Maybe you’re a college student heading back from a party with some friends and you’ve had a few too many drinks. Or you’re a parent who’s just come from a Fourth of July party where you had a couple of beers. It was all in good fun, and you don’t feel drunk, but when the cop makes you take a breath test, you’re just over the legal limit of .08 BAC – You know what that means: a DUI Charge.
It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but probably most of all, it’s scary. Will your driver’s license be taken away? Your car? Will you be fined? Have to do community service? Could they even put you in jail? Will you need a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer?
Everyone knows that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania takes driving under the influence very seriously, but a new law put onto the books on May 8 and effective since June 7, 2012, adds a new way to punish drunk drivers.
Senate Bill 539, Senate District 44′s Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. has created an entirely new offense which says that anyone found guilty of driving drunk with someone under the age of 18 in the vehicle at the time that the violation occurred has also committed a misdemeanor of the first degree in addition to any other penalties associated with the DUI.
What does that mean? Well, imagine that even though you’re of age, one of your college friends isn’t. When the cops arrest you, he checks IDs and discovers that the freshman girl you have been driving is actually 17! Now, you not only face that DUI, but another misdemeanor charge, just because she is not an adult.
Same thing applies if you’re a parent driving your kids home from a family barbeque and test just over the legal limit. Maybe you thought you were fine, but it’s the number on that breath test that matters, and you’re going to be hit much harder, because your children were with you in the car. It’s the state of Pennsylvania’s newest way to protect kids and ratchet up the punishment for anyone who decides to drink and drive.
Penalties Associated with New Pennsylvania DUI Law
Obviously, no charges are good charges, but DUI attorneys will tell you that, in general, misdemeanors aren’t that bad – at the very least, they’re far preferable than being charged with a felony. In this case, though, that’s not true. This law carries with it incredibly steep penalties that can alter the course of your life – especially when you add in the fact that it’s a separate charge from the DUI.
So what exactly are the penalties that come along with this new Pennsylvania DUI law?
75 Pa.C.S.A. S 3803(b)(5) Penalties:
First-time offenders can expect to receive 100 hours of mandatory community service that must be completed as well as a fine of at least $1,000. Second-time offenders will have to spend at least one month and up to six months behind bars, as well as paying a fine of no less than $2,500. And if you’re found guilty of breaking this law 3 times or more, you will be incarcerated for at least six months, and it could last up to two years.
Fight Your Charges with a Pennsylvania DUI Attorney
Since it’s pretty difficult to argue that the underage person wasn’t really underage (or wasn’t actually riding with you in the car), the best course of action to fight these kinds of charges is to fight the DUI itself. Many people think that there is no way to fight a DUI once they have been charged, but this is not the case. Even with a failed BAC (blood alcohol content) test, people have not only fought DUI charges, but won! The trick is having a good Pennsylvania DUI lawyer on your side who knows the law.
There are many reasons why a DUI arrest might be reduced or even thrown out of court altogether. Perhaps the officers didn’t follow correct procedure, lacked reasonable suspicion that you were committing a crime or a traffic infraction, or the breathalyzer they used wasn’t calibrated properly, amongst other possible defenses. Or you have GERD or other medical disorders that complicate taking a breath test and can throw off its readings.
Depending on the type of device used, BAC tests can be artificially inflated, so make sure you choose a DUI attorney with experience fighting these types of charges. That way, you can make sure that you pursue every possible angle to ensure that you receive a positive outcome.
The question is often asked of me whether chewing tobacco can affect DUI breath testing results. Personally, I have run experiments on a number of DUI breath testing devices, such as the Intoxylizer 8000, Breathalyzer 900 and Alcotest 7110, with varying results. Scientifically, one recent study has shown that Philadelphia’s breath testing device will register false readings, under certain circumstances, when chewing tobacco is present in a person’s mouth.
Science and Justice Magazine published a 2012 study, done by the Albuquerque Police Department Criminalistics Laboratory, that involved “dosed” chewing tobacco and the Intoxilyzer 8000. This breath testing device is the same device that the Philadelphia Police Department uses to test suspected drunk drivers. The results of this study proved interesting.
The researchers in this study used 14 completely sober test subjects who gave breath samples with dosed tobacco and without dosed tobacco in their mouths. In order to “dose” the tobacco, it was mixed with a small amount of liquor. Various types of tobacco were used, including long cut, fine cut, and pouch. The brands of tobacco varied as well – Skoal, Copenhagen, Lancaster and Marlboru.
