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Being charged with a DUI is serious, and the consequences are life-altering. Therefore, taking action as soon as you know you are being investigated is important to protect your future.
Retaining experienced legal representation is essential if you’re facing criminal charges related to driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance in Philadelphia. An experienced defense lawyer can provide you with expert counsel throughout the process and help mitigate potential penalties.
This article will discuss why hiring a Philadelphia DUI defense lawyer when facing DUI charges is crucial and how they can offer invaluable assistance during this challenging time.
Pennsylvania Takes Driving Under the Influence Seriously
In Pennsylvania, DUIs carry severe punishments that could include jail time, steep fines, license suspension or revocation, community service hours, and more.
The specific circumstances surrounding each case determine the severity of the punishment. Unfortunately, even first-time offenders may face harsh sentences depending on the situation.
For example, suppose someone causes harm while operating a motor vehicle after consuming drugs or alcohol. Their sentence will likely be harsher than someone without such circumstances attached to their charge.
No matter what type of offense has been committed, having an experienced legal representative by your side is paramount in achieving satisfactory results from your court proceedings.
For a free legal consultation, call 215.515.3360
Overview of DUI Laws in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a city that takes drunk driving seriously. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to harsh legal consequences, including license suspension and jail time.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of the DUI laws, so you know how to protect yourself if you are pulled over for suspicion of intoxication.
Pennsylvania’s Blood Alcohol Concentration Level
The first step in understanding Pennsylvania’s DUI laws involves familiarizing yourself with the state’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit, which, according to Pennsylvania law, is 0.08%.
If you have a BAC level higher than this, you will be considered legally intoxicated and subject to punishment per Pennsylvanian statutes.
In addition, any minor who operates a motor vehicle and has trace amounts of alcohol in their system may face charges relating to underage drinking and driving.
Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Pennsylvania
The severity of your DUI punishment will depend on factors specific to your case and if you’ve had prior convictions. Working with experienced Philadelphia DUI lawyers might help reduce your penalties. They can do this by presenting mitigating evidence that could lessen their impact or even get them dropped altogether.
DUI penalties might include the following:
- Jail time and fines: In Pennsylvania, a conviction for felony DUI carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $15,000.
- A misdemeanor: If you are caught driving while under the influence of alcohol, but your breathalyzer reading is below the legal limit, you may be charged with a misdemeanor.
- First-time offender jail time and fines: DUI convictions in Pennsylvania carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for first-time offenders.
- License suspension: Your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months if you are found guilty of DUI. This suspension period is longer if you have more than one DUI within the last decade or were previously convicted multiple times. Additionally, license suspension may occur before a DUI conviction if you refuse or fail your breathalyzer test.
If you face a DUI allegation, contact an experienced defense attorney. A good lawyer will provide invaluable assistance with local court systems and may help minimize potential conviction-related penalties.
For those living in Philadelphia, having an experienced DUI defense attorney can mean the difference between safeguarding your future or enduring serious repercussions for your charges.
The Advantages of Hiring a DUI Attorney in Philadelphia
Understanding Pennsylvania’s DUI laws is just part of knowing how to avoid a conviction should you ever find yourself standing before a judge at a DUI preliminary hearing.
For thousands of years, legal representation has been paramount in achieving justice. Having a DUI attorney on your side can prove invaluable when navigating the complexities of criminal proceedings.
While it is possible to represent yourself in court, hiring a qualified lawyer for your case has several advantages. In DUI cases, for example, a DUI attorney can provide specialized knowledge of breathalyzer tests and blood alcohol content (BAC) limits, which can be crucial in building a strong defense strategy.
They can also leverage their network of expert witnesses and private investigators to collect additional evidence supporting your case. By hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you can increase your chances of success at each stage of the process and achieve a more favorable outcome in your case.
