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Drunk Driving

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Mandatory interlock law signed by governor

Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 290 has become law as it was signed by the governor on May 25. This legislation, slated to go into effect in 2017, requires that first-time DUI offenders with blood alcohol levels of .10 or higher have their vehicles outfitted with ignition interlock units. This type of system prevents the starting of a vehicle if, when it is blown into, it indicates that the prospective driver has a BAC in excess of a programmed level.

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by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

First-time offenders may have to use interlock devices

On May 16, legislators in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 193 to 2 to expand the ignition interlock device from repeat DUI offenders to include most first-time DUI offenders as well. The measure will now be returned to the state Senate for its vote. It is likely that it will pass since the Senate voted for a similar measure 47 to 0 last fall. The governor is expected to sign the new bill into law when he receives it.

The new law would allow first-time DUI offenders who had blood alcohol concentrations of between .10 and .15 to receive restricted licenses with ignition interlock installations instead of having their licenses suspended for one year. This would allow them to drive to school, work or the store as long as they were able to provide alcohol-free breath samples.

The bill would expand the use of ignition-interlock devices to around 30,000 Pennsylvanians every year. It would not be available for drivers of commercial vehicles or those who caused DUI fatalities. Proponents of the measure point out that giving the ignition interlock licenses would allow first-time offenders to continue leading productive lives after they are arrested for DUI. Critics point out that ignition-interlock devices simply stop behavior rather than positively changing it for the long term, according to research.

The mandatory installation and use of ignition interlock devices is just one of many serious consequences people who are convicted of drunk driving may face. People may also be sentenced to terms of incarceration, face substantial fines, be ordered to attend mandatory alcohol treatment and be placed on probation. A criminal defense attorney might choose to combat the charge by challenging the manner in which the test was conducted.

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Mayors throw support behind underage drinking initiative

On April 21, it was announced that 18 mayors across the state of Pennsylvania added their support to efforts that were being made by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to prevent drinking by underage individuals in the state. It was declared to be PowerTalk 21 Day, which is the organization’s national day for talking discussing underage drinking with kids.

The mayor of West Newton stated that the dangers surrounding alcohol was a discussion that needed to start at home. Parents should be having these discussions with their kids before they start high school, as they are more likely to face situations where underage drinking will occur. The mayor of Monessen noted that the area was known for drug distribution. Alcohol use was also an issue that must be dealt with. The mayor also mentioned that many kids faced peer pressure to abuse alcohol.

MADD offered free short online workshops for parents who had children in middle school and high school. These workshops were offered after 75 percent of children stated that their parents were their biggest influences when it came to underage alcohol use.

Underage alcohol use can lead to severe punishments, especially if the underage person is charged with drunk driving. Most states have zero tolerance laws in place for underage drivers, and the penalties for a conviction could have an impact on a defendant’s job opportunities or college plans. As a result, obtaining the services of a criminal defense attorney can be an advisable first step for the parents of a person who has been issued these charges to take.

Source: Herald Standard, “Local mayors declare support for anti-drunk driving initiative“, Mike Tony, April 21, 2016

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

SCOTUS ruling could impact breath test administration

While it is not the