Under what circumstances can the police legally pull over a vehicle in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania law, the police must have probable cause to believe that a violation of the motor vehicle code has occurred or reasonable suspicion that the driver is operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.
What are the legal requirements for a DUI checkpoint in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law requires that (1) the DUI checkpoint vehicle stop must be brief and not involve a physical search; (2) the police must provide sufficient warning of the date, time and location of the DUI checkpoint; (3) the decision to conduct a DUI checkpoint must be administratively approved; (4) the DUI checkpoint must be at a time and place where intoxicated drivers are likely to be travelling; and (5) the decision regarding which vehicles to stop must be administratively determined and based on preset objective standards.
Can I be charged with DUI in Pennsylvania if my vehicle is not moving?
Yes. For you to be charged with DUI, Pennsylvania law does not require that your vehicle be in motion. The law requires that you be in “actual physical control” of the vehicle’s movement. A person can be considered to be in actual physical control of the vehicle’s movement if he or she is in the driver’s seat of a parked vehicle while the engine is running.
What types of field sobriety tests can I be asked to perform by the police during a DUI investigation?
Pennsylvania police officers and state troopers will usually ask you to perform one of the 3 standardized field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are:
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test
- The walk-and-turn test
- The one-leg stand test
What types of non-standardized field sobriety tests can I be asked to perform by the police during a DUI investigation?
Some Pennsylvania police officers and state troopers may ask you to perform non-standardized field sobriety tests alone or in addition to standardized field sobriety tests. Non-standardized field sobriety tests include:
- The counting backwards test
- The finger count test
- The finger-to-nose test
- The alphabet test
Do I have the right to speak to a lawyer before I agree to give a breath or blood sample to the police?
No. Under Pennsylvania law, you do not have a federal or state right to counsel before you decide whether to submit to chemical testing for DUI. A request to speak to an attorney before chemical testing may be interpreted by the police as a refusal. A refusal to submit to chemical testing will result in a minimum 1 year suspension of your driving privileges in Pennsylvania.
Do I have to take a blood or breath test if I am stopped for DUI in Pennsylvania?
The technical answer is yes. Pennsylvania has an implied consent law stating that any person who obtains a driver’s license must agree to chemical testing by the police as part of a DUI investigation. A driver who refuses chemical testing faces a driver’s license suspension of at least 1 year. A driver’s refusal to submit to chemical testing can also be used as evidence of guilt in a DUI trial.
Do I have the right to choose which type of chemical test for blood alcohol content if I am arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania?
No. Under Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent law, a driver does not have the right to choose which form of chemical testing he or she will submit to during a DUI investigation. A driver’s failure to submit to the chemical testing requested by the police will be deemed a refusal and will result in a minimum 1 year suspension of his or her operating privilege.
What is the legal limit at which an adult is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol in Pennsylvania?
The legal limit for individuals over the age of 21 is a BAC of .08% or greater within 2 hours of driving.
What is the legal limit at which a minor is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol in Pennsylvania?
The legal limit for minors under the age of 21 is a BAC of .02% or greater within 2 hours of driving.
What is the legal limit at which a commercial vehicle driver is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol in Pennsylvania?
The legal limit for commercial vehicle drivers is a BAC of .04% or greater within 2 hours of driving.
Can I be charged with DUI in Pennsylvania even if my blood alcohol level tested below the legal limit?
Yes. The police can charge you with DUI even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08% for adults and .02% for minors. The police must have probable cause to believe that you were driving or operating a vehicle, or were in actual physical control of a vehicle’s movement, at a time when you were under the influence of alcohol to a degree that made you incapable of safe driving.
What happens after I am arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania?
If the police have probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence, you will be taken back to police headquarters or to a hospital. In most jurisdictions, you will be asked to submit to either a breathalyzer test or a blood test. Breathalyzer results are available immediately. Blood test results typically take three weeks to come back from the hospital or other medical facility where the blood was drawn. In most cases, the police will release you from custody after the chemical testing is complete.
