West Chester Criminal Defense Blog Posts and Articles | Skinner Law Firm

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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Voluntary Departure: When Self Deportation is the Best Option for Noncitizens

Passports

Voluntary departure is a form of immigration relief. Its meaning is exactly how its read – a person voluntarily agrees to depart the United States. It is usually the best option for people who truly have no other form of relief, and wish to one day return to the United States to live, work, study or tour.

If granted, a noncitizen can leave the United States on his or her own terms (up to a period of 120 days) and more importantly, leave without the stigma of an Order of Removal imposed against him or her. With an Order of Removal, a person would be barred from entering the United States or obtaining an immigration benefit for a certain number of years.

However, it is only available to certain applicants who meet a certain set of criteria. Characteristics that make a person ineligible for voluntary departure no matter when it is requested, including persons who were previously granted voluntary departure, arriving aliens, aggravate felons and terrorists. In addition, a very important factor for voluntary departure is when it is requested – before, during or after removal (deportation) proceedings.

Requesting Before Commencement of Removal Proceedings

Requesting voluntary departure before any immigration hearing is scheduled is the most flexible option. The noncitizen would work out an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and without a judge’s inquiry into any negative characteristics, such as police contact.

If granted, DHS may give a person up to 6 months (120) days to leave. This allows the most amount of time to have arrangements made for housing leases, moving expenses, bank accounts, employment terminations and family arrangements.

Requesting During (at the Beginning) of Immigration Proceedings

The first hearing in removal proceedings is the Master Hearing. In order to be granted the same departure benefits as Section A (above), the noncitizen must request voluntary departure at the Master Hearing. When a noncitizen requests voluntary departure from an immigration judge, he or she must admit certain facts and give up certain rights.

The noncitizen must admit he or she is removable, must give up the right to appeal and must give up the right to apply for any other type of immigration benefit. For example, an applicant cannot request voluntary departure and cancellation of removal, asylum, TPS or other humanitarian protections at the same time. An immigration judge has wide discretion in granting or denying voluntary departure.

Requesting At the Conclusion of Removal Proceedings

Even if a noncitizen fights removal, there is still a chance to request voluntary departure. However, the law is much stricter at this point. If granted, the noncitizen will only have 60 days to leave the United States.

In order to be eligible for voluntary departure at the end of removal proceedings, a noncitizen must prove he or she:

  • Has been physically present in the United States for at least one year;
  • Has been a person of “good moral character” for the past 5 years;
  • Does not have a conviction for an aggravated felony;
  • Has the means (financial and travel ability) to leave the United States;
  • Will post a bond (at least $500) ordered by the immigration judge;
  • Can show valid travel documentation, including a valid passport.

The consequences of a denial of voluntary departure are severe: the noncitizen not only must leave the United States, but he or she will be subject to a Removal Order. A Removal Order prevents a person from entering the United States for a period of not less than 5 years. There may also be time bars based on accrual of any unlawful status. A denial of voluntary departure cannot be appealed.

Voluntary departure may be the best option, especially since it allows a person to one day become eligible for an immigration benefit. This is incredibly important for families, students and people who have built their careers within the United States.

If you are interested in seeking voluntary departure, then contact an experienced immigration attorney in Pennsylvania at Skinner Law Firm today. Our offices are located in Media in Delaware County and West Chester in Chester County, PA. Call (267) 388-3476 today.

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What Happens after a Hit and Run in Delaware County, PA?

Car Crash Picture

If your car crashes into another person’s car causing damage, and a person is in that vehicle at the time of the crash, then the law requires you to stop at the scene, provide certain information, and render aid to any injured person.

If you leave the scene without fulfilling these duties, then you can be charged with “hit and run” under section 3743 and 3744 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. According to subsection (b) of section 3743, the charge of hit and run is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Law enforcement agencies in Delaware County and Chester County have special procedures that they follow after a hit and run. In many case, the officers will try and track down the driver by going to their house or place of employment.

