Drunk Driving / DUI

Prescription Marijuana Could Result in a DUI Arrest In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recently hopped on board the ever-growing list of states that have made medical marijuana possible for chronically ill people. However, the new law did not address, nor change, the current DUI laws. As such, considering the archaic nature of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, it remains illegal to drive with any marijuana in one’s system. This article will seek to clarify the law about driving and marijuana use in Pennsylvania.

DUI Laws in Downingtown, Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle with marijuana in one’s blood system. Driving and operating a vehicle is obvious – whether a driver is on a highway or roadway, he or she is driving.

It is important to note the latter phrase “actual physical control.” This statement incorporates non-moving conduct, such as sitting in a parked vehicle with the engine running.

Therefore, even if a driver does not have an intention of driving the vehicle, he still has physical control of the vehicle’s movements. Under this scenario, he or she could be arrested.

Penalties for Cannabis-Based DUI in Chester County, PA

DUI offenses in Pennsylvania involving a controlled substance, such as marijuana, are subject to the highest penalties possible. The range of penalties that can be imposed on a defendant are contingent on the existence of prior DUI convictions, if any.

For a conviction, under 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(d), the following mandatory minimum penalties apply:

Mandatory
Incarceration

Minimum
Fine

License Suspension

Ignition Interlock

First Offense

72 hours

$1,000

12 months

No

Second Offense

90 days

$1,500

18 months

Yes

Third Offense

1 year

$2,500

18 months

Yes

Fourth + Offense

1 year

$2,500

18 months

Yes

Medicinal Marijuana Could Result in a DUI in Norristown, PA

Under 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(d)(1), it is illegal to drive with any amount of a Schedule I Controlled Substance in a driver’s blood system. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under both Pennsylvania and Federal law; however, marijuana is unique in that it contains both active and inactive ingredients. Some drivers will show signs of recent marijuana use during a traffic stop. A majority of driver’s won’t show any signs of recent marijuana use, but will still have inactive metabolites in their system.

Prescription Marijuana Results in a DUI Arrest in Lancaster, PA

There are no current medical marijuana laws that protect drivers in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. It is irrelevant if a patient’s ID card is from a state that either allows medical marijuana patients to drive or otherwise legalizes marijuana.

This means, driving under the influence of marijuana, including medically prescribed marijuana, could potentially result in an individual being arrested for a DUI offense in Pennsylvania.

Effectively Dispute a Marijuana-based DUI in West Chester, PA

Most first time offenders will be eligible for Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. Upon successful completion of this program, all DUI charges qualify for dismissal and expungement.

Similarly, some defendants find the benefit of being admitted to Drug Court for marijuana-related cases. Successful completion of Drug Court allows the same charges to be dismissed and expungeable.

For defendants who are ineligible for ARD or Drug Court, there are still options to fight a DUI based on marijuana, such as:

  • A member of law enforcement must be within his or her jurisdiction to approach, investigate and/or arrest an individual.
  • A member of law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to stop a moving vehicle or detain a person in a non-moving vehicle.
  • Defendants have the right to cross-examine and discredit an officer’s testimony regarding impairment.
  • A member of law enforcement must have probable cause to arrest a person for marijuana-based DUI.
  • Blood tests must be obtained with a driver’s consent or valid warrant.
  • Blood tests must be administered pursuant to specific rules and regulations.
  • Even if a blood test shows the presence of marijuana, the test must still be admissible in a court of law.

Things To Remember If Arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania

A few words of advice apply to all criminal defendants. If you have been arrested or accused of a marijuana-based DUI,

  • Do not speak to, text, write or otherwise communicate to anyone about your case, especially the officer.
  • Do not post anything to social media platforms about your case, including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
  • Consult an attorney right away to preserve your options, including eligibility for ARD or Drug Court.
  • Write down everything you remember about the night of the arrest, from the pre-arrest period to being released from the police station.
  • If there are any witnesses, such as a passenger, have them do the same as above.

The trial-proven attorneys at the Skinner Law Firm handle all forms of DUI cases, including DUI by marijuana and DUI by any other controlled substance. It is imperative to speak with an attorney before your first hearing.

If you have been arrested for DUI and fear you may have had any marijuana in your system at the time of your arrest, call the Skinner Law Firm today to schedule a consultation at (610) 436-1410.

 

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Impact of Birchfield v. North Dakota in Pennsylvania

blood sample dui missouri v. mcneely

On June 23, 2016, the United States Supreme Court held in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. __ (2016), that the warrantless search and seizure of blood in DUI cases is unconstitutional. Thus, states could not criminalize DUI blood draw refusals. Across the country, many state statutes were struck down and unenforceable – but how does the Birchfield ruling affect Pennsylvania?

 

In Pennsylvania, DUI sentences are subject to tiers. Tiers are determined by many factors, including blood alcohol content (BAC), drug involvement, injuries and accidents, vehicle types, etc. The lowest tier, such as when no BAC is available, has the least serious penalties. On the other hand, the highest tier such as BAC of .16% or above, results in the harshest penalties.