The following table highlights the benefits of hiring a criminal defense lawyer at each stage of the process, as well as some examples of the specialized resources that they can provide:
|Stage of the Process||Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer||Examples of Specialized Resources|
|Pre-arrest||Provides legal advice and representation in interactions with law enforcement||Knowledge of local statutes and nuances|
|Arrest||Protects your rights during the arrest and arraignment process||Understanding of bail and bond procedures|
|Pre-trial||Conducts investigation and prepares defense strategy||Access to expert witnesses and private investigators|
|Trial||Represents you in court, argues on your behalf, and cross-examines witnesses||Knowledge of legal procedures and evidence rules|
|Sentencing||Advocates for reduced charges or alternative sentencing options||Familiarity with sentencing guidelines and alternative sentencing programs|
|Appeals||Represents you in appeals and post-conviction relief proceedings||Knowledge of appellate procedures and case law|
Hiring a DUI Defense Attorney May Help Minimize Penalties
A professional DUI defense lawyer specializing in navigating Philadelphia’s judicial system can make the difference between receiving a lenient sentence or serving extended prison terms.
Your attorney will have extensive knowledge regarding applicable laws and regulations, which allow them to effectively negotiate plea deals on behalf of their clients and ensure they receive fair treatment during trial proceedings.
Furthermore, these professionals are adept at identifying issues with evidence presented against defendants that could lead to reduced sentencing or dropped charges altogether.
Challenges of Representing Yourself in Court
Navigating the legal system can be intimidating for those facing criminal charges. Regarding DUI cases, the stakes are even higher, and many people feel unprepared to represent themselves in court.
It is important for individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) to understand the challenges of representing yourself:
Failing Field Sobriety Tests
Police officers will often administer field sobriety tests as part of their investigation into a suspected drunk driver. These tests measure coordination, balance, and other physical indicators that may indicate intoxication.
If you fail any of these tests, it could be used against you in court unless you have a skilled attorney on your side who can contest or explain away the results.
Inadequate Defense Strategies
A strong defense rests upon evidence-based arguments about what occurred during an incident. Unfortunately, most laypeople lack the experience and understanding of how to craft an adequate defense.
Without assistance from a lawyer experienced in DUI law, defendants put themselves at risk of presenting ineffective defenses before a judge and jury that could lead to convictions they otherwise would not receive if they had sought legal counsel earlier on in the process.
Lack of Knowledge About Effective Defenses
An accused individual needs more than just facts; there must also be knowledge about how best to use them to build a successful defense strategy tailored to their case.
This requires training, research, and skill; all areas where knowledgeable attorneys excel compared to self-represented litigants trying their luck without professional help.
Difficulty Navigating Court Procedures
The justice system has its own rules and regulations that must be followed meticulously throughout each phase of litigation if someone hopes to present a favorable outcome for themselves in court proceedings related to DUI offenses.
Even small mistakes made by inexperienced non-lawyers can cost dearly due to timing errors or procedural missteps resulting from ignorance about proper courtroom etiquette and protocol.
The complexity surrounding DUI trials makes clear why relying on yourself is rarely advisable when defending against serious criminal charges.
Defendants without training or knowledge of local laws and procedures may struggle in complex matters such as DUIs. They may fall short of achieving satisfactory outcomes without competent legal representation.
Qualified criminal defense attorneys who have successfully handled similar cases in the jurisdiction’s courts can provide wise guidance to improve the chances of success.
Tips for Avoiding Jail Time in the Event of a DUI
In the event of a DUI, knowing tips for avoiding jail time can be invaluable. An experienced Philadelphia DUI attorney is essential in these cases because they will have the knowledge and experience to help reduce or dismiss your charges.
Depending on various factors, such as blood alcohol content (BAC), prior convictions, and circumstances surrounding the arrest, several strategies are available to avoid jail time.
Attend a Philadelphia-Area Alcohol Highway Safety School
The first strategy an attorney may suggest is Alcohol Highway Safety School (AHSS). AHSS is designed to educate offenders about their actions that led to the DUI offense and how it could have been avoided in the future. Additionally, completing this program often gives judges more leniency during sentencing.
Complete Other Philadelphia Court-Sanctioned Alternative Programs
The court also has other programs that can be attended instead of jail time; these courses include walk-and-turn tests and alcohol assessments, which offer insight into one’s drinking behaviors and potential associated problems.
