Pennsylvania DUI Frequently Asked Questions
I was arrested for a DUI, but the officer never told me when I have to be in court. Does this mean that I wasn't charged?
No. Most police agencies in the State of Pennsylvania file the DUI charges directly with the District Magistrates in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred and do not give the individuals that they arrest court dates. You will receive your court notice in the mail along with a notice to submit fingerprints. The time for receiving this notice varies greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
What does this mean and is my license still valid?
Upon your arrest for DUI, assuming that you submitted to chemical testing, your license remains valid until the case is ultimately resolved in Court. Unlike many states which take administrative suspension actions against your license automatically in every DUI arrest, Pennsylvania takes no action until the case is resolved. If you are convicted of DUI or some other offenses, or submit to ARD, there will be a suspension coming. **The Refusal exception to this question: If you are deemed to have refused to submit to chemical testing, (a "refusal"), you will receive notice of an automatic license revocation from PennDot, completely independent of the Court case, likely well before the case is resolved.
Will the court hold it against me if I hire an attorney to represent me on my DUI and plead not guilty?
A resounding NO! You have an absolute right under the constitution to challenge the evidence against you. Actually, most Judges are far more comfortable dealing with clients who are represented by counsel due to the fact that many potential conflicts can arise with people trying to represent themselves. An top DUI attorney will be able to make sure that you have the advantage of all options and often times will save the client a substantial amount of time and money.
My breath/blood alcohol reading was below the legal limit. Do I have anything to worry about?
Possibly. In the State of Pennsylvania, even if your reading is below the legal limit or there are no alcohol results, the police and prosecuting attorney will proceed if they believe that there is sufficient evidence to show that even though your alcohol concentration was below the legal limit, that your ability to drive was appreciably affected by alcohol, thus charging you with a DUI. This opinion will be based upon the officer's observations and the tests that he/she conducted. Remember, the officer arrested you because he/she felt that your ability to drive was impaired so DUI charges may still be a very real possibility.
If I hire an attorney, does that mean that the case will go to trial?
Not necessarily. The vast majority of DUI cases do not go to trial. Whether or not your case will go to trial depends on far too many factors to list here.
In Pennsylvania, if my license gets suspended for a DUI arrest or conviction, can I drive for work?
You may be eligible for an Ignition Interlock License. The ability to obtain a "IIL" depends on too many variables to list here, so you should seek a detailed evaluation of your likelihood of obtaining an Ignition Interlock License from a qualified DUI Attorney. You may even be able to seek a waiver to drive employer owned vehicles without an Ignition Interlock.
What can a good DUI defense attorney do for me?
Having a good DUI defense attorney can make the experience far less stressful and try to make the best of a very bad situation. They can answer your questions, prepare you for the proceedings each step of the way, and ensure that if there is a way to help you - they will find it. Often times, a successful DUI defense may mean a substantial reduction of the charges rather than a dismissal. In this scenario, you are able to accept some responsibility, while at the same time mitigating the long term effects. Most importantly, they will communicate. If you can't communicate with your attorney, there is a good chance that no one else can either and it can make a painful chapter in your life much worse.
What is Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM)?
Electronic Home Monitoring allows you to serve your commitment within the confines of YOUR own home rather than in jail. While EHM allows you to attend your regular work schedule and/or alcohol treatment, you are restricted to your home while serving an EHM sentence, an electronic bracelet is placed around your ankle.
What is an Ignition Interlock Device?
An Ignition Interlock is a breath analyzer that is wired into your vehicle's starting system. It is about the size of a cellular phone. In order to start your vehicle, you must breathe into the IID for several seconds, if your breath alcohol level is over the predetermined limit, usually .02, your car while not start. If your breath alcohol level is below the preset limit, then your car will start, and the IID will require you to breathe into the device periodically while you are driving.
What is Work Release?
Work Release is a partial confinement program allowing individuals who are employed to continue working. While serving a work release sentence, you are allowed to go to work during the day, but must return to the corrections facility at night.
What if I am under 21 years old?
If you are a minor and provide a breath test sample of .02 or higher, the Department of Motor Vehicles will take action to suspend your license. Also, it is a crime for a minor to drive a car after consumption of alcohol over .02, thus you will face criminal penalties as well. Furthermore, if you are a minor and provide a breath test sample of .08 or higher, not only are you looking at a license suspension from the Department of Motor Vehicles, but you will be charged criminally as an adult DUI.
I don't live in Erie County, does it make sense to hire an Erie attorney that far from my home or court?
It is very likely that the only time you will actually go to your attorney's office will be for the initial consultation. All future contact will usually take place at the court or via telephone or email. The most important decision you will make in this entire process is selecting the attorney who will represent you, so why limit your choices due to a drive that you will only need to make once. Also, while not always ideal, we frequently are retained by individuals who reside outside of Pennsylvania and can make arrangements to schedule an in-depth phone consultation, removing the need to come to either of our conveniently located offices.
Should I just hire a local attorney?
If the best attorney that you can find and afford is a local one, absolutely. However, you should not accept any less solely due to proximity. Pennsylvania's top DUI attorney's, both within our firm and others, routinely practice in Courts in many jurisdictions and are generally well known and well regarded everywhere we appear. We also consider cases in the more remote parts of the State on a case by case basis. If we can't take your case, we have an excellent referral list of the top DUI attorneys around the State and will do our best to point you in the right direction.