The results of the study showed that the Intoxilyzer 8000 gave a .00% reading for all 14 test subjects with the non-dosed tobacco. However, when the dosed tobacco was used, a number of the test subjects gave breath samples that registered as high as .05% BAC. This means the breath testing device was incorrectly stating that perfectly sober test subjects had fairly significant amounts of alcohol in their systems.
The researchers came to the conclusion that a number of safeguards should be followed in order to ensure that chewing tobacco would not affect DUI breath test results. First, the operator of the machine should always check the mouth of a person before breath samples are provided in order to make sure it is free of any tobacco. Second, there should be a waiting period of 15-20 minutes after the mouth is checked.
In Philadelphia, it is not specifically required that a police officer check a subject’s mouth before breath testing. This is certainly a problem if chewing tobacco is present in a subject’s mouth. However, there is a required 20 minute waiting period prior to breath testing.
Commonly, chewing tobacco users will dose their own tobacco with alcohol in order to give the tobacco better flavor. If the tobacco chewer has also consumed alcohol, the combination of the two could cause the Intoxilyzer 8000 to give false test results up to .05%.
Even if the tobacco chewer did not does his own alcohol, physical issues, such as reflux (GERD), could potentially cause false breath results as well. Severe refluxing may cause raw alcohol in a person’s stomach to be forced into the mouth. This raw alcohol has a potential of being absorbed and retained by the chewing tobacco. The end result is a potentially false breath reading.
Regulations require that all foreign objects, such as tobacco, be removed from a person’s mouth before breath testing. So, even if the person does not have reflux or did not dose the tobacco, the presence of chewing tobacco will be reason enough to have breath tests results thrown out of court. A knowledgeable and experienced DUI lawyer will ask a client questions concerning tobacco use and will be able to prevent the prosecution from using breath test results, if that client had chewing tobacco in his mouth at the time of breath testing.
An accident is often not a big deal, but there are many reasons why some people would leave the scene of an accident. Many times it is because they are afraid of being found guilty of another crime, such as driving under the influence or driving with a suspended license. In those drivers’ minds it may make sense to ignore an accident they may have caused in order to prevent further prosecution.
Besides being the wrong thing to do, leaving the scene of an accident in Pennsylvania, commonly called “hit and run,” is a punishable offense. Under 75 Pa.C.S. $3742, $3742 and $3745, all drivers are required to notify the police department about any car accident, whether the driver was responsible or not for the accident. Even if the accident involved unattended property, the driver is expected to leave information. That notification should include insurance information and contact information.
When there are drivers for both vehicles at an accident, each driver must provide information concerning insurance, registration, and driver’s license to a police official. They should also remain at the scene in order to give a report to police officials. If police officials do not arrive, drivers are expected to report the incident with all of the required information at the nearest police station.
A summary offense of leaving the scene of an accident with unattended property is no-criminal and carries a fine of up to $300 and 90 days in jail. These hit and run offenses (75 Pa.C.S. $3745) typically involve vehicles with no one in it.
Leaving the scene of an accident in PA with injury to a passenger or the other driver is a first degree misdemeanor under 75 Pa.C.S. $3742. Hit and run with serious bodily harm is a third degree felony that requires a minimum of 90 days in jail. If the accident caused death, it is a third degree felony punishable by at least one year in prison and a fine of at least $2500. Drivers will also receive driving privilege suspensions of 6 months to one year.
The terms “driving under the influence” (DUI) and “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) are well-known terms associated with driving under the influence of certain substances, such as alcohol. It might surprise you to learn that steering a boat while intoxicated can land you in hot water as well. “Boating under the influence” (BUI) isn’t a term you often hear, but it’s a threat to waterway safety.
Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal – the same as when you’re driving a car. Any substance that hinders your motor skills or clouds your ability to reason is potentially dangerous when steering a boat.
Boating under the influence of sleep-inducing pain pills is just as dangerous as getting high on marijuana or drinking a case of beers before taking the helm.
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show there were 672 boating-related deaths in 2010. Seventy-five percent of the 672 fatalities were the result of drowning, and 19 percent of those deaths were because of alcohol.
The U.S. Coast Guard also reports that alcohol was a leading factor in the 4,604 boating accidents that occurred in 2010.