Accepting Responsibility if You’re Found Guilty
Furthermore, depending on BAC levels at the time of arrest, drivers may receive a month’s license suspension and mandatory completion of an alcohol safety course.
Even if found guilty by a judge after trial, taking responsibility for one’s mistakes can lead to lesser sentences than those handed down by jury trials.
Consider a Plea Bargain if You’re Working with Legal Counsel
Furthermore, plea bargains are sometimes possible when working with an experienced lawyer who knows how to work within existing laws in favor of their client’s best interests.
Fully Understand All of Your Options
It’s important to understand all options available before making any decisions regarding legal representation during a DUI case; without proper counsel from an expert attorney, you leave yourself open for greater penalties, including large fines and expensive fees, and potentially lengthy terms behind bars.
Pre-trial strategies presented by knowledgeable attorneys provide opportunities for reduced or dismissed DUI charges so individuals facing prosecution have hope for protecting their futures.
Pre-Trial Strategies To Reduce or Dismiss DUI Charges
If you were arrested for a DUI, it is essential to understand the pre-trial strategies that can be used to reduce or dismiss your charges. While some may think this process is straightforward, some considerations must be considered to mount an effective defense.
Deciding Whether a Deal Should Be Taken in Your DUI Case
The first step of any criminal offense is determining whether or not plea bargains should be pursued. A plea deal involves negotiating agreements between both parties involved (typically the prosecutor and defendant’s legal counsel) regarding reduced sentencing or other forms of leniency depending on individual circumstances.
An experienced attorney will have an understanding of local laws as well as insight into the prosecutor’s typical practices when dealing with DUI charges. This knowledge lets them craft persuasive arguments during negotiations and leverage beneficial deals for you.
Securing Pertinent Evidence
Secondary steps involve securing evidence and ensuring all due processes are followed throughout court proceedings. For example:
- Obtain witness testimonies from anyone present during the traffic stop or arrest. Testimonies from character witnesses can also help establish a reputation.
- Request copies of the police report, dash cam footage, and body cam footage from the arresting officer. Review all evidence for any inconsistencies or improper procedures.
- Ensure all due process rights were afforded, including:
- Your right to remain silent: Were proper Miranda warnings given before questioning?
- Your right to an attorney: Were you permitted to contact a lawyer upon request?
- Your right to a speedy trial: Are court proceedings moving at an acceptable pace?
- Your right to confront witnesses: Will you have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses?
- Challenge the validity of the initial traffic stop or DUI test administration. Unlawful arrests, lack of probable cause, or coerced confessions can be grounds for dropped charges.
- Review blood or breath test results for evidence of improper testing procedures. Machines must be properly calibrated, and officials must be trained to administer tests.
- Present evidence of mitigating circumstances, such as a medical condition that could have contributed to the DUI offense. Establishing a reasonable defense can lead to reduced charges or penalties.
- Explore potential pre-trial intervention or diversion programs as an alternative to traditional court proceedings. As discussed above, completion of such programs may result in dropped or reduced charges.
The success rate of pre-trial strategies depends heavily upon the expertise of your Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer; therefore, selecting someone who has experience handling similar cases is essential for achieving desirable outcomes.
It is important to remember that every case is different and therefore requires unique strategies tailored specifically to your situation. However, taking proactive steps early in the process will provide peace of mind knowing that everything necessary has been done to pursue justice.
Types of Defenses for a DUI Charge
When facing DUI charges, a skilled Philadelphia DUI defense attorney can help you mount an effective defense in court. Different defenses may be available to reduce or dismiss the charges against you. Understanding these different strategies is important for giving your case the best possible outcome.