 

Logically, if a person refused to provide a sample of his or her blood to test for alcohol intoxication, there would be no BAC available, and he or she would ordinarily be subject to the lowest tier.  For sentencing purposes, this usually means no license suspension, no jail time and a maximum of six months of probation for a first offense DUI.

 

Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law for Refusal to Submit to a Blood Test

 

Unlike North Dakota, Pennsylvania does not have a wholly separate statute that criminalizes DUI blood draw refusals. Pennsylvania utilizes an inadvertent method in order to punish those who refuse to provide a blood sample. Under Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law, 75 Pa.C.S. §1547, anyone who refuses to provide a blood sample and is found guilty of DUI is subject to the highest tier punishment.

 

Before Birchfield, and upon arrest for suspected DUI, drivers in Pennsylvania were read the O’Connell warnings that if failed to submit to chemical testing they were subject to enhanced criminal penalties –  including jail time. After the Birchfield decision, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) amended its form to remove the criminal enhancement penalties. However, the Pennsylvania Legislature has not amended the applicable statute.

 

As the law currently applies pursuant to Birchfield, police must now obtain consent from the suspected DUI driver for a blood sample or get a warrant. Considering drivers are still subject to an additional one year license suspension for refusing to provide a sample, as a civil penalty under the implied consent law, many drivers decide to consent. Even if consent is given, a driver’s consent must be voluntary and not based “on the pain of committing a criminal offense” as the Supreme Court noted.

 

Is 75 Pa.C.S. 1547 Constitutional After Birchfield?

 

The law remains undecided on the status and effect of 75 Pa.C.S. 1547’s criminal enhancement and legality, but the issue will certainly be considered by the Pennsylvania appellate courts sometime in the future.

 

Conclusion: Officers Will Be Getting More Warrants

If you have questions about a DUI case involving a refusal to submit to blood testing in West Chester in Chester County, or in Media in Delaware County, PA, then call an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Skinner Law Firm. We are experienced in filing and litigating motions to suppress blood test results in DUI related cases including felony DUI cases involving prior convictions, serious bodily injury or death. Call us today to discuss your case.

 

Read more about Forced Blood draw cases and the constitutionality of 75 Pa.C.S. 1547 in Pennsylvania.

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What Happens at the DUI Preliminary Hearing in Delaware County?

Traffic Stop

If you were arrested for a DUI in Delaware County, PA, but were released the same night without seeing a judge, you may be wondering what happens next. After your release, you will be notified of the formal charges by a summons. The summons will be mailed to you from the magisterial district court in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred.

Two summons will be mailed to your home – one first class mail and the second will be mailed certified mail. Both sets of documents are the same although one will require you (or someone in the household) to sign for the document.

After a DUI arrest in Delaware County, PA, the summons will arrive in approximately 1-2 weeks after an arrest. It might take longer than two weeks in some cases depending on which agency made the arrest. Included in the summons will be a preliminary hearing date and copy of the criminal complaint that outlines the charges and allegations against you.

If you were not processed, i.e. fingerprinted, the night you were arrested there will also be an Order from the court directing you to be processed by the arresting police department. This means that you will have to make arraignments to go to the police department to be fingerprinted ahead of your preliminary hearing.

The actual date of the hearing can depend on several factors, including:

  1. The judges’s schedule;
  2. The officer’s schedule; and
  3. Whether you submit to a blood or breath test, or refused chemical testing.

The Scheduling of Preliminary Hearing in Different Types of DUI Cases

DUI cases with a blood test reading will be scheduled out about 6 weeks after the arrest since the lab report will not be available for at least four weeks. Breath test results are known immediately, so drunk driving cases involving a breathalyzer reading are scheduled much sooner. Since there is no BAC report in refusal cases, the court also schedules those types of DUI cases within a couple of weeks.

Generally, preliminary hearings are listed in morning. Before arriving at the preliminary hearing, you and your attorney should already have discussed your options and intention ahead of time. In some circumstances it may be advisable to waive the preliminary hearing. For instance, to apply for ARD in Delaware County, PA, you must waive the hearing as a condition to apply for the program.

In other cases, it may be advisable to have the hearing. At a prelim, it is the prosecutor’s burden to call witnesses and to present evidence. Since the preliminary hearing is not a trial, not all the rules of evidence apply. For instance, certain types of hearsay are admissible. And credibility of witnesses is not relevant, so the judge must accept the testimony of witnesses against you as true. For this reason, it is generally not advisable to call clients as a witness in their own case since the judge will not consider it if only offered to contradict the Commonwealth’s witnesses.

At the end of the hearing, the magistrate judge must make a determination of whether the Commonwealth has presented what is known as a “primia facia case.” A prima facia case means that there is “some evidence” of a crime and that you are connected to it.

