1) What is “Per se?”
“Per se” is a Latin phrase that means “by itself.” In Pennsylvania, evidence that a person drove, operated or was in control of a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is enough by itself to convict a person of DUI. A person with BAC less than 0.08% might still be convicted of DUI if there is evidence that he or she imbibed enough alcohol to make him or her incapable of safely driving, operating or being in control of a motor vehicle.
2) Can I be convicted of a DUI Based on a Prescription Medicine?
Yes. Prosecutions for DUI’s based on prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs are increasing monthly. Across the state, the State Police departments are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to train troopers to specifically look for impairment from prescription medicine.
3) Why do I need to hire an attorney?
An attorney knows the law and will guide you through the process, ensuring that your rights are not being violated. It is the job of the attorney to ensure the charges brought against you are valid and not excessive. If so, it is our job to mitigate your case and guarantee the best possible outcome for your future.
4) Are the blood and breath tests accurate?
A breathalyzer test is highly unreliable and has a very large margin of error, even when conducted properly. No blood test is 100% accurate either. Blood test performed at a hospital are highly unreliable because they are designed as a quick test to tell a doctor approximately how much alcohol is in you system, and then in turn can be quickly assessed of the level of alcohol in your body. Even gas chromatographic testing to which the government experts refer to as the “Gold Standard” has multiple isues that can be defended against. Gas chromatography is a good testing methodology when used by people who know what they are doing, everything is working correctly, and all variables are being run according to the validation study. rarely in a forensic lab do all of these things happen at the same time. In order to properly handle the DUI case, you need an attorney that understands the science behind the DUI laws and can challenge the validity of the test results and how the tests were administered in order to have the results dismissed from the court case .
5) If I’m convicted, what can happen?
It depends on the number of prior offenses you have charged against you as to the exact amount of time you will serve upon conviction of a crime. The average time served is 6 months probation to one to five years in state prison. In DUI cases you could additionally lose you driver’s license for up to 18 months, be ordered to pay fines up to $10,000, be required to have an Ignition Interlock system for one year, possible loss of your job and/or home, and you become high risk to your insurance company, which could cause your insurance rates to double and/or triple for the next five years.
6) What happens after a person is arrested?
Generally, a person who has been arrested is brought to the police station where he/she is “booked.” This means the police will take personal, historical and biographical information. The police will use this information to determine if the individual has any warrants or a criminal history in order to evaluate whether or not he/she can be released from custody and whether the payment of a bail/bond is required.
Depending upon the jurisdiction, if the authorities intend to detain an individual, the person may have a right to have their detention reviewed by a judicial official.
Generally, the police will file a criminal complaint in court and the individual will be required to appear before that court. During the arrest procedure, officers may also seize property, records, and/or materials as evidence.
7) Does a person have to speak to police after they have been arrested?
No, the US constitution, as well as the Federal and State laws, do not require an individual who has been arrested to speak to the authorities, with the exception of providing basic information about one’s identity. The decision of whether or not to speak to the police is a very important one and it should be evaluated with your attorney as soon as possible.
8) If the person who called the police or who put the criminal charges does not want to go to court or continue with the case, will the charges be taken away?
Not necessarily. Criminal charges are processed by the state/government and not by an individual. The fact that an alleged victim does not want to participate or testify, may convince the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, if there are no other witnesses or convincing source of evidence against the defendant.
The determination to dismiss a criminal charge rests with the prosecution or in certain circumstances the judge, not with a witness. In many counties in Massachusetts, the Offices of the District Attorneys/Prosecutors have policies against dismissing charges, particularly related to domestic violence, merely because a witness states that they do not want to testify.
9) What is the difference between a State criminal charge and a Federal criminal charge?
A “State” criminal charge is a violation of the law of a state that is prosecuted in the state court system. While a “Federal” criminal charge is a violation of Federal law that is prosecuted by the US attorney’s office in the Federal court system.
10) I have been told there is a warrant for my arrest. What should I do?
If there is a warrant for your arrest, it is important to review your situation with a qualified criminal lawyer so that a defense strategy can be established for your case.
11) If I am not a US citizen, what will happen with my immigration status if I am arrested?
The impact that a criminal process will have on a non-citizen depends on a number of factors, including, the immigration status of the individual, the nature of the criminal charges, and the length of time the individual has been in the US, and his eligibility for benefits under the immigration law.