The table below illustrates three different defenses for your DUI charge:
|Constitutional Defenses||These are based on constitutional rights and due process violations related to arrest procedures, etc.||Unreasonable search and seizure, Miranda warnings not read, illegal detention during traffic stop, no probable cause for BAC tests|
|Faulty Evidence Defenses||This type of defense involves challenging the accuracy or credibility of any evidence presented by prosecutors.||Breathalyzer machines not properly calibrated, inaccurate chemical testing methods, incomplete eyewitness testimony|
|Innocence Defenses||This defense argument claims that the accused was not driving under the influence at the time of arrest.||No physical signs of intoxication present in individual’s behavior or appearance prior to arrest, medication taken before driving caused elevated BAC levels without impairment effects, medical condition prevented person from exhibiting signs typical of intoxicated drivers|
Each DUI charge carries serious consequences such as hefty fines, license suspension, community service hours, and even felony charges in some cases.
Your lawyer will assess your situation and identify which legal strategies are most appropriate given the facts surrounding your arrest and prosecution.
How Your Attorney Negotiates Plea Deals With Prosecutors
Negotiating the best plea deals for clients is one of the most important responsibilities of a Philadelphia DUI defense lawyer. Negotiation requires legal professionals to have an intimate knowledge of criminal law and effective communication skills and strategies to get favorable outcomes for their clients.
Understanding how your attorney negotiates plea deals with prosecutors can help protect your future:
- Your public defender will review all available evidence and then present any viable options to you, which may include negotiating a plea deal.
- If they deem it beneficial to make such a negotiation, they will approach the prosecution team to come up with an agreement both parties find satisfactory.
- Once both sides agree upon terms, there must be approval from the judge before it becomes part of your official case record and sentence.
Your criminal attorney’s ability to negotiate on your behalf is critical when facing any criminal charge, particularly those involving DUIs.
An aggressive criminal defense strategy is necessary when arguing against charges brought by the state. Therefore, it’s important that you discuss what potential plea bargains are offered so you know exactly what you agree to if you choose this option.
Ultimately, selecting the right attorney could be paramount in protecting your legal rights and keeping your life free from unnecessary complications due to DUI convictions.
Appealing a DUI Guilty Verdict
A DUI conviction can have serious implications for a person’s future, including jail time and fines. For this reason, it is important to explore all legal options available when facing such charges.
One of these options is appealing a guilty plea or verdict after being convicted of a DUI. This section will focus on what constitutes an appealable issue in Philadelphia trial courts that handle DUI cases and how appellate judges and strategies consider evidence like breathalyzer tests for obtaining successful outcomes with appeals.
Establishing Errors in the Court Proceedings
To successfully appeal a DUI conviction, first, you must establish whether an error was made during the original court proceedings that rendered the outcome unfair or unjust.
Errors may include:
- Mistakes related to procedural law
- Constitutional issues
- Incorrect application of statutes or other state laws
- Improper instructions were given to jurors before deliberations before issuing a guilty verdict
- Misuse of evidence used as proof against the defendant’s guilt
The burden falls upon your appellate attorney to prove that such errors occurred and led to an erroneous outcome in the trial court.
Exposing Breathalyzer Test Flaws
When dealing with DUI convictions that use breathalyzer test results in determining guilt, special attention needs to be paid toward:
- Ensuring proper calibration of breathalyzer machines used for testing
- Checking the credentials and training of the officer conducting the test
- Investigating the handling of the breath samples from collection to analysis
- Examining any discrepancies between the breath test results and the individual’s observable behavior or physical signs of impairment
- Challenging the reliability of the breathalyzer test itself and questioning its accuracy as evidence of guilt
These flaws could be grounds for overturning a guilty verdict if proven valid during an appellate review process.
Possibilities for Expungement and Sealing DUI Records in Pennsylvania
If you have a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania, it can have a significant impact on your life. However, depending on limited circumstances, it might be possible to expunge or seal your DUI records.
Here are the possibilities for expungement and sealing DUI records in Pennsylvania:
Expungement eligibility in Pennsylvania is very limited. According to 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122, a person’s criminal history can be expunged under three conditions:
- A person is at least 70 years old and has remained free of arrests and prosecutions for at least 10 years following the completion of their last sentence.
- A person has been dead for at least 3 years.
