Driver’s License

Why You Shouldn’t Drive If Your Driver’s License is Suspended as a Result of a DUI or DUI Related Offense in Pennsylvania.

Police Arrest

            Most times, when someone is admitted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program, or pleads guilty to Driving Under the Influence (DUI), he or she faces a mandatory driver’s license suspension. The range of suspension is based on many factors, including criminal record, blood alcohol level (BAC), and more.  Even without a valid license, some people take the risk of driving while their license is suspended. While this may seem like an innocent act, the consequences of driving under suspension for a DUI, are severe.

            This type of traffic offense is often referred to as a 1543(b) – Driving While Operating Privilege is Suspended or Revoked citation, because that is the Section it can be found in under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. The legislative purpose behind Section 1543(b) is general deterrence: if you are caught driving a vehicle while your license is suspended for ARD or DUI, you must face consequences, including a mandatory jail sentence. Otherwise, the judicial system would have no check in place to monitor suspended drivers. It is important to note that Section 1543(b) not only applies to ARD and DUI suspensions, but any DUI-related suspensions.  Below are a few examples where DUI-related suspensions come into play.

Consequences of Driving During the ARD Driver’s License Suspension

            If you were admitted into the Chester County or Delaware County ARD program for a DUI, your driver’s license was likely suspended for 30, 60 or 90 days depending upon your BAC. You cannot drive until PennDOT physically sends your driver’s license back to you. If you are caught driving a vehicle before your driving privileges are restored, you will face a mandatory minimum of 60 days in jail.  If you were caught driving with a BAC of .02% or more, you will face a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail. In addition, you will likely be removed from the ARD program and prosecuted on the original DUI offense.  If convicted of DUI, you will likely face an additional license suspension.

Failure to Restore Your Driving Privileges After a DUI Driver’s License Suspension

            If your Pennsylvania driver’s license is suspended as a result of a DUI, you cannot drive a vehicle until you have completed the steps to restore your driving privileges. This includes paying a restoration fee and waiting for PennDOT to process your restoration. Consider the following example of failure to restore your driver’s license after a DUI conviction:

            Maria pleads guilty to DUI (High Tier). She serves 48 hours in jail and her license is suspended for 1 year.  However, after serving the 1 year suspension, she mistakenly assumes her license is automatically restored, and begins driving again. Almost 2 years after she pled guilty to DUI, she is stopped for speeding and given a 1543(b) citation.

Day                            Offense                       License Suspension                 Minimum Jail Time

1                                  DUI                             1 year                                                  48 hours

720                           1543(b)                       1 year                                                 60 days

            Maria may have thought she was in the clear to drive, but this is not the case. Even though she served the 1 year license suspension, her license was still suspended because she never made the effort to restore her driving privileges. Thus, she remained indefinitely suspended – DUI related. If she is found guilty of the 1543(b) citation, she will have to serve at least 60 days in jail, and her license will be suspended for an additional 1 year. She could still be cited for a 1543(b) citation until she makes the effort to actually restore her license.

Driver’s License Suspension Based Upon Refusal to Submit to Blood/Breath Test

            When you drive on the roads of Pennsylvania, you are agreeing to “implied consent” – meaning that if you are investigated for DUI, you agree to provide a chemical sample of your blood, breath or urine. If you refuse, your license will be suspended for at least one year, even if you are not convicted of the DUI. Consider the following example of how a DUI refusal can escalate:

            Ron is arrested for DUI, but refuses to provide a chemical sample. He pleads guilty to DUI and his license is suspended for 1 year. Because he refused, his license is suspended for an additional 1 year. He mistakenly thinks both suspensions run concurrently. After serving over one year of a suspended license, he is caught drunk driving. He is arrested for another DUI (BAC is .17%) and he is cited for 1543(b), because he was driving on a DUI-related suspended license. He pleads guilty to a second offense DUI (Highest Tier) and 1543(b) – Driving on a Suspended License DUI Related.

Day                             Offense                       License Suspension                 Minimum Jail Time

1                                  DUI                               1 year                                                   72 hours

1                                  Refusal                        1 year

724                            DUI – Highest          18 months                                        90 days

724                            1543(b)                         1 year                                               90 days

            Ron’s situation went from worse to unthinkable. His license was still suspended at the time of his second DUI arrest because he refused to provide a chemical sample. As a second offense with a BAC of .17%, he is sentenced to an 18 months license suspension and 90 days in jail. However, that’s not all. Because his license was suspended due to a DUI related offense (refusal), and his BAC was more than .02%, he faces an additional 1 year license suspension and an additional minimum of 90 days in jail. In total, he will serve 4 ½ years of a suspended license and over half a year of incarceration.

