DUI in West Chester

Impact of Birchfield v. North Dakota in Pennsylvania

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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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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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