- A person petitions the court for the expungement of a summary offense, and they have been free of arrests and prosecutions for at least 5 years since the end of their last sentence.
In short, a person must be at least 70 years old, deceased for 3 years, or expunging a summary offense. If you want to erase something more serious, like a felony or misdemeanor, you must look elsewhere.
Expungement Through ARD
In addition to the information above, expunging a DUI in Pennsylvania may involve using alternative methods like the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The ARD program was implemented to help those charged with DUI stay out of jail and have their records cleared.
- Each county typically runs ARD programs, and they might have different criteria for eligibility. For instance, defendants must be first-time DUI offenders to participate in the ARD program in Philadelphia. Other counties might have more relaxed rules.
- Once in the program, you must comply with all court conditions. These conditions typically include alcohol treatment, a suspension of your license, payment of restitution, payment of court costs, community service, and any other conditions the court feels necessary.
- If you are successful, your charges will be dismissed, and any record of your DUI can be deleted.
Sealing DUI Records
Sealing DUI records is another option but is not as comprehensive as expungement. Sealing records means they are not destroyed but kept separate and inaccessible to the public.
- To be eligible for record sealing, you must have completed all the terms and conditions of your sentence, including paying fines and completing probation.
- You must also wait for a specific period after your conviction, depending on the severity of the offense, before applying to have your records sealed.
- For a summary offense, you can apply immediately after your sentence is complete.
- You must wait five years for a misdemeanor after your sentence is complete.
- For a felony, you must wait 10 years after your sentence is complete.
Once you have met the eligibility requirements, you can file a petition to seal your records with the court that handled your case. If the petition is granted, your DUI records will be kept separate and inaccessible to the public.
A Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help guide possible outcomes associated with each situation and the legal process to ensure optimal results.
With knowledgeable representation from a qualified attorney, individuals facing drunk driving charges have access to the resources and support needed throughout every stage of their case.
A Pennsylvania DUI’s Impact on Your Finances and Insurance Rates
The financial impact of a DUI conviction can be severe. Even after the fines, court costs, and other legal fees, you may still face higher car insurance premiums or even policy cancellation.
Here are some of the costs you can expect after getting a DUI,
- According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), DUI fines in Pennsylvania typically range from $300 to $10,000, depending on the severity.
- Lost time at work for court appearances, jail sentences, community service, and treatment programs results in reduced or lost wages.
- Your auto insurance premiums will likely increase following a DUI conviction due to the high risk of reoffending. Some insurers may drop your coverage altogether. This can amount to an additional $1,000 per year or more.
- You will face commercial or non-commercial license reinstatement fees. For commercial licenses, fees more than$180, while non-commercial license fees are more than $75.
- An Ignition Interlock system may be required for your car. The cost will vary depending on your chosen provider. Leasing a system from the vendor typically costs between $900 and $1,300 annually.
- If you fail to pay your fines or restitutions, your credit rating may be negatively impacted, making obtaining loans, credit cards, housing, or employment difficult.
- Future employment opportunities could be limited, as some driving or safety-sensitive jobs prohibit hiring individuals with DUIs.
- You could face vehicle impoundment fees from the towing company of $75-$175 per day if your car were impounded following your DUI arrest. If your vehicle was towed, it might cost about $50 plus mileage.
- Education, treatment, and counseling fees may cost $100-$1,000 or more if a mandated DUI program enrollment is required.
The financial losses associated with a DUI conviction often far outweigh the embarrassment and inconvenience.
The total costs can easily reach $20,000-$30,000 per first offense. Seeking legal counsel to fight your DUI charges may help avoid potential long-term economic impacts.
Protecting Your Driving Privileges By Consulting a Criminal Defense Law Firm
To protect your rights and ensure protection from overly harsh sentences, if you were charged with a DUI, we recommend seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense law firm.
They will understand the nuances of Pennsylvania laws regarding blood testing and other forms of evidence used by prosecutors.
An expert attorney can help negotiate agreements with prosecutors to minimize possible charges and resulting punishments. Additionally, they can offer guidance on how best to fight a case before it goes to court or mount an aggressive defense if it goes to trial.