Boating is a Skill
Boating takes skill and concentration. Steering a boat might look easy; however, in reality it takes just as much skill and concentration as driving any other vehicle. Some states, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, even require you to obtain a boating license before you can legally operate a boat.
It’s clear that operating a boat is a serious activity that’s more difficult than it looks. When you throw drugs and alcohol into the mix, then you’re putting yourself and those around you in danger.
Drugs and alcohol impair your reaction time, balance and judgment – all of which are crucial when operating a boat. Under normal circumstances, conditions such as high winds, sun, noise and vibrations often make boating difficult. The situation is worse when you’re under the influence of substances that dull your senses.
Consequences of Boating Under the Influence
The biggest consequence of boating under the influence is the possibility of death or accident. Not only is your life in danger, but the lives of your passengers and others on the waterway are in danger as well. You could ram another boat, run over a jet skier or bump a swimmer – anything is possible when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If marine law enforcement catches you operating a boat under the influence, you might face arrest and have your boat impounded. You also could possibly pay fines and incur other punishments, such as losing your boating privileges. The following are penalties for BUI in Pennsylvania:
First Pennsylvania BUI Offense
- 6 months of probation
- $300 fine
BAC .10 – .159
- 48 hours mandatory, and up to 6 months in jail
- minimum fine of $750, with a maximum of $5,000
- 72 days mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
- $1,500 fine
Second Pennsylvania BUI Offense
BAC .08 – .099
- 5 days mandatory, and up to 6 months in jail
- minimum fine of $300, with a maximum of $2,500
BAC .10 – .159
- 30 days mandatory, and up to 6 months in jail
- minimum fine of $750, with a maximum of $5,000
- 90 days mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
- $1,500 fine
Third Pennsylvania BUI Offense
- 10 days mandatory, and up to 2 years in jail
- minimum fine of $500, with a maximum of $5,000
- 90 days mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
- minimum fine of $1,500, with a maximum of $10,000
- 1 year mandatory, and up to 5 years in jail
- minimum fine of $2,500
Boating with a Clear Head
The possible negative consequences of boating under the influence aren’t worth the risk. Guide your boat with a clear head and keep the waterways safe.
Philadelphia Eagles football is in full swing and the tailgating season has arrived. Yet, keep in mind during all of this celebrating that you still have to make it home safely.
Many Philadelphia sports fans live in New Jersey and, therefore, have to make a return journey across one of the nearby bridges after the game. Over and near those bridges the Delaware River Port Authority police (DRPA) patrols. This police force has the ability to make car stops and arrests on the bridges and in the areas by the bridges on both sides of the river.
If you were arrested for DUI by the DRPA, then your case will be heard in a New Jersey Municipal Court. This occurs even when a person is arrested on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge. Most likely, the DUI charge will be heard in one of the municipal courts located in Pennsauken, Gloucester City, Camden or Palmyra.
When fighting a DUI charge, you must obtain as much information as possible concerning the evidence that the prosecution plans to present against you. Unfortunately, the DRPA does not use any of the outrageously high toll fees for video surveillance systems in the patrol cars. In other words, the roadside investigation will not be recorded by a car camera. As such, the DUI case will be based primarily on the word of the police officer. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your attorney understands the intricacies of field sobriety testing and the breath testing device used.
If the officer fails to follow his or her training for field sobriety testing, then those failures can be addressed through a defense expert in field sobriety testing. A DWI defense attorney who is trained to administer field sobriety tests can readily identify problems with the testing and recommend that an expert be used to create a defense. The defense expert should be someone who currently or formerly trained police officers in how to administer standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). This expert would write a report criticizing the failures of the testing, which would be submitted to the prosecutor. Such a report could be used to convince a prosecutor to dismiss a DWI charge.
Ideally, this expert also understands the operation of the breath testing device used in New Jersey: The Alcotest. If the Alcotest operator failed to use the machine properly or follow required procedures, then the expert can include in a report the problems in the breath testing administration. A DWI lawyer should already have training for the Alcotest in order to identify issues that would necessitate the use of an expert witness. Additionally, there are physiological factors that may affect the reliability of the Alcotest, such as reflux disease and diabetes.
Without hiring a qualified attorney, you may not be able to explore all possible legitimate defenses to a DWI charge.