At this stage, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge determines that the prosecutor has met its burden, the judge will hold the charge over for trial at the Court of Common Pleas in Delaware County, PA. All subsequent court appearance will also be held at the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas at the courthouse at 201 W Front St # 123 in Media, PA.

The last matter that will be address by the judge is bail. The purpose of bail is to secure your appearance for trial and to provide for the protection of the community. A judge may release you on recognizance (ROR Bail), unsecured bail, or require some form of security or cash bail. Generally speaking, if you are facing a first offense for driving under the influence (DUI), you will not be required post any money unless there is some aggravating circumstances involved in your case.

Additional Resources

List of the Magisterial District Courts in Delaware County – Visit the Delaware County Government website to find a list of the Magisterial District Courts in Delaware County which was last updated on December 1, 2015. Also find contact information for the Administrative Office for District Judges is located at 100 West Front Street, Media, Pennsylvania 19063-3504. The phone number or the Administrative Office is 610-565-6990. Note that some municipalities are served by more than one Court.

Conclusion

If you were arrested for a DUI cases in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, then contact an experienced drunk driving defense attorney. With offices conveniently located in Media, PA, in Delaware County, Michael Skinner is experienced in fighting DUI cases throughout Delaware County, Chester County and the surrounding areas in Pennsylvania.

Whether your case involves a breath or blood test reading over the legal limit of .08 or a refusal to submit to chemical test, Attorney Michael Skinner has the experience needed to fight your case. Call today to schedule a free consultation either over the phone or in the office. We can begin your defense today.

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Forced Blood Test in a DUI Case in Pennsylvania

blood sample dui missouri v. mcneely

The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), fundamentally altered the manner in which law enforcement officers can take blood from a suspected drunk driver. The decision called into question the implied consent laws, such as the one that is codified in Pennsylvania at 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547(a)(1), that operate as a per se exception to the constitutional warrant requirement.

As a result, post-McNeely blood draws without a warrant may only occur upon the knowing and intelligent consent of the motorist or with exigent circumstances. Although many law enforcement agencies were quick to improve their training on how to get a warrant, other agencies have been slow to make any changes.

Because law enforcement officers are still not securing warrants in many of these DUI cases, criminal defense attorneys are busy filing and litigating motions to suppress the blood evidence.

Without consent, the criminal defense attorney will argue that the blood sample the Commonwealth tested to determine the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was taken without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Commonwealth v. Myers, 118 A.3d 1122 (Pa.Super.2015)

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently considered the issue in Commonwealth v. Myers, 118 A.3d 1122 (Pa.Super.2015), appeal granted, 131 A.3d 480 (Pa.2016).

First, the court recognized that the administration of a blood test is clearly a search under the Fourth Amendment. Second, the court recognized that a search conducted without a warrant is constitutionally impermissible unless an established exception applies. One exception involves actual consent when the officer asks for a voluntary blood draw and the subject gives free and voluntary consent.

In these cases, the central issue is whether the consent was really free and voluntary. The court will look at the constitutional validity of the citizen/police encounter giving rise to the consent and the voluntariness of the consent. Where the underlying encounter is lawful, the voluntariness of the consent becomes the exclusive focus of the court.

The Unconscious DUI Suspect

The issue becomes more complicated when the police haven’t obtained consent either because the suspect affirmatively refuses or because the suspect is unconscious.

In Commonwealth v. Myers, 118 A.3d 1122, the defendant was arrested on suspicion of DUI and transported to the hospital. The police officer who responded to the hospital observed the defendant unconscious and unresponsive. Id. at 1124. After attempts to have Mr. Myers respond to the officer were unsuccessful, the officer read the “standard informed consent warnings” to the unconscious man. Id. The defendant never signed consent warnings, and no warrant for the defendant’s blood was secured. Id. Nevertheless, the police officer obtained a warrantless blood sample from the defendant. Id.

The defendant sought suppression in the Municipal Court based on the warrantless draw of his blood. Id. The Municipal Court granted the suppression motion with respect to the blood because it concluded the defendant was unconscious and could not consent. In essence, the court found “it was not unreasonable” for the Commonwealth to obtain a warrant under the circumstances. Id. at 1124–25.

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas affirmed the ruling, and the Commonwealth appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Id. at 1125. The Superior Court acknowledged that defendant’s case was unique because the defendant did not have an opportunity to refuse the blood draw:

Pennsylvania’s implied consent statute provides a driver under arrest with the statutory right of refusal to blood testing, see 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547(b)(1) (“If any person placed under arrest for a violation of Section 3802 is requested to submit to chemical testing and refuses to do so, the testing shall not be conducted….”).

Section 1547 provides for chemical testing when consent is not withdrawn pursuant to subsection (b)(1), and precludes a blood draw when consent is withdrawn and imposes penalties. Here, [the defendant] was arrested for DUI and transported to the hospital, but was not given the applicable warnings until a later time, at which point he could not claim the statutory protection of Section 1547(b)(1).