It’s important to remember even though you may be guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, this does not mean you have no recourse.
Rather, you should consult with legal counsel immediately following any arrest related to drunk driving allegations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Average Cost of a DUI Attorney in Philadelphia?
The average cost of a DUI attorney in Philadelphia can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the attorney’s level of experience, the complexity of the case, and the amount of time and resources required to prepare a defense.
It pays to do your homework before choosing an attorney. For example, check your prospective law firm’s record of success by clicking on their client reviews and case results. These can give valuable insight into their experience level and track record. In addition, schedule a free consultation with a firm to discuss their legal services and associated costs.
What Are the Consequences of Failing a Breathalyzer Test?
Failing a breathalyzer test can have serious consequences for those accused of driving under the influence (DUI). Breathalyzers are used as an initial tool to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and determine if they are above the legal limit. If someone fails their breathalyzer test, it is evidence that can be used against them in court.
The penalty for DUI may include jail time, fines, license suspension or revocation, community service, probation, and ignition interlock device installation on vehicles.
Other possible penalties include economic losses such as increased insurance premiums or inability to purchase certain types of policies.
Is It Possible To Get a DUI Charge Reduced or Dismissed?
It is often difficult to answer when someone has been charged with DUI; can their charge be reduced or dismissed? The answer depends on numerous factors, and it is important to understand how DUI charges work to explore potential outcomes.
The first step is an evaluation of all relevant evidence in the case. This includes field sobriety tests performed by police officers, breathalyzer results, and other testimonies that could prove impairment during the arrest.
It will also involve investigating whether proper procedures were followed during the stop, warnings before administering a test, and even whether there was cause for the initial traffic stop itself. Aspects like these must be considered carefully so they can be used to reduce or dismiss your DUI charge.
What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?
In Pennsylvania, the terms DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are sometimes used interchangeably and refer to the same offense.
Both terms describe operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
However, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses the term DUI in its legal code.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on My Record in Pennsylvania?
A DUI conviction in Pennsylvania will stay on your criminal record for life unless you petition for expungement, per 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122, or after successfully completing the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
Why Should I Choose the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder?
If you were charged with a DUI in Philadelphia, the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder could provide experienced and reliable legal representation. The initial consultation is free, and we will evaluate your case to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
Our attorneys understand that this charge could potentially affect future employment opportunities or other aspects of your life, so it is important to have an experienced trial lawyer who knows how to navigate the complicated criminal justice system.
We Offer Personalized Attention
The skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder ensure all our clients receive personalized attention and care during their case proceedings by providing strong defense strategies tailored to each individual’s needs and goals.
We Take Pride in Our Work
We take pride in our ability to protect people from wrongful convictions so they may move forward without worrying about possible repercussions from their past mistakes. With extensive experience behind us, we strive to provide a sense of security during this difficult time in someone’s life while also advocating for them in court when needed.
Our Legal Team Will Guide You Through the Legal Process
We understand that getting charged with a DUI can be confusing and overwhelming, but our legal team is here to help guide you through every step of the process, no matter what challenges arise.
We Stay Current on Every Pennsylvania DUI Law and Case Ruling
Our staff works hard to keep up-to-date with training and knowledge regarding Philadelphia DUIs. Hence, you always know what options are best for your situation and potential outcomes before making decisions going forward.
If You’ve Been Charged With a DUI in Philadelphia, Call our Law Offices Today
The consequences of a DUI conviction in Philadelphia can be severe, and the cost of hiring an experienced defense lawyer is often worth the investment. That’s because even if you plead guilty or are found guilty by a judge at trial, a qualified lawyer could help you avoid jail time or other serious penalties such as driver’s license suspension or revocation.
With proper legal guidance from experienced Philadelphia DUI defense lawyers at the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, you may be in a much better position than you would be without assistance. Taking action as soon as you know you’re being investigated can protect your future against severe legal ramifications. Contact us today for a free consultation.