court. We are either trying cases, arguing motions, or handling preliminary hearings and other matters across the state of Pennsylvania for DUI charges and other criminal matters.
At any one time, our firm is defending people accused of DUI in over 20 counties, including areas where DUI offenses often occur such as:
- Centre County (State College, Penn State University)
- Blair County (Altoona, Tyrone, Hollidaysburg)
- Dauphin County (Harrisburg, Hershey)
- Other Areas throughout Central PA
Since 1978, when this firm started, we have built relationships and our reputation as skilled lawyers in DUI cases and other criminal matters. Our familiarity with the court systems, prosecutors, police, and local rules all across Pennsylvania is of constant benefit to our clients. Not having an office in each county is actually a benefit as there’s no issue of local politics to worry about.
One example is in Centre County, where our main office is located. This firm fought how blood was tested at the local hospital and after a long fight, the method that the hospital used was rejected for a proper method of testing. At one time we had over 40 cases on hold pending this blood testing fight and the local prosecutor and judges tried to pressure us to relent and we absolutely did not.
We took on the system and prevailed.
Our firm, alongside another, were successful in eliminating the hospital’s supernatant method of testing for blood in the entire state. Our job is to defend people accused of DUI, not worry about what the other side thinks of us.
Despite that office is in Centre County, this firm has represented well over 3,000 people accused of:
- Homicide by Vehicle while DUI
- Aggravated Assault while DUI
.. and related charges and crimes in counties and cities across Pennsylvania.
If Charged – Call a DUI Attorney ASAP
It’s important to contact a DUI Attorney if you or a loved one are charged with DUI or related offenses. For a Free Strategy Session, call Manchester & Associates at 800-243-4878. We want to help you.