Id. at 1129 (footnote omitted). On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the suppression court’s determination concluding the defendant could not refuse testing or consent to the blood test and exigent circumstances did not excuse the warrantless blood draw.

It is important to note that in Myers, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755 (the “reports by emergency room personnel” law) was not at issue in the case. Id. at 1129. Section 3755 did not even apply to that case because Mr. Myers was not involved in a motor vehicle accident and Mr. Myers did not receive medical treatment “as a result of” any motor vehicle accident. Id. at 1129.

In that case, Mr. Myers was already under arrest at the time the police ordered the hospital to perform the warrantless blood draw. Myers, 118 A.3d at 1123–1124. As the court explained in Myers, since he was under arrest at the time, Mr. Myers possessed an explicit, statutory right to refuse chemical testing under Section 1547(b) — which the police denied him by waiting until he was rendered unconscious to draw his blood. See 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547(b) (providing a statutory right to refuse chemical testing to “any person placed under arrest for a violation of [75 Pa.C.S.A. § ] 3802” (“[d]riving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance”)); Myers, 118 A.3d at 1129–1130.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has granted an appeal so more guidance will soon be provided.

Is Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law Constitutional?

The next issues the courts will address is whether two “implied consent” statutes in Pennsylvania, Section 1547 and 3755, work together as a valid exception to the warrant requirement to allow for a blood draw taken without actual consent. These statutes have traditionally been used by officers to grant them the statutory right to have the hospital take the driver’s blood and receive the blood alcohol test results without a warrant.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Commonwelth v. Defer, 1119 MDA 2014, 2016 WL 1587016 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2016) recently refused to address the merits of the claims that Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), renders 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547 and/or § 3755 unconstitutional. This issue is discussed in another blog article entitled “Implied Consent as an Exception to the Warrant Requirement in DUI Blood Test Cases in Pennsylvania.”


Michael Skinner is an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm who represents clients in DUI cases involving a blood test including serious felony DUI cases involving death or serious bodily injury, throughout West Chester in Chester County and Media in Delaware County, PA.

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Are Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Laws Unconstitutional?

Actual consent is the most commonly used exception to the warrant requirement in DUI blood draw cases in Pennsylvania. In these cases, the officer simply says “will you consent to a voluntary blood draw for the purpose of determining its alcohol or controlled substance concentration?” If the person agrees, then the officer can have the blood drawn and tested without a warrant.

The next question becomes whether an individual’s “implied consent” in drunk-driving cases satisfies the “consent” exception to the warrant requirement? Or are Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Statutes that purport to allow a pre-arrest, non-exigent, non-consensual blood draw unconstitutional?

Can “Implied Consent” be an Exception to the Warrant Requirement

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania skirted around that issue in Commonwealth v. Defer, 1119 MDA 2014, 2016 WL 1587016 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2016). The court refused to address the merits of the claims that Missouri v. McNeely, U.S., 133 S.Ct. 1552, renders 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547 and/or § 3755 unconstitutional. Instead, the court saved that issue for another day.

Until a ruling comes down to squarely address the issue, it is important to understand Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent scheme and how Missouri v. McNeely might impact blood testing in this state. In McNeely, a plurality of the Court recognized the fact that “all 50 States have adopted implied consent laws that require motorists, as a condition of operating a motor vehicle within the State, to consent to [blood alcohol content] testing if they are arrested or otherwise detained on suspicion of a drunk-driving offense.” McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1563.

The plurality recognized that these implied consent laws “impose significant consequences when a motorist withdraws consent” and are one of the “legal tools” that states use “to enforce their drunk-driving laws and to secure [blood alcohol content] evidence without undertaking warrantless nonconsensual blood draws.” Id. at 1566.

Provisions in Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Statutes

Certainly administrative penalties can apply to a refusal. But can Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws be seen as an exception to the warrant requirement? Two statutes in Pennsylvania, Section 1547 and 3755, comprise a statutory scheme that implies the consent of a driver to undergo chemical blood testing under particular circumstances. See Commonwealth v. Riedel, 651 A.2d 135, 139–140 (Pa.1994).

The first of those statutes, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547 is the Commonwealth’s implied consent statute. The second statute, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755 is entitled “[r]eports by emergency room personnel.” The second statute grants officers the statutory right to both have the hospital take the driver’s blood and receive the blood alcohol test results without a warrant.

In Commonwealth v. Defer, 1119 MDA 2014, 2016 WL 1587016 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2016), the driver was involved in a motor vehicle accident, which required that Ms. Defer receive “medical treatment in an emergency room of a hospital.” That trip to the hospital triggered the application of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755.

The court reasoned that because the person was not under arrest at the time the hospital took her blood, the person did not have the statutory right to refuse chemical testing under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547(b). Also, the person can still say, “I refuse” if they are unconscious and understand the purpose for the blood draw. But because it occurs in the hospital, that distinction is likely lost on the patient.

