COMMON MYTHS ABOUT DUI:
DUI in Pennsylvania stands for Driving Under the Influence. This is the equivalent of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in other states. Over my years of practice, I’ve learned that people fall victim to a number of myths about DUI law. Here are the top five I’ve encountered.
- DUI IS NOT A CRIME – Not true! In Pennsylvania, DUI is a crime falling in the classification of a misdemeanor. The severity of the crime depends on a combination of factors including how many previous DUI convictions you’ve had, your blood alcohol level, whether there were controlled substances in your blood – whether prescribed or otherwise – and whether you refused chemical testing. The severity can range from an ungraded misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of probation up to a misdemeanor of the first degree with a maximum penalty of 5 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
- I NEED A .08% BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT TO BE ARRESTED FOR DUI – Also untrue. While .08% is the threshold blood alcohol content to be arrested for a DUI involving the amount of alcohol in your blood, you can also be arrested for a DUI if you are incapable of safe driving, regardless of the amount of alcohol in your blood. If you are under 21 years of age, the threshold blood alcohol content is .02%; you will face different penalties if this is the case.
- I CAN’T BE ARRESTED FOR DUI IF I’VE PULLED OFF THE ROAD – While the crime bears the word “driving” in its title, you can also be arrested and convicted of DUI if you are “in actual physical control of a motor vehicle”. This generally means that you have the ability to control the movement of the motor vehicle. This type of case is very fact specific. As an example, if you are pulled off the side of the road, the keys are next to you and you are asleep, it is possible that you could be arrested and convicted of a DUI since you have the ability to wake up and control the vehicle.
- AFTER I REACH THE 0.08% THRESHHOLD FOR MY BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THE READING IS – Pennsylvania DUI law has a tiered system which will dictate how severe the offense is and what penalty you will face. One of the factors that is considered is your blood alcohol content. There are four tiers here: .08 to .099%, .10 to .159% and .16% and above. These levels, combined with how many prior DUI offense you have had, will help determine the severity of the offense and penalties. If you are under 21 years of age, the threshold blood alcohol content is .02%; you will face different penalties if this is the case.
- I DON’T HAVE TO TAKE A BLOOD OR BREATH TEST – In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, by having a driver’s license, you have automatically agreed to take a blood or breath test to determine the alcohol in your blood. Anything short of full participation is deemed a refusal. A refusal will increase the penalties you face. You do not have a choice of the kind of test that is given; it is completely up to the officer’s discretion.
Time in these cases is extremely important. The passage of time could forfeit rights you have or exclude you from available programs. Call me to discuss your situation.
I’m often asked about the penalties facing someone charged with a DUI offense. The penalties you face depend on a number of factors including the particular circumstances of your DUI, whether you refused the blood or breath test, your blood alcohol content and how many prior dui offenses you have. Penalties can range from probation to 5 years incarceration, fines between $500 and $10,000, license suspensions ranging between 12 and 18 months and the requirement to obtain certain evaluations and treatment. Mandatory jail time may also apply and can range anywhere from 2 days to 1 year. There may be certain programs that you may qualify for but qualifying for them requires the advice of an experienced attorney.
As in many of these situations, time is critical. The passage of time could forfeit rights you have or exclude you from available programs. Call me to discuss your situation and your options.