Out of State DUI Convictions and 1543(b) Citations

            When you are cited for a 1543(b) citation, you are not arrested and immediately taken to jail. As a result, some people consider these traffic offenses as minor and unimportant. All 1543(b) citations carry some jail time and license suspension, and these penalties increase if caught driving with more than .02% of a blood alcohol level. Consider the following situation where 1543(b) citations were not taken seriously:

            Eric was busted for DUI in Delaware County, PA and pled guilty. His BAC was so low that his license was not suspended. Later, he is convicted of DUI in Townsend, Maryland. As a result, PennDOT suspends his PA license for one year. A few weeks later, he is caught driving with a BAC of .03%. Although he was not arrested, he was cited for 1543(b)(1)(1.1.)(i). A few months after that, despite being careful during happy hour, Eric is caught driving again, with a BAC of .021%, and cited for a second offense 1543(b)(1)(1.1.)(i). He pleads guilty to both citations.

Day                             Offense                       License Suspension                 Minimum Jail Time

1                                   DUI

365                              DUI – MD                   1 year

390                              1543(b)                        1 year                                                  90 days

450                              1543(b) – 2nd            1 year                                                 6 months

            Without knowing the consequences, Eric pled guilty to an out of state DUI. This is also considered a DUI-related offense under Pennsylvania law, so PennDOT suspended his PA license. When he was caught driving with a BAC of .02%, he was cited under the most severe provisions of Section 1543(b), and both of the punishments increased. His first 1543(b)(1)(1.1.)(i) conviction carried a minimum of 90 days in jail and an additional one year license suspension. His second 1543(b)(1)(1.1.)(i) conviction was a misdemeanor and carried at least 6 months in jail and an additional one year license suspension. Within a span of two years, he will serve 9 months in jail.

Contact an Attorney Today

            Each of the above scenarios has different consequences, but the message is the same: driving on a suspended license – DUI related is a serious offense that will put you in jail and suspend your license for a long time. If you are cited for a 1543(b) traffic offense, it is very important to call an attorney. Considering the specific facts of your case, there may be valid defenses to the charges, or possibilities to limit the amount of jail time involved. The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm have dealt with a variety of scenarios that are punishable under Section 1543(b), including DUI, ARD, refusal and other DUI-related offenses. Call us today to discuss your options.

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Expect DUI Checkpoints This Halloween Season


As the drunken driving prevention campaign from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes, “There’s nothing scarier on Halloween than a drunk driver.”

According to NHTSA, a staggering 43 percent of all motor vehicle deaths during the five Halloween nights between 2009 and 2013 involved drunk driving. Additionally, 26 percent of all pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night in 2013 involved a drunk driver.

Last year, a 50-year-old woman was convicted of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, accidents involving death or personal injury, and driving under the influence (DUI) after she had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.203 percent when she collided with a minivan on Halloween 2012, killing a 52-year-old Brookhaven woman. The offender was sentenced to serve 9 to 18 years in a state correctional facility last June.

Accidents like this are why there will be an increased national focus on drunk driving prevention this Halloween. Local police in and around Chester County have not yet announced specific DUI checkpoints, but drivers in Southeastern Pennsylvania will be coming across them this Halloween.

DUI checkpoints are not created at the whims of the authorities.  There are statutes and rules that must be followed during their implementation. DUI checkpoints require administrative approval and prior notice to the public of their locations. Vehicles to be stopped during a checkpoint must be pre-determined (such as every third car) and not just arbitrary or randomly stopped.

The surest and safest way to avoid a tragic accident or DUI arrest (or both) is simply to have alternative transportation plans arranged if you will be consuming alcoholic beverages. If you do come across a DUI checkpoint, you should be aware of your rights during this encounter with authorities.

  • Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent — Remember that the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows you to assert the privilege against self-incrimination. This means that you have the right to refuse to answer any question until you have legal representation. Your Fifth Amendment rights are especially critical when it comes to the basic and common question of, “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” If you have had anything to drink, any honest answer can be grounds for further investigation of your mental state. Lies or common statements such as “I only had a few…” tend to spur roadside tests. Simply stating that you choose not to answer the question cannot be used against you.
  • Refuse Any Roadside Tests — Most police officers will want you to get out of your vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests. The only three tests that have been standardized by the NHTSA are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, One-Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn test. Even then, these tests still have inherent flaws that can make them difficult to pass for drivers who are sober. Furthermore, some officers use non-standardized tests such as reciting the alphabet backwards or performing the Romberg balance test. These tests are essentially designed to have people fail and give authorities supposed probable cause to arrest alleged offenders. 