The Prosecutor’s Best Argument

The prosecutor in the Defer case claimed the blood was taken pursuant to the “consent” exception to the warrant requirement. Specifically, the Commonwealth argued that, pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547(a), since the driver of a vehicle was involved in a motor vehicle accident and since the officer had probable cause to believe that the driver was drunk or impaired, then the driver “impliedly consented” to the blood draw under the provisions of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547(a).

The prosecutor also argued that 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755, the officer did not need to obtain a warrant or demonstrate exigent circumstances in order to instruct the hospital staff to perform the blood draw while the driver received treatment in the hospital for injuries sustained as a result of the motor vehicle accident. Instead, the prosecutor argued that consent to the search was implied under the circumstances because together, sections 1547 and 3755 comprise a statutory scheme that implies the consent of a driver to undergo chemical blood testing under particular circumstances.

Without a Valid Exception – a Warrant is Needed to Take Blood

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. A search conducted without a warrant is deemed to be unreasonable. Therefore, the search is constitutionally impermissible unless an established exception applies. Commonwealth v. Strickler, 757 A.2d 884, 888 (Pa.2000).

The courts in Pennsylvania have mentioned several different types of exceptions that might apply to the warrant requirement in a blood draw case including:

  1. actual consent;
  2. implied consent;
  3. search incident to lawful arrest; and
  4. exigent circumstances may negate the necessity of obtaining a warrant before conducting a search.

Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law in Section 1547

Pennsylvania has an “implied consent” law under 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547 that reads:

1547. Chemical testing to determine amount of alcohol or controlled substance

(a) General rule.—Any person who drives, operates or is in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle in this Commonwealth shall be deemed to have given consent to one or more chemical tests of breath, blood or urine for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of blood or the presence of a controlled substance if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been driving, operating or in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle:

(1) in violation of … 3802 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) …; or

(2) which was involved in an accident in which the operator or passenger of any vehicle involved or a pedestrian required treatment at a medical facility or was killed.

(b) Suspension for refusal.—

(1) If any person placed under arrest for a violation of section 3802 is requested to submit to chemical testing and refuses to do so, the testing shall not be conducted but upon notice by the police officer, the department shall suspend the operating privilege of the person as follows:

(i) Except as set forth in subparagraph (ii), for a period of 12 months.

(ii) For a period of 18 months if any of the following apply: …

(2) It shall be the duty of the police officer to inform the person that:

(i) the person’s operating privilege will be suspended upon refusal to submit to chemical testing; and

(ii) if the person refuses to submit to chemical testing, upon conviction or plea for violating section 3802(a)(1), the person will be subject to the penalties provided in section 3804(c) (relating to penalties).

(3) Any person whose operating privilege is suspended under the provisions of this section shall have the same right of appeal as provided for in cases of suspension for other reasons.

75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1547(a) and (b).

Section 3755 for Reports by Emergency Room Personnel

Another statute relevant in many DUI cases involving injury is 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755, entitled “[r]eports by emergency room personnel.” In pertinent part, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755 provides:

3755. Reports by emergency room personnel

(a) General rule.—If, as a result of a motor vehicle accident, the person who drove, operated or was in actual physical control of the movement of any involved motor vehicle requires medical treatment in an emergency room of a hospital and if probable cause exists to believe a violation of section 3802 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) was involved, the emergency room physician or his designee shall promptly take blood samples from those persons and transmit them within 24 hours for testing to the Department of Health or a clinical laboratory licensed and approved by the Department of Health and specifically designated for this purpose…. Test results shall be released upon request of the person tested, his attorney, his physician or governmental officials or agencies.

75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3755(a).

A panel of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has previously explained:

…together, sections 1547 and 3755 comprise a statutory scheme which, under particular circumstances, not only imply the consent of a driver to undergo chemical or blood tests, but also require hospital personnel to withdraw blood from a person, and release the test results, at the request of a police officer who has probable cause to believe the person was operating a vehicle while under the influence.

Commonwealth v. Seibert, 799 A.2d 54, 64 (Pa.Super.2002) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Conclusion

The court in Commonwealth v. Defer, 1119 MDA 2014, 2016 WL 1587016 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2016) seems to suggest that “implied consent” without actual consent might be an exception to the warrant requirement for a blood test in a DUI case. Other courts in other states have soundly rejected this approach. Only time will tell the true impact of the Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013) in Pennsylvania.


Michael Skinner is a DUI defense attorney with offices in West Chester in Chester County and Media in Delaware County, PA. He represent clients after a breath test, blood test or refusal. 

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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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What Happens after a First DUI in Delaware County, PA?

Traffic Stop

The vast majority of DUI cases in Delaware County, PA, involve a person who has no prior charges for DUI. In fact, in many of these cases, the person has no criminal record of any kind. A person arrested for a first offense DUI is unlikely to be arrested for another crime in the future. For this reasons, the Pennsylvania legislature has created the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.

