Drunken driving laws across the country have been tightened significantly in recent years, reflecting the rise of DUI related fatalities and accidents. The BAC legal limit, previously .1% was lowered to .08% and other harsh penalties came into effect.
Most importantly is the Pennsylvania implied consent law, which means that the driver has given the state permission to request a blood, chemical, or urine test if you are suspected of a DUI offense. Refusing the test will led to an automatic 3 days in jail and automatic year-long license suspension. You will need a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer when facing these charges who will be able to help dismiss the penalties taken against you, or even have the case thrown out, in rare occurrence. State law however, prevents charges from being downgraded to lesser criminal offenses.
What is the usual penalty for drunk driving in Pennsylvania?
The penalties for drunken driving in Pennsylvania depend on the number of offenses and the BAC level. There are three thresholds for DUI penalties, each category topping out at .099 for the lowest level, .159 for the second level, with a minimum BAC level of .16 for the most severe penalties. The punishments for the first offense are as follows:
— Blood Alcohol Concentration .08-.099
o 6 months of probation
o Fine - $300
— Blood Alcohol Concentration .10-.159
o Jail – 2 Days up to 6 Months
o Fine - $500-$5000
o License Suspension – 12 Months
— Blood Alcohol Concentration .16
o Jail – 3 Days up to 6 Months
o Fine - $1,000-$5,000
o License suspension for 12 months although a limited occupational license is obtainable after 60 days
o Possible Ignition Interlock Device
o Alcohol highway safety classes required
The second offense increases these penalties significantly, for example, the fine for the lowest level violation tops out at as much as $2,500 and there will a yearlong license suspension. There would have been no license suspension at the lower level for the first offense. At a third offense, at the highest level, the minimum fine for exceeding .16 BAC is $2,500. Clearly, you will need a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer to help you with your case long before you reach this stage.
What should I do before meeting a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer?
When meeting with a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer, bring all information that can help or potentially hurt your case, including the ticket, results of breathalyzer tests and your account of the police stop and subsequent actions. It is especially important to note the conduct of the officers during the DWI stop as this could have a bearing on your case. You must not enter a plea before seeking an attorney as a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer will not be able to affect your sentencing beyond this point.
What are applicable alternative punishments in Pennsylvania?
- You may be eligible for help through the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD that will dismiss drunken driving charges for those that qualify for and pass this program
- A driver may voluntarily agree to an ignition interlock device, which will be a substitute for the other punishments. This device is mandatory for some convictions.
- If the driver does not qualify for ARD, they may enter rehabilitation that will offset penalties for a DUI offense.
How can a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer help my case?
You will need a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer to help you lessen the penalties associated with drunk driving. This will mean working out alternative punishment arrangement with the court in first and second drunk driving instances. This will entail plea agreement where you admit your guilt and accept a predefined set of punishments that were set as a condition to the guilty plea. Many penalties become mandatory on the third conviction and the Pennsylvania DUI lawyer will not be able to make much of a difference.
Where to look for an attorney
The Pennsylvania Bar Association is a voluntary organization of Pennsylvania DUI lawyers and others that abide by a code of professionalism and ethics. There are practice sections for Pennsylvania DUI lawyers to remain up to date with developments in the state and local laws and this will ensure that a qualified and knowledgeable legal professional will represent you.
The Pennsylvania Bar offers a low-cost lawyer referral service that can connect clients to a potential Pennsylvania DUI lawyer that will able to take their case. This service charges $30 for a 30 minute consultation, $15 of which is returned to the lawyer referral service. Use this service to find a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer who is a member of the association and can adequately represent your needs. Feel free to consult with other lawyers. There is no obligation to use the lawyer you are referred to.
Evaluating Pennsylvania DUI lawyers
Fighting a DUI case is difficult so you must determine what strategy the Pennsylvania DUI lawyer has for your legal defense. Some will try to achieve the best possible plea deal and others will try to craft a defense on invalidating the initial arrest. Although trying to mount a defense that gets the DUI charge thrown out might be tempting, the reality is that the Pennsylvania DUI lawyer focused on a plea deal will probably help you achieve the best possible result.
Relevant fees and arrangements
DUI cases are expensive for quality legal defense. This is especially true when there is an element of personal injury or other harm involved with the drunken driving offense. You may hire a lawyer by the hour, but this is exceptionally expensive and almost certainly unfeasible in longer legal proceedings. You should only have hourly fees accruing for the use of office time and sessions with the Pennsylvania DUI lawyer.
A retainer is the most likely arrangement for this type of case. Retainer is fee that remains in a trust account that the lawyer bills every time he or she performs a service related to your case. Leftover retainer can be returned to the client, but there is also a chance that the attorney will exhaust the retainer and require the client to refill the account.
Most fee arrangement will not court costs, which are also paid by the client. However, these fees, such as the fees for filing the case, are fixed. There may be additional fees for the use of paralegals and other staff and even fees to communicate with the lawyer or have a document produced and photocopied. Get all fees in writing before committing to the services of a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer.
Interviewing your attorney
The following questions are important when interviewing your attorney:
What fees do I pay for retaining services?
Can I have that in writing?
Can I avoid the suspension of my driver’s license, under state law?
Is there any way these charges can be disputed?
Can I contact you directly if there is a problem?
Can you allow me to examine your credentials?
What is your experience with my circumstances?
If you cannot handle my case, can you refer me to a lawyer that can?