What happens after I am released from custody after a DUI arrest in Pennsylvania?
The police will file DUI charges if the chemical test results indicate a reading above the legal limit or if the police believe you were incapable of safe driving even if your BAC was below the legal limit. You will likely receive a summons to appear for a preliminary hearing in the court that has jurisdiction over the area where the vehicle stop occurred.
What should I do after I am arrested for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania?
Most people find the Pennsylvania judicial system to be overwhelming to navigate on their own. In most cases, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer who has an extensive understanding of Pennsylvania’s DUI laws and DUI defenses.
How do I choose the right lawyer if I am charged with DUI in Pennsylvania?
It is important that you hire a lawyer who has extensive experience defending individuals charged with DUI in Pennsylvania. The lawyer representing you must be able to see the case from your perspective and address your concerns about resolution of the charges. It is also critical that you are able to communicate with your lawyer both by phone and in person as your case progresses through the court system.
Do I need a lawyer for my DUI preliminary hearing?
You have the right to represent yourself at the preliminary hearing. However, in most cases, a lawyer should represent you at the preliminary hearing. Under Pennsylvania law, the judge presiding over the preliminary hearing will decide if sufficient evidence exists for the DUI charges to be held for trial.
An experienced DUI lawyer can speak to the police and the prosecutor on your behalf before the hearing. A knowledgeable DUI lawyer also has a thorough understanding of the Pennsylvania rules of evidence as well as of the most effective legal arguments to make if a hearing is held in your DUI case.
Can I be charged with DUI in Pennsylvania if my blood system contains medication that my doctor has prescribed?
Yes. In some circumstances, you can be charged with DUI even if the only substance detected in your system is medication that your doctor prescribed. Pennsylvania’s “drugged driving” law makes it illegal to drive, operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if your system contains any amount of Schedule I or non-prescribed Schedule II or III controlled substances or their metabolites.
Can I be arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania if my blood system contains only marijuana?
Yes. Pennsylvania’s Drug Act classifies marijuana (cannabis) as a Schedule I controlled substance. Pennsylvania’s drugged driving law makes it illegal to drive, operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if your system contains any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolite.
Can I be arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania if my blood system contains medically prescribed marijuana?
Yes. Pennsylvania’s Drug Act classifies marijuana (cannabis) as a Schedule I controlled substance. Pennsylvania’s drugged driving law makes it illegal to drive, operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if your system contains any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolite. The law applies to medical marijuana that a doctor or other medical professional has prescribed.
What possible penalties will I face if I am convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania?
The penalties for a Pennsylvania DUI conviction vary and depend on the case’s circumstances. Factors include the driver’s blood alcohol level, the presence of drugs in the driver’s bloodstream, whether an accident resulted in property damage, bodily injury, serious bodily injury or the death of another person and whether the driver has previous DUI convictions.
With the exception of a first-time general impairment offense not involving property damage, bodily injury or death, all Pennsylvania DUI convictions will result in a mandatory jail sentence and mandatory fines. House arrest is a sentencing alternative for eligible individuals facing a mandatory jail sentence as a result of a DUI conviction.
What happens when a minor is charged with DUI in juvenile court?
Depending on the minor’s background and the case’s circumstances, a juvenile court judge may impose a sentence of placement in a juvenile facility, probation, drug and alcohol treatment and other conditions including community service. The underage driver may also undergo suspension of his or her driver’s license or face a delay in receiving a learner’s permit, junior driver’s license or unrestricted driver’s license. Some underage drivers may face reduced penalties by qualifying for a 1st time offender program such as a consent decree for their DUI case.
What consequences will I face if my Pennsylvania underage DUI case is heard in adult court?
An underage driver facing a DUI in adult court in Pennsylvania must complete a drug and alcohol assessment before the trial. The driver may face a mandatory minimum jail term and other conditions, including drug and alcohol treatment as part of a parole or probationary sentence. The underage driver may also face a mandatory driver’s license suspension. Some underage drivers may avoid severe penalties by qualifying for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for their DUI case.