ARD is a pre-trial divisionary program that allows the record to be dismissed and expunged at the end of the case. Each county has its own eligibility requirements for ARD in DUI cases. In Delaware County, PA, eligibility is determined on a case by case basis by the district attorney’s office. During the screening process, certain aggravating circumstances might make a person automatically ineligible for ARD including:

  1. a prior conviction for a misdemeanor or felony offense;
  2. a prior ARD disposition within the past ten years;
  3. the driver did not have a valid driver’s license at the time of the DUI because it was suspended, revoked or cancelled;
  4. the current DUI involves serious bodily injury of any person other than the defendant (75 Pa. C.S.A. 3807 (a)(2)(ii)); or
  5. a passenger under the age of 14 years old was in the vehicle at the time of the DUI (75 Pa. C.S.A. 3807 (a)(2)(iii)).

What Happens in the DUI-ARD Program?

To enter the DUI ARD Program in Delaware County, PA, the applicant must agree to complete certain requirements within a certain timeline. The participants are supervised under terms very similar to probation. The maximum period of supervision is two years, although in most cases it can be completed much faster.

To be accepted into the program, the defendant must submit to a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation. In some cases, treatment or counseling is recommended. If counseling or treatment is recommended then it must be successfully completed.

For DUI cases involving a refusal to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, the arresting officer must send the “refusal form” to PennDOT and the District Attorney’s Office prior to the ARD hearing. To be eligible for the ARD Program, the applicant must apply for the program 14 days before the formal arraignment. The date of the formal arraignment will be set by the magistrate judge at the time of the preliminary hearing. [Click here to read more about the preliminary hearing in a DUI case in Delaware County, PA].

After the ARD program is completed successfully, the participant can petition the court to have the DUI charge dismissed and the case expunged. On the other hand, if the participant does not successfully complete the program then the person is removed from the program and put on a trial calendar.

If you were arrested for a first offense DUI in Delaware County, PA, you might have the option of entering the ARD program. Call Attorney Michael Skinner to learn more about how an attorney can help you get accepted into the ARD program and help you complete it as quickly as possible so that the record can be expunged.

If you are not eligible for ARD because of an aggravating factor or because of your prior record, then Michael Skinner can help you fight the charges in court.

Documents Required for the ARD Program in Delaware County, PA

Talk with an attorney at the Skinner Law Firm about applying for the ARD program in Delaware County. If you decide to enter the program, your attorney will submit several different documents to the Court Administrator at the courthouse located Media, PA. Those documents include:

  1. The Entry of Appearance by the attorney who will represent you during the application process;
  2. A form that Waives the Arraignment;
  3. The ARD Application;
  4. The ARD Rule 600 Waiver Form.

Completing the ARD Program

In most cases, when you enter the ARD program in Media, PA, you will be required to follow several terms and conditions before you can successfully complete the program. The prosecutors with the District Attorney’s Office in Delaware County specifically reserve the right to modify the standard terms depending on the fact of the case.

Participants in the program are generally classified into three tiers:

  • Tier I applies to a BAC between 0.08%  and 0.99% and requires 12 months of probation and 16 hours community service;
  • Tier II requires 12 months of probation and 32 hours of community service and applies to:
    • a BAC between 0.10%  and 0.159%,
    • to young people under 21 years old; and
    • to cases involving an accident;
  • Tier III requires 12 months of probation and 64 hours of community service and applies to:
    • any BAC over 0.16%;
    • a case involving drugs or controlled substances; or
    • any refusal to submit to a breath, blood or urine test.

In certain types of cases, you might be able to have the community service hours reduced if you complete certain requirements within 60 days of the waiver of your preliminary hearing. Those conditions include:

  • you waive the preliminary hearing;
  • you submit to a CRN Evaluation;
  • you complete the reduced number of community service hours;
  • you complete the Safe Driving Course; and
  • you schedule a drug and alcohol evaluation if it is required.

If you complete the above terms within the time allowed then you may only have to complete half of the community service hours that are otherwise required.

Entering the ARD program in Delaware County will cost approximately $1250. Unless your attorney has made prior arrangements with the District Attorney’s Office, the payment must be made with cash, check, money order, or Visa on the day of your ARD hearing. You must also pay a supervision fee of $35 per monthly or at the court appearance.

Additional Resources

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition ARD Unit in Delaware County
 – Visit the website of the Office of the District Attorney for Delaware County, John J. Whelan, to learn more about the ARD Unit. Find contact information for the Chief and Supervisor of the ARD Unit including their phone number and email address.

Frequently Asked Questions About ARD and DUI in Delaware County – Visit the website for the Court of Common Pleas in Delaware County, PA, to find frequently asked questions from Adult Probation and Parole. Find information about having the A.R.D. expunged, obtaining the expungement packet for the ARD case, what happens after a person is removed from the A.R.D. program, and how to schedule the Alcohol Safe Driving Classes or Track 1 Out-Patient DUI Classes.

