Charged with DUI? Now What?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a crime where one drives under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance sufficient to render the driver incapable of safe driving. In simpler terms, if you can’t safely drive a car because of the presence of alcohol or drugs in your system, you’ve committed a DUI.
Pennsylvania goes farther, so that even if you are capable of safe driving, your blood alcohol content cannot be above certain levels. The higher your blood alcohol content, the more serious the charges will be.
What do I do about my DUI?
Every link in the chain of prosecution must hold strong in order to produce a conviction. The police must obtain the evidence to be used against you in a lawful manner, consistent with the requirements of the Constitution. The prosecutor must be prepared to prove to a magisterial district judge that the police had probable cause to arrest you. Finally, the prosecutor must prove all “elements” of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt before a jury of your peers.
Police Must Obtain Evidence Lawfully
The Bill of Rights provides robust protections against police intruding into your life, but these protections are not absolute. Generally, an officer must have a reason to pull your car over in the first place—he must have a reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime was in progress or had just been committed. These reasons can be fairly simple—maybe you forgot to use a blinker while turning (yes, that’s illegal), had a taillight out, or most tellingly, you were swerving around on the road or driving erratically in such a way that suggested impaired driving.
Once the officer pulls you over (assuming he did so legally), he will need to justify each further intrusion into your privacy. If the officer is relying on the result of a blood test performed on you, he will have to deal with the dictates of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Birchfield.
All of these protections sound powerful—and they are. But it’s important to remember that much of this will come down to an officer’s word vs. yours. Whether just or not, judges and juries give a lot of credence to what a police officer has to say about an encounter.
You have a right to insist on a preliminary hearing at the magisterial district judge, and to see the evidence put on against you. This step is important for your attorney in preparing certain pretrial motions.
Omnibus Pretrial Motion
One of the most powerful tools in your attorney’s tool belt is the omnibus pretrial motion. This motion allows the attorney to challenge the evidence against you, and to challenge the officer’s “probable cause” to arrest and charge you in the first place. This is an opportunity to have the charges dismissed completely. If the officer failed to collect the evidence against you in a lawful way, this is the time to challenge that. Your attorney will file a motion—a written document, filed with the court—laying out in detail the problems with the case against you, and will then attempt to prove those points in a hearing that follows.
So what about ARD?
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition is a program available to first-time, non-violent offenders, including most first-time DUIs. Upon successful completion of this program, your record is expunged, which makes ARD the most generous opportunity available to you as a defendant.
The road to successfully defending against a DUI can take many turns, and it involves a number of judgment calls. You can attempt to defend yourself, but hiring an attorney is wise, as it brings someone into the process who is knowledgeable and experienced in the options available to you. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, call the Cornerstone Law Firm today, and ask how we can help.