If you have already left the scene and a criminal investigation has begun, then you are not required to make a statement. Your best course of action is to immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who can help you invoke your rights and work to resolve the case under the best possible terms.

What if I Didn’t Know About the Crash?

Although the statute does not contain a “mens rea” element explaining the driver’s state of mind, the court have imposed a requirement that the defendant must have “known or should have known” that he or she was involved in the accident. In Commonwealth v. Woosnam, 819 A.2d 1198 (Pa.Super. 2003), the Superior Court found that the trial court must give an instruction on the “known or should have known” element of the crime, even though the mens rea element is not found in the statutory language of section 3743.

The courts have also held that the scienter requirement must be proven through either direct proof or by circumstantial evidence from which knowledge could reasonably be inferred. If the court fails to properly instruct the jury on the knowledge requirement then that failure would be reversible error that would require a new trial.

If you were charged with hit and run resulting in damage to another vehicle or other property then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Skinner Law Firm.

The criminal defense attorneys at the Skinner Law Firm represent clients charged with hit and run throughout Chester County including West Chester, PA. We also represent clients in the City of Chester, the borough of Media, and the surrounding areas of Delaware County, PA.

Call us to discuss any criminal violation of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.

Elements of Hit and Run under Section 3743

To prove the crime of accidents involving damage to attended vehicle or property (often called “hit and run”) a violation of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code found in Section 3743, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant was driving a vehicle that he or she knew or should have known was involved in an accident that resulted only in damage to a vehicle or other property that was driven or attended by any person; and
  2. The defendant violated two duties:
    • the duty to stop and remain at the scene of the accident; and
    • the duty to give information and render aid to the injured person.

The Duty to Stop after a Crash in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law provides that the driver has a duty to stop his or her vehicle immediately at the scene of the accident while obstructing traffic as little as possible, or as close to the scene as possible. The law also provides that the driver must remain at the scene until he or she performs the second duty which is to give information and render aid.

The driver’s duty to give information requires the driver to give the following information:

  1. name;
  2. address;
  3. registration number of the vehicle.

Additional information, such as driver’s license and proof of insurance must be presented if requested by any of the following:

  1. any police officer at the scene of the accident;
  2. the driver of any vehicle involved in the crash; or
  3. any police officer investigating the accident.

In the event that the driver or person attending to the driver is not in the condition to receive the information that the driver is required to give, then the driver must give the information to any police officer that is present.

If no police officer is present under those circumstances, then the driver must still do the following:

  1. stop and remain at the scene;
  2. provide information and render aid (as much as possible);
  3. report the accident to the nearest office of a duly authorized police department;
  4. submit to the department the information previously described pertaining to the duty to provide information.

The Pennsylvania Suggested Criminal Jury Instructions for Hit and Run Resulting in Damage to Vehicle or Property are found at 17.3743.

We Defend Against Hit and Run Charges

If you were arrested for a hit and run in Chester County including West Chester, or in the County of Delaware including the borough of Media, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Skinner Law Firm. Call 610-436-1410 today to discuss your case and possible defenses to this third degree misdemeanor.

We represent clients charged with leaving the scene of a crash without fulfilling their duties to stop at the scene and provide information. If you were charged with “hit and run” under section 3743 or 3744 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, or believe you might be, then contact a criminal defense attorney at the Skinner Law Firm. We can begin your defense today.

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What to Expect During a Green Card Marriage Interview at USCIS

Gavel Law Scales of Justice

 

One of the most scrutinized, carefully reviewed areas of immigration law is obtaining a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen. Not only is this one of the fastest ways to obtain a green card, but it is one of the fastest ways to obtain U.S. citizenship. With a green card, spouses are free to live, work and travel to and from the United States.