Department of Diagnostic Services in Delaware County – Find contact information and office hours for Diagnostic Services in the Court House and Government Center Complex located at 201 West Front Street in Media, PA 19063. Diagnostic Services is responsible for completing all Court-ordered evaluations both from the Magisterial District Justice System, as well as the Court of Common Pleas within the Thirty-Second Judicial District. Those services include the Court Reporting Network (C.R.N.) Evaluation which is required in every DUI offense. Also find a list of approved DUI treatment providers located in and around Delaware County including in Drexel Hill, Chester, Media, Upper Darby, Brookhaven, Lima, Sharon Hill, Newton Square, PA.

Lawyer for a First DUI in Delaware County, PA

The ARD program applies to a variety of offenses including DUI cases. Recent statistics in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania show that approximately 90% of the men and women in the ARD program were arrested for DUI. The purpose of the pre-trial program is to help the participant understand the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol so the offense is not repeated. The ARD also allows for a faster resolution in these cases which saves money and allows the criminal justice system to focus on more serious cases.

After an arrest for a first offense of driving under the influence in Delaware County, PA, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Skinner Law Firm. Michael Skinner is focused on fighting DUI cases involving either a high BAC after a breath or blood test, or a case involving a refusal to submit to test. Talk with an attorney for first DUI in Delaware County, PA.

Call Michael Skinner to learn more about the benefits of entering the ARD program so that your record can be expunged. Call 610-565-3320 today to discuss your case.

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Do I Need an Attorney for ARD after a DUI Arrest in Delaware County, PA?

One of the most common questions a person might ask after a DUI arrest in Chester County or Delaware County, PA, is whether they need to hire a criminal defense attorney to help them enter the ARD program. ARD stands for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program used in the courts throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

With offices in West Chester and Media, PA, we help clients enter and successfully complete ARD so the DUI record can be expunged. We understand the requirements of the ARD Program in Chester County and the ARD Program in Delaware County, PA. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call for a free consultation.

What is the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program in Pennsylvania?

As previously explained by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania:

The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program is a special pre-trial intervention program for non-violent offenders who have a limited or no prior record. The A.R.D. program takes a “rehabilitative” stance instead of a punitive one. The purpose of A.R.D. is to determine, at an early stage, defendants who will respond to the treatment and education and, therefore, decrease their chance of future incidents of the same nature. A.R.D. is completely voluntary and the defendant must ask to be accepted into the program. Pa. R.Crim. P. 313(A).

Lihota v. Dep’t of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing, 811 A.2D 1117, 1118, n. 2 (Pa. Cmwlth.2002).

The Benefits of Hiring an Attorney for the DUI ARD Program

The benefits of hiring an experienced DUI Defense attorney for an ARD case in Pennsylvania include:

Determining Eligibility: The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm are experienced with helping men and women enter and complete the ARD program. When the program is completed, we help our clients expunge the record as quickly as possible. We believe in proving a full service approach.

As a preliminary matter, we can help you determine during our first meeting whether you are eligible for the ARD program in Chester County or Delaware County, PA. Determining eligibility is important for two reasons:

  • First, our clients want to know up front whether they are eligible for ARD so that the record can be expunged. If they are not eligible, then our clients want to know how to mount an aggressive defense to fight to avoid a conviction and the other direct and indirect consequences that come with the conviction (jail, fines, suspension, a criminal record, etc.); and
  • Second, in order to obtain the full benefits of ARD, a client must waive their preliminary hearing. If a client is not eligible for ARD, then waiving the preliminary may be a wasted opportunity to “lock the witness” into a statement and preserve any pretrial issues, including suppression and credibility issues.

Protect Against Over Zealous Police/Prosecutor: Police and prosecutors are experienced in the law and are not looking out for your best interest. Police often over charge and prosecutors sometime fail to disclose exculpatory evidence. An experienced DUI defense attorney in Pennsylvania can help make sure that police and prosecutors play by the rules. An experience attorney will level the playing field by looking out for your best interest.

In some instances, the District Attorney’s Office in Delaware County or Chester County, PA, may deny your ARD application without justification. In those instances, an attorney can file an appeal and get you approved for the program. In other instances, the DA’s office may push extra conditions on you without cause. An attorney can challenge those extra conditions and save you the additional time and money you would have spent completing those unwarranted conditions.

Get Accurate Information/Advice: Relying on information found online can be dangerous because that information is not always reliable or accurate. Since every county administers the ARD program differently, local attorneys know the unwritten rules and customs. Local attorneys understand the judge and the procedures used in that courtroom that can be used to your advantage.

