Pennsylvania DUI Defense
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or a Controlled Substance is a criminal offense in the state of Pennsylvania. While a first offense usually results in a non-prison disposition, it must be taken seriously for any individual who is not immediately offered Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (“ARD”) or a similar rehabilitative program that does not result in complete expungement of their criminal record.
Many DUI offenses are beatable for a myriad of different reasons. In a significant number of DUI cases that are taken to trial, the responding police officer fails to show up to court. Virtually all of these cases are dismissed by the government and very few are ever retried. Unlike many serious criminal matters, DUIs are often handled by less experienced District Attorneys who fail to present critical evidence during their trials. Many judges are also more willing to find a defendant not guilty of DUI because the stakes are not as high as acquitting an individual of a serious felony offense like Aggravated Assault and Attempted Murder.
Sentencing is based on a myriad of factors including .BAC level, prior convictions, and whether the influencing agent was a substance (i.e., drugs) or alcohol. The penalties range substantially. For example, a first-time DUI offender with a .BAC below .08 may face a mandatory minimum sentence of probation. On the other hand, a third-time offender with a high .BAC (.16+) may face a mandatory minimum sentence of one year incarceration at a state prison. Even a first-time offender faces penalties including license suspension, costs and fines, and alcohol driving safety school. This can be financially devastating and impair your ability to travel to and from work.
There are multiple ways to beat a DUI case. A Philadelphia DUI lawyer will make significant discovery requests on the Commonwealth. After examining the evidence the attorney may litigate a motion to suppress evidence. The motion is usually based on Article 1 Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The most common grounds in DUI cases including challenging the stop of the vehicle, the arrest of the individual, and the requirement that defendant submit to DUI testing. If you can win any of these motions then evidence of intoxication is excluded from the case in chief. The Commonwealth then has an uphill battle of proving you guilty without chemical evidence (i.e., breathalyzers or blood results) or indicia of intoxication (i.e., bloodshot eyes, slurred speech etc.) Recent case law such as Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. (2016) has made challenging blood results easier than ever before. Call now to discuss motion practice as it pertains to the facts of your particular case.
Case Study: Commonwealth v. Myers
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently decided the case of Commonwealth v. Myers. The case stands for the proposition that the police cannot take a warrantless blood draw from a defendant suspected of DUI without voluntary consent or some legally recognized exception.
In Myers the Defendant observed an individual he suspected to be intoxicated. Myers was sitting the driver’s seat of a maroon SUV when police approached. Myers exited the vehicle and began to stagger towards the officer. His speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol. Myers was arrested for DUI and taken to Einstein Medical Center for a blood draw. At Einstein, Myers went unconscious after being administered a drug to treat a medical condition. The Police proceeded to draw Myers’ blood despite his inability to give informed consent.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed that the warrantless blood draw, taken without Myers consent was unconstitutional and properly suppressed under the Fourth Amendment. According to the Court, “consent must be freely and voluntarily given under the totality of the circumstances.” It is the government’s burden to show that any blood draw is given with free and voluntary consent. Relying on Birchfield v. North Dakota, the Court reiterated that voluntary consent cannot be given where there is a threat of criminal penalty.
If you were subjected to a blood draw following an arrest for DUI, there may be a legal basis to suppress the blood results. If a warrant is not obtained, the burden of proof is on the government to show the blood was legally obtained. This requires either knowing, intelligent, and voluntary consent on behalf of the defendant or some other legally recognized exception to the warrant requirement. If you believe that you may have been submitted to an illegal blood draw, contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos to discuss litigating a motion to suppress for purposes of your driving under the influence charges.