If you should happen to be arrested for DUI at a checkpoint in Southeastern Pennsylvania, you will want to immediately contact an experienced West Chester DUI defense lawyer. Our attorneys can review not only the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest, but the legality of the checkpoint itself.

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Out of State DUI and the Impact in Pennsylvania

 

DLC

This past June, the irk of Philadelphians was felt far out west as former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb – a dual resident of Pennsylvania and Arizona – was arrested  in Arizona for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This was his second offense in Arizona for DUI and now likely faces at least 30 days in jail and a period of a license suspension.

Many people may wonder: would Pennsylvania find out about the DUI? How would this affect his ability to drive in PA? More importantly, if subsequently arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, would it be a first or third offense? The answer to these questions rests in the Driver License Compact (DLC).

 

What is the DLC?

The DLC is a compact between 45[1] states, the goal of which is to share traffic information in order to have an across-the-board “one driver license” concept. It prevents individuals with suspended licenses from simply going across state lines and obtaining a new license. It also allows a resident’s home-state to consider certain out-of-state traffic related offenses, such as DUI, and suspend a home-state license accordingly. Each state has its own rules.

In Pennsylvania, under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1581, PennDOT considers only serious traffic offenses, and will not assess points for minor traffic infractions. Your license will be suspended for one year if you are convicted of any of the following out-of-state traffic-related offense:

  • Manslaughter in connection with the use of a motor vehicle
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs if the statute is substantially similar in nature to PA’s DUI laws under 75 Pa.C.S. 3802 (see below)
  • A felony conviction in connection with the use of a motor vehicle
  • Failure to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle accident results in death or personal injury

 

How does Pennsylvania treat out of state DUIs?

If you are convicted of DUI in another state and it is your first offense ever, Pennsylvania will not suspend your license. Under the PA DUI penalty statute, an out-of-state DUI conviction is treated as if it had occurred in PA under subsection 3802(a). Under this subsection, there is no driving license suspension. However, if it is your second offense or more, PennDOT will suspend your license for one year. This is in addition to any license suspension penalties from the DLC state.

 

If my PA license is suspended, can I go to another state and obtain a new one?

No. If your license in your home-state is suspended and you attempt to obtain a license from any of the DLC states using a DLC residence, you will not be able to obtain a driver’s license. Under the information-sharing agreement clause of the DLC, notice of an applicant’s license suspension will be shared among the states.

This same concept is true for out of state residents trying to obtain a PA driver’s license. PennDOT will not issue a driver’s license for any out of state driver who has a suspended license. 75 Pa.C.S. § 1503.

 

If I received ARD for a DUI in PA, and then got a DUI in another state, will my license be suspended?

PennDOT has a 10 year look-back period. In addition, ARD is considered a conviction for subsequent sentencing and licensing purposes. If you received ARD for a DUI within the past 10 years, and are subsequently convicted of DUI in any DLC state, your license will be suspended for at least one year.

 

If I got a DUI in another state, then got a DUI in PA, is it a first or second offense?

If you have a conviction for DUI in a DLC state, and are subsequently convicted of DUI in PA within the next 10 years, you will be sentenced as a second offender. Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1581, Article III and IV, a conviction from a DLC state will  have the same effect as if it occurred in PA. For example, if you were convicted of DUI in Florida, and subsequently convicted of DUI: Highest Tier (.16+) in PA, you will be subject to the second-offender penalties, which include a minimum incarceration of 90 days, minimum $1,500 fine, and 18 month license suspension.

 

Thus, to answer the McNabb dilemma: if Donavan McNabb is convicted of a second offense DUI in Arizona and holds a PA driver license, then his PA driver’s license will be suspended for one year. In addition, if he is subsequently arrested and convicted of DUI in PA, he will not be a first or second offender; he will be a third time offended. A third offense DUI in PA carries severe penalties.

 

If you feel your situation is similar to any of the above DUI or  PA driver’s license issues, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney immediately. Contact the Skinner Law Firm at (267) 388-3476 to discuss your case.

[1] The following states are not part of the Compact: Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin

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