Even in the case of divorce, most green card recipients can retain their lawful status and eventually obtain citizenship. As a result, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials are always on the prowl for fraudulent marriages. If caught in a fraudulent marriage, both the petitioner and beneficiary could be charged criminally, and the beneficiary could be deported.

In order to deter fraudulent marriages, both the U.S. spouse and the immigrant beneficiary must attend a marriage interview. During the interview, USCIS officials will be looking for signs of a “bona fide” marriage – in other words, a real and legitimate marriage, not one that was entered into for the sole reason of obtaining a green card. A USCIS official will carefully review all paperwork submitted and will want to question the parties. Here is what to expect before, during and after a green card marriage interview.

What to Do Prior to the Marriage Interview

Prior to the interview, all applicants and petitioners will need to submit relevant evidence. Required documents include birth certificates, copies of passports, photographs, and a marriage certificate. Married couples will also be asked to submit evidence of a real marriage. It is important to start gathering this evidence prior to filing any applications. Having sufficient evidence of a bona fide marriage before an interview makes a tremendous difference.

Both the petitioner and beneficiary also have additional requirements. A petitioner will have to submit evidence of financial support of his or her immigrant spouse. A beneficiary will have to undergo a medical exam to prove no health-related grounds of inadmissibility. Submitting proof of these requirements before the marriage interview will make the process that much easier.

What to Expect During the Marriage Interview

Unfortunately, due to wait times, couples may actually spend more time in the waiting room than in the actual marriage interview. Once in the actual interview, a USCIS official will review all paperwork and may ask brief questions. Common questions include asking how the couple met, when they got married and where they currently live.

So long as the USCIS official is satisfied, the green card application will be granted. However, some couples by the very nature of their marriage may catch the scrutiny of immigration officials. Common traits that are sometimes given extra scrutiny include:

  • Large Age Gaps: Large age gaps will draw attention of USCIS because different age groups tend to have different interests. USCIS will take notice of a foreign text-savvy millennial married to an old-school baby boomer.
  • Short Engagements: USCIS officials may question the validity of a marriage when a couple had a very short engagement/courtship, or only met in person once or twice prior to a proposal.
  • Vast Social and Cultural Differences: People of all religions, languages, races and socio-economic backgrounds fall in love, but vast differences including one spouse’s extreme religious practice and another’s suspicious cultural beliefs will be questioned.
  • Uninformed Spouses: Understandably, spouses may not know each and every detail about their loved ones. However, not knowing each other’s birthday, the names of their in-laws, or their spouse’s occupation is troublesome.
  • Daily Living Arrangements: Not every spouse can pinpoint exactly where the blender or vacuum is located in the shared house, but all spouses should know how many rooms, bathrooms and garages there are in the home.
  • Too Young & Too In Love: Very young couples sometimes don’t have years of financial stability and matureness to prove a bona fide relationship, or at least one that they intend to last.
  • Marriage in Removal: The most scrutinized marriages are those entered into during removal proceedings. Couples are subject to a second interview involving intense questioning to determine if the sole reason for marriage was to prevent deportation.

Couples tend to show a bona fide marriage through a variety of ways, including submitting photographs, joint bank accounts, and joint rental leases. Even with the submission of these documents, USCIS officials are trained to inquire deeper than the actual documents.

They may ask follow up questions such as when were the submitted photographs were really taken; have there been actual withdrawals/deposits into the joint bank accounts; do both parties truly live at the rental address, and so on. Here, the motto ‘more is less’ comes into play: the more evidence of a bona fide marriage, the less scrutiny it will draw, even if any of the above scenarios apply.

What Happens After the Marriage Interview

If everything goes well, a beneficiary’s adjustment is usually granted and a green card is mailed out shortly thereafter. If USCIS officials remain suspicious, however, the couple may be sent to a second interview known as the marriage fraud interview. The purpose of this interview is to root out serious inconsistencies of the parties’ statements. The parties are usually separated and asked questions which may be very personal and specific, including:

  • What side of the bed does your spouse sleep on?
  • What did you spouse eat for breakfast this morning?
  • Who paid the last electric bill?
  • Who is your spouse’s best friend?

In extreme situations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents may do their own supplemental investigation. Whether your case involves one or two interviews, having an attorney can make all the difference. If you and your spouse cannot submit proof of a bona fide marriage, it may be more difficult to obtain a green card.

Thus, preparation for a marriage interview – or a subsequent marriage fraud interview – is essential. If an application to adjust status is denied, the consequences range from forfeiture of fees to initiation of removal proceedings.

We Represent Clients in Green Card Marriage Interviews

If you are facing a marriage interview at any USCIS office, call us today. We are experienced in all matters of immigration law, including green card applications and marriage interviews. We have offices in Westchester in Chester County, PA, and in Media in Delaware County, PA.

Contact us today at 267-388-3476 to schedule a consultation with one of our immigration lawyers and to discuss your particular case.

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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.

Posted in Drunk Driving / DUI, DUI in Delaware County, DUI in Media Delaware County, DUI in West Chester | Tagged , | Comments Off on Do I Need an Attorney for ARD after a DUI Arrest in Delaware County, PA?

Sexual Offender Registration Requirements Under Recently Expanded Meghan’s Law

Crimes

In 2006, President Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. As an update to “Meghan’s laws,” the Act created a national sex offender registry and greatly expanded the government’s and public’s ability to monitor sex offenders. The most restrictive part of the law is commonly known as SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act). Under SORNA, a state must implement a program in which defendants convicted of certain offenses must register with the database for a certain period of years.

As of 2012, Pennsylvania has complied with these stringent SORNA requirements. But what does it really mean to be a sex offender under this new law? More specifically, what are the consequences of being convicted of a SORNA offense? Below is an outline of the law’s requirements.

CRIMES

Under the law, the term sex offender is actually broader than its common meaning. Anyone convicted of a sex-related offense such as rape, sexual assault, incest or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, must register under SORNA. In addition, the law covers many crimes against children, such as child pornography, luring a child into a vehicle, corruption of minors (certain sections of the statute) and child prostitution/exploitation.

However, violent offenses are not the only crimes covered by SORNA. A defendant convicted of unlawfully restraining, kidnaping, falsely imprisoning or trafficking a minor must register. A defendant convicted of invasion of privacy, video voyeurism or certain online offenses must also register. In addition, institutional sexual assault includes not only the commonly-cited student/teacher relationship, but also extends to guards/inmates, youth counselors/juveniles, and sexual conduct within mental health facilities. These defendants must also register under SORNA.

REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

Depending on the specific statute and prior criminal history, a defendant must register for a certain period of time. Offenders are classified as either Tier I offenders (15 year registration – must register and be photographed once a year), Tier II offenders (25 year registration – must register and be photographed twice a year), or Tier III offenders (lifetime registration – must register and be photographed every 3 months).

All offenders must register in each state he or she resides, works or goes to school. If an offender does not have a personal residence or is in transient, he or she must register once a month and provide a description of where he or she frequents. When registering, defendants must have new photographs taken and supply all biographic information, including telephone numbers, email accounts, social security number, social media accounts, licenses, passports, DNA, fingerprints and any changes in the above. If an offender wishes to travel outside the United States, he or she must notify the registrant.  All this must be done in person and within a specific period of time, although there are mailing exceptions. Natural disasters and personal problems do not allow a sexual offender to miss a deadline to register. A violation or misrepresentation of the registration or photograph requirements is a felony, punishable by mandatory jail time.

Under SORNA, the following information is publicly available online: an offender’s name, photograph, primary address, employment address, date of birth, physical description including tattoos and scars, vehicle information including make, model and license plate number, offense information, and compliance status. The public can access this information for as long as an offender’s registration period remains.

SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATORS

In very serious circumstances, an offender may be deemed a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). After an evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB), a court may find an offender is likely to engage in predatory behavior. SOAB allows for the monitoring and community notification of these potentially dangerous individuals. When an SVP moves to a new residence or is released from prison, written notice must be provided to neighbors, HOA boards, schools, day care centers, colleges and universities, and CYS departments within a certain radius of his or her residence. The notice includes a photograph of the offender.

 

As one can see from above, sexual and child offenses are serious crimes. If you have been charged with a SORNA offense, you will likely have to register as a sex offender even if the offense did not involve sex. Be sure to contact a qualified attorney regarding the specifics of your case.

Posted in Pennsylvania Statutes, Sex Crime, Violent Crimes | Comments Off on Sexual Offender Registration Requirements Under Recently Expanded Meghan’s Law

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.

Posted in Current Events, Driver's License, Drunk Driving / DUI, DUI Checkpoints | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Expect DUI Checkpoints This Halloween Season

Rise in Prosecutions under Third Degree Murder in Cases Involving Homicide While DUI

DUI Checkpoint

There are many cases that have come up in the news involving murder charges and DUI. Oklahoma authorities recently charged Adacia Chambers of DUI and second-degree murder, when she allegedly crashed through a crowd of homecoming spectators, killing four people. Just this month, defendants in Virginia, Kentucky and California were convicted of felony murder after causing fatal accidents while DUI. How does this relate to Pennsylvania law?

Pennsylvania has seen its share of DUI-related murder cases. In 2014, one defendant from Delaware County was found guilty of third-degree murder after consuming the equivalent of seven drinks and causing multiple vehicle crashes, ultimately killing a woman. That same year, a Lancaster man pled guilty to third-degree murder for the killing of a high school student, after going on a reckless driving, weaving and alcohol/heroin binge.  Just a year prior, another defendant from Philadelphia pled guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 10—20 years in prison, after killing a decorated Philadelphia police officer while DUI. In each of these cases, the defendants were charged with Homicide by Vehicle – DUI Related, but ultimately convicted of murder.

It begs the question why some cases are prosecuted under the severest vehicle code violation (Homicide by Vehicle – DUI Related), rather than one of the severest criminal code violations (murder). Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3735 – Homicide by Vehicle – DUI Related, a defendant is guilty if he or she unintentionally causes the death of another person while DUI. This crime is graded as a second-degree felony with sentence of 3 – 10 years’ incarceration. In contrast, under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502(c), third-degree murder is classified as “all other kinds of murder” that is committed with malice, and not intentional or committed in the course of a felony.  Third-degree murder is graded as a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 40 years’ incarceration.

As you can see from above, vehicular homicide while DUI specifically addresses unintentional behavior. Under the crimes code, however, criminal homicide involves intentional, knowing, reckless or negligent behavior, which is ultimately classified as murder or manslaughter.   Homicide, therefore, can incorporate unintentional, but grossly reckless behavior. Thus, in cases where the defendant is a repeat DUI offender or cases which involve drastic facts and unconscionable behavior while DUI, wouldn’t prosecutors want to pursue lengthier murder charges, as opposed to vehicular homicide charges?

The answer to that may be unanswerable. The decision to pursue charges under the vehicle code or criminal code is ultimately up to the prosecutor. It is a prosecutor’s burden to prove each and every element of an offense. The term malice relates to a defendant’s behavior and state of mind. Jurors may ultimately disagree whether a person driving while DUI actually has a malicious state of mind. However, recent cases in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States have shown that prosecutors are stepping up in how they treat DUI-related homicide cases. This may mean an increase in prosecutions under the crimes code when the defendant is DUI.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Rise in Prosecutions under Third Degree Murder in Cases Involving Homicide While DUI

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.

Posted in Drunk Driving / DUI | Tagged | Comments Off on Alcohol Is Not the Only Way to Get a DUI in Pennsylvania this Labor Day
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