If you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the consequences can impact your career, reputation, financial security, driving privileges, and liberty. While a DUI arrest must be taken seriously under any circumstances, many people make the situation worse because they rely on false assumptions about DUI prosecutions. While the Best York County DUI Defense strategy involves retaining a skilled and experienced attorney, motorists arrested for DUI can improve their chances of avoiding a conviction or mitigate their punishment by avoiding certain traps and mistakes. In this blog post, our York County DUI lawyers at Coover & Associates debunk three recurring DUI myths.
Myth #1: I have no reason to hire a lawyer because this is my first DUI, so I will not face serious penalties.
While some people equate a DUI to a traffic violation like speeding, a conviction for driving under the influence is a criminal conviction. Drivers who suffer a DUI conviction, which includes a first-time offense, will have a criminal record that can be discovered by future employers, landlords, professional licensing boards, and others who conduct a background check. If a first-time offender hires an experienced DUI lawyer, the attorney can assist the accused in obtaining a form of diversion, such as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. ARD is open to first-time DUI offenders and provides for shorter (or no) license suspension, avoidance of jail time, and the opportunity to have the individual’s record expunged. Because the District Attorney has broad discretion under the ARD program, first-time DUI offenders can improve their chances of qualifying for ARD with the minimum penalties by retaining an experienced DUI defense lawyer.
Many people presume that they will be convicted because they consumed alcohol prior to driving. However, knowledgeable DUI lawyers can review the legal basis for the stop, the veracity of the officer’s purported observations prior to and during the stop, the procedures observed in performing field sobriety tests, factors that might have compromised the accuracy of chemical testing, and other evidence. While our law firm will explore the availability of ARD and other diversion options, our attorneys initially review the evidence to determine weaknesses in the prosecution case that might merit a dismissal of charges or lead to an acquittal after trial.
Myth 2: I will not be convicted of DUI because I refused to participate in chemical testing of my breath or blood.
Some motorists incorrectly assume that they cannot be convicted of DUI unless they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds .08 percent. However, a motorist can be convicted of DUI based solely on impaired mental and physical driving ability even with a BAC below this threshold. If a driver refuses to submit to BAC chemical testing, the prosecutor will attempt to prove the DUI case based on other evidence that includes:
- Poor driving by the accused (e.g., traffic violations or an accident)
- Officer’s observations of erratic driving
- Physical symptoms noted by the officer during a stop like bloodshot, watery eyes, the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath, slurred speech, and lack of coordination
- Incriminating statements by the accused
- Performance in field sobriety tests (FSTs) (if applicable)
Admittedly, the prosecutor often faces a more significant challenge in obtaining a DUI conviction without a BAC chemical test over the legal limit. The probability of avoiding a conviction based on other types of evidence often increases based on persuasive advocacy by a skilled DUI defense lawyer.
When drivers refuse to submit to chemical testing, they need to be aware that they will face an additional one year driver’s license suspension under Pennsylvania’s implied consent law on top of any DUI penalties imposed. A subsequent acquittal or dismissal of the DUI charges in the criminal case will not relieve a motorist of the one year administrative license suspension for refusing a chemical test.
Myth 3: My DUI arrest means I will spend time in jail because Pennsylvania imposes mandatory minimum sentences on DUI offenders.
While Pennsylvania does impose mandatory minimum sentences for DUI, there are alternatives that can keep convicted motorists out of jail, such as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) and Intermediate Punishment Program (IPP). Further, the prosecutor still must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt based on admissible evidence. Our law firm carefully scrutinizes police procedure and evidence to identify a legal basis for tenaciously fighting against a conviction.
If you or a family member has been arrested for DUI in York County, Lemoyne County, or Carlisle County, we invite you to call Coover & Associates today at 717-885-5830 to schedule a free consultation, so we can give you accurate information and discuss your options.