We have represented hundreds of men and women in the ARD program and our experience will guide you safely through the programs. We can help you with unexpected issues that come up. Having the security and peace of mind that you are getting correct and accurate advice cannot be understated. We help our clients deal with issues surrounding:

  • Travel restriction. Once you are on ARD, you will not be freely allowed to travel outside Pennsylvania (let alone outside the country) without court approval.
  • What to expect during the CRN evaluation, what kind of questions will be asked, and how long the evaluation will last.
  • What to expect during the the alcohol highway safety school , i.e. safe driving course.
  • Tips to get the community service hours waived and/or reduced.
  • Best practices when attending the drug and alcohol assessment. We know which treatment facilities have longer wait times and which will likely require treatment. We can help direct clients exactly where to go, how much it will costs, and what to expect so that there are no surprises.
  • Tips to make sure you get your driver’s license back after the ARD suspension and that you get it on time. PennDOT often fails to return the license on time after a suspension.
  • How to avoid paying unnecessary ARD costs.
  • How to get on non-reporting probation and avoid reporting probation.
  • What to expect while on probation.

Avoiding Complication/ARD removal – Pro se individuals who attempt to represent themselves in the courtroom without an attorney will not be treated any different by the court than those with an attorney. That means you will be expected to know all the local and state rules pertaining to the ARD process. Failure to follow any rule or requirement may result in you being denied ARD or being removed from ARD. It is not uncommon to see pro se individuals denied ARD because of some “technical reason.”

Expunging the Record – After successful completion of ARD, you are entitled to petition to expunge the record. However, it is up to you (the accused) to file the paperwork and to make sure it gets done correctly. In Pennsylvania, the DUI record is not automatically expunged. The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm provide this service for our clients.

Attorneys for DUI ARD in Chester and Delaware County, PA

The DUI defense attorneys at the Skinner Law Firm are familiar with the requirements of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program in Chester County and Delaware County, PA. If eligible, we can get you into the program so that you can complete the requirements as quickly as possible. We also help you expunge the record at the first opportunity so that you can put the case behind you and move on with your life.

Some people, including employers and licensing boards, may mistakenly believe a charge is actually a conviction. Expunging the record is a completely separate legal process. In fact, it is the main benefit of entering the ARD program so it is important to make sure the record is expunged. The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm handle expunging the record as part of the DUI case, so that our clients don’t need to worry about clearing the record on their own.

Call us to discuss the case today.

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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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Alcohol Is Not the Only Way to Get a DUI in Pennsylvania this Labor Day

iStock_000011301925SmallLabor Day holiday weekend is unofficially the end of summer for many Pennsylvanians. This leads to many people with the day off work Monday staying out late one last time during the weekend.

Whether its cookouts or nights out at local bars, many people will partake in alcoholic beverages. Increased police presence and the likelihood of possible roadblocks serve their intended purpose and keep many drunk drivers from getting on the roads.

But officers appear to have other targets in mind this year.

LancasterOnline reported on August 23 that DUI task forces in Lancaster County and across Pennsylvania would not only be participating in the National “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign for the two weekends through Labor Day, but special attention would be given to “drugged driving.” Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Association executive director C. Stephen Erni told LancasterOnline that there were 4,694 drugged-driving crashes in Pennsylvania in 2014.

“It’s the new DUI,” the DUI Association’s George Geisler told LancasterOnline. “In short, alcohol arrests are going down, drugged-driving arrests are going up.”

According to the DUI Association, 39 percent of the 52,636 DUI arrests last year in Pennsylvania involved drivers who were charged under the drugged-driving section of state law. That figure was an increase from the 31 percent of arrests in 2013, and more than tripled the 12 percent of DUI arrests it comprised in 2004.

Motorists who are operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance should be aware that this means not having alcohol on their breath will not prevent them from being charged with DUI. In fact, LancasterOnline reported that the state has been training police officers as drug-recognition experts (DREs) for several years now.

A DRE is trained to administer a series of tests to form an opinion about whether and to what extent a driver might be impaired by drugs. In Pennsylvania, they recognize the effects of seven major categories of drugs. LancasterOnline said the first DRE was certified in 2004 and there are now 150 in Pennsylvania.

The most important thing drivers should keep in mind is that a motorist does not need to be under the influence of an illegal drug to be charged with a drugged-driving DUI. Geisler noted that a person could be arrested for being under the influence of a legal, illegal, prescription, or over the counter drug.

“It doesn’t matter,” Geisler told LancasterOnline. “If it’s an impairing substance, you’re going to be convicted of DUI.”

The use of DREs is certainly not without its flaws, and many of the conclusions drawn by these officers are extremely subjective. If you are arrested and charged with a drugged-driving DUI in Lancaster County, Chester County, or a surrounding area of Pennsylvania, you should immediately contact an experienced West Chester DUI attorney.

DREs largely serve the purpose of confirming the drug-related DUI suspicions of the arresting officers, but their independent opinions are usually based on tests that are no more reliable than the field sobriety tests used in traditional alcohol-related DUI stops. A conviction is never automatic following a drugged-driving arrest, and your lawyer can conduct an investigation that may determine important police errors that get your criminal charges reduced or completely dismissed.

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