What legal defenses are possible in a DUI case?
The availability of a legal defense to a Pennsylvania DUI charge depends on your case’s facts and evidence. Some of the most common DUI defenses are:
- Challenging the legality of the initial vehicle stop by the police
- Challenging the probable cause for the DUI arrest
- Challenging the legality of a DUI checkpoint
- Challenging the reliability of the field sobriety test results
- Challenging the reliability of the blood or breath test results
- Proving that you were not operating the vehicle
- Proving that you were not in actual physical control of the vehicle
Can I challenge the accuracy of breath or blood test results in a Pennsylvania DUI case?
In certain cases, the accuracy of the breath or blood results can be successfully contested. A successful legal challenge to blood or breath test results will result in the exclusion of that evidence in a DUI prosecution. The accuracy of a breath test result can be challenged if the breath test operator is not certified to operate the device.
Breath test results can also be challenged if the breathalyzer machine is not properly calibrated or if the breath test results are outside the acceptable margin of error. A blood test result may be excluded from evidence in a DUI trial if the laboratory failed to follow the required procedures in collecting, preserving and analyzing the blood sample.
Are first-time offender programs available for someone charged with DUI in Pennsylvania?
Yes. An individual charged with DUI in adult court may be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). ARD is a pre-trial diversion program available to eligible individuals charged with specific first-time DUI offenses. In most counties, completion of the ARD program requirements will result in dismissal of the charges and expungement of the case’s records. The juvenile court system offers first-time offender programs such as a consent decree or informal adjustment for minors facing DUI charges.
Can my record be expunged if I complete the Pennsylvania ARD program for my DUI case?
Yes. In most Pennsylvania counties, the records of your DUI case will automatically be expunged if you complete all the conditions of the ARD program, including the payment of court costs and completion of community service. A small number of counties require that you or your lawyer file the expungement petition after you have completed the terms of your ARD agreement.
Is it possible to receive a criminal record seal for a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Some DUI convictions are eligible for a criminal record seal in Pennsylvania. A criminal record seal would prevent employers, landlords and others from accessing your prior DUI conviction. The DUI conviction must be for an ungraded offense or a 2nddegree misdemeanor. The law requires that 10 years have passed since you completed your sentence for the DUI offense. The criminal record seal is not available for individuals convicted of certain crimes or for persons with 4 or more misdemeanor convictions.
Can I continue driving if I am convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania?
The answer will depend on the severity of your current DUI charge and your criminal and driving history. Pennsylvania recently enacted a law that extends the availability of the ignition interlock limited license (IILL) to individuals convicted of specified 1st offense DUI charges. Drivers approved for an IILL must install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle[s]. Individuals who fulfill PennDot’s requirements for the ignition interlock license may be able to retain their ability to drive after a DUI conviction.
Can I serve my DUI sentence on house arrest?
Yes. Montgomery County and many other Pennsylvania Counties offer house arrest placement for eligible candidates facing a sentence of incarceration as the result of a DUI conviction. Most counties have a pre-trial screening procedure to determine your eligibility for the program. Most house arrest programs require that you comply with specific rules and regulations and that you wear a global positioning system (GPS) bracelet for the duration of your jail sentence.
The Bucks County House Arrest Program was terminated in 2021. The Bucks County Adult Probation and Parole Department recently began a home confinement with electronic monitoring program for eligible offenders. The official name of the program is Restrictive Probation with DUI Conditions.
How will a Pennsylvania DUI conviction affect my status as a licensed professional?
A DUI arrest and conviction in Pennsylvania can have a serious impact on your ability to maintain your professional license. The reporting requirements vary depending on the type of license you hold. In some cases, after a DUI arrest or conviction, an administrative action may take place to suspend your professional license. For more information about specific professional licensure consequences, please refer to the section on DUI and Professional Licensure.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in Montgomery County or in the surrounding counties, it is critical to act quickly to protect your rights and build the strongest possible defense against the charges. Phone lines are open twenty-four hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Call today for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for immediate response.