The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania seemed to turn 360 degrees from their established DUI law when they made a decision in a particular case: State of Pennsylvania versus Haag. Understanding the outcome of this case is important if you are facing a 2nd or subsequent DUI offense in Pennsylvania.
Before the ruling in Haag’s case, if you have a DUI case pending in court and for whatever reason, you get apprehended for another DUI case, you will be considered as a second offender with more serious penalties. You must be convicted of a DUI before the 1st offense occurred for the recidivist penalties to apply.
Example – Donald Drunken drives home BuyaBeer Bar in Bedford on a Saturday night and is arrested for DUI. He is scheduled to appear in court but the date is set after 60 days. A week later, he gets arrested for DUI for the second time. He was on his way home from a drinking spree in Sweet Susie Saloon in Synder County. Applying the Haag case, both DUI's will be considered first offenses. Consequently, Donald Drunken will not be sentenced to a more serious penalty as not one is considered a second offense. Prior to the Haag trial, Donald’s second DUI offense would have been treated as a second one and merits a more severe punishment. The greater the number of DUI’s committed; the greater will be the penalties.
Just a few years ago, Pennsylvania was pronouncing severe penalties for DUI laws, by decreasing the BAC percentage needed to file a charge of intoxication. Alcohol percentage required before the new law was 10 percent to confirm driving DUI but it was lowered to only .08%. In conjunction with this development, a new set of penalties were established which made the people in Pa. know that DUI is no mean business. The 2003 change in 2003 is still in place today. So if you are planning to travel to Pennsylvania, you are aware of this traffic law.
Just like the other states, Pennsylvania’s DUI arrest follows a two prong process: one an administrative case and the second is a criminal proceeding. PennDot handles the administrative portion as they have the authority to revoke the driver’s license of the offender. To give the offender a chance to lose total driving privileges, the offender is allowed to hire a defense counsel. In as much as Pa. considers driving as a privilege sponsored by the state, DOT is careful in suspending and revoking driving privileges.
The criminal aspect of the case follows the established 2003 guidelines which became effective in 2004. There are varying penalties for first, second and third offenders.
For the Pennsylvania court, a first offense is considered as an ungraded misdemeanor. There is no jury trial provided for this type of offense so no first DUI offender undergoes a trial by jury.
Whether it is a trial with a judge presiding or trial with 12 people comprising a jury, the criminal case is based on two possible theories: culpability per se or the conventional offense of being DUI or DWI. Under the first, the prosecuting attorney has only to prove that the BAC is over the legal percentage. The driver may not even exhibit physical signs of intoxication.
In the second theory, the conventional offense is being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the prosecuting lawyer usually utilize the observations made by the arresting officer. This will go a long way in determining if the operator shows external manifestations of intoxication or impairment at the time of the arrest. Considered under the officer's observations are usual driving pattern, physical overall appearance, odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and result of the application of sobriety tests; which are all useful evidences.
Since Pennsylvania laws required the consent of the arrestees for a BAC; a criminal proceeding takes into account blood alcohol level. A criminal proceeding includes both observations and the results of chemical tests. The implied consent theory means that anyone who drives in the state of Pennsylvania has given the state his implied consent to undergo tests for any substances that might be a danger on the roads. Any driver who denies chemical testing will be responsible in depriving his trial of the necessary evidence to prove guilt or innocence that maybe the reason for a obligatory one-year nullification of his driving privilege. Therefore an implied consent still gives a driver the freedom to refuse, but at a very high cost.
The penalty and the defense for DUI trial comes at a very high cost. The best solution is not to drive when you are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol and driving do not mix as water and oil.
If you have received a traffic ticket, please contact an experienced DUI LAWYER. Protect right to drive legally.