In general, all criminal charges will have a direct impact on a non-citizen, even a legal permanent resident. Also, the more serious the alleged criminal offence is the more serious the impact will be. It is critical for a non US citizen/immigrant to obtain representation from an attorney that has substantial experience in both criminal and immigration law.
12) I am released on bail do I have to return to court?
Yes, the court generally will have established a hearing date for the case and you will be required to appear before the court at that time, unless otherwise directed by the court.
13) Can I change criminal defense lawyers if I am unhappy with the one representing me?
Yes, the Federal and State constitutions provide a criminal defendant with the right of representation by counsel, which has been interpreted by the courts to allow an individual the ability to hire any attorney they choose. This right does not exist in the same way, when an individual is not hiring an attorney, but using a court appointed lawyer. If you are not happy with the attorney you have hired, you should seek a new attorney as early as possible in the process of legal representation, because one of the few bases a court can deny a request to change attorneys is if there is insufficient time for the new lawyer to be prepared for trial.
It is important that the attorney understands your case and your individual circumstances as well as the law and procedures which your case involves, for example, if you are an immigrant or a non-US citizen it is critical that the attorney have a strong understanding of the immigration law as well as criminal law.
It is important that you feel comfortable and confident with the attorney that is representing you and that you understand the strategy that he is following, so that you build the necessary trust to follow your attorney’s instructions and recommendations. In our experience, a large part of the success in most legal proceedings depends on the client following such attorney instructions.
14) If I plan on pleading guilty, do I still need a defense lawyer?
The advice of a lawyer is critical to making a proper decision about the disposition of a criminal case, even if you intend to plead guilty.
15) If I get offered a plea bargain, should I take it?
Any offer or plea bargain should be evaluated carefully with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, to ensure that your rights have been protected and that you understand the short term and long term consequences of the plea.
16) Should I represent myself in a criminal case?
There is an old saying that has endured for many years and says that: A person who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer. A person generally does not have the knowledge and understanding of the law and the procedures and even if they possess that knowledge, they generally do not have the ability to evaluate their situation objectively due to their personal involvement. It is therefore, never recommended to represent yourself in a criminal case as there is a risk of serious life altering consequences.
17) Are lawyer’s results guaranteed?
No. Every case involves a number of different factors or variables that although they may be influenced and partially controlled by attorneys, they are not completely controlled by them. Results, therefore cannot be guaranteed, as they also depend on the nature of the case and the factors surrounding it. These may include, the strength of the evidence obtained by the police, the history and tendencies of the jurors and judges, the conduct of the client and witness, etc. You should consult client testimonials, years of experience, and online reviews when considering an attorney.
18) Do I have to grant the police permission to search my property?
You do not have to let the police search your property, and you should not let them. Allowing them to search is waiving your Fourth Amendment right. Be sure that they have a valid warrant before letting them search anything. Ask to see the warrant rather than just believing that they have one.
19) Can I refuse field sobriety tests in PA?
You are able to refuse the performance of field sobriety tests. You can; however, still be arrested for DUI without performing the tests. Pennsylvania does have an implied consent law when it comes to chemical tests. You are required under law to perform a chemical test when arrested for a DUI and you can face consequences if you refuse.
20) Do I have to grant the police permission to search my vehicle?
In a routine traffic stop, you do not always have to grant permission to the police to search your vehicle in PA. In most cases, they will issue a citation and apply for a search warrant. However, police do have legal permission through reasonable suspicion to search your vehicle without your permission, for instance if marijuana can be smelled from the exterior of the car.
21) Should I plead guilty to a felony charge?
You should never plead guilty to a felony charge. These charges are extremely serious and will certainly cause a detrimental impact to your life, career, and future. You should seek an attorney immediately should you be charged with a felony or expect to be charged in the near future. An experience attorney can help mitigate your case to reduced charges and/or assist your through a jury trial.
22) My driver’s license was suspended, what can I do to get it back?
It depends on the reason for suspension. Sometimes all that is required is that the person pays some outstanding tickets. DUI suspensions will require the completion of DUI school and a reinstatement fee. A more serious suspension involves multiple convictions. In those cases, there may be a lengthy waiting period without any driving and then a person can petition for limited driving privileges, or a hardship license, which allows driving for limited purposes such as work, medically necessary appointments and the like. In severe cases driving privileges will be suspended permanently without the possibility of a hardship license. Talk to your defense lawyer to learn more about the specific requirements for getting your license back.