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Philadelphia DUI Arrests & Challenges to the Case. By a criminal attorney in Philadelphia

Posted On: November 4, 2015 by Marc Neff

DUI Arrests in Philadelphia

Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases are among the most common criminal cases in Philadelphia. These cases are often complex, as they usually involve issues related to the constitutionality of the initial traffic stop and lab tests proving blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

DUI Sentencing in Pennsylvania

Sentencing for DUI convictions in Pennsylvania depends on two factors: 1. the actual BAC level, and 2. the number of prior DUI offenses, if any. In general, the higher the BAC, the more severe the punishment; prior offenses also increase punishment. Read more about DUI sentencing in Pennsylvania.

In some instances, a first time offender may be able to enter an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program. ARD allows an individual to avoid an adjudication of guilt. However, ARD is not for everyone. Multiple factors should be considered carefully prior to entering an ARD program, such as the strength/weakness of the case, personal circumstances, etc.

Legal Challenges to a DUI Criminal Case

Preliminary Legal Issues

Defending a DUI criminal case in Philadelphia often requires in-depth analysis of preliminary legal issues, the facts and circumstances surrounding the initial auto stop and subsequent proof or evidence of intoxication.

  1. Constitutional Challenges to the Traffic Stop

There may be a valid constitutional challenge to the initial stop. Did the police officer have a valid basis to conduct the initial traffic stop? If not, any subsequent evidence including field sobriety test results and BAC test results may be suppressed, and the case ultimately dismissed.

In a recent Pennsylvania court case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the suppression of evidence in a DUI case in Monroe County, Commonwealth v. Barnes (August 25, 2015). The case hinged on whether the state trooper effectively “seized” the defendant when he activated his police car lights. A narrow majority of the PA Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s holding that the trooper’s activation of the patrol car’s lights amounted to an unconstitutional seizure.

  1. Tests Proving Intoxication

In recent years, the validity of breathalyzer tests has come under scrutiny. See Commonwealth v. Schildt, (Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, 2013). Breathalyzers do not always give reliable readings. Errors with calibration, maintenance, etc., can affect validity.

In addition, there may be other issues, such as warrantless blood tests. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that in DUI cases, the fact that alcohol naturally dissipates from the blood does not constitute an exigent circumstance sufficient to justify a warrantless blood draw. See Missouri v. McNeely, (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013).

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyer – DUI Cases

For over 25 years, Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Marc Neff has been handling criminal cases in the Philadelphia area, including DUI cases in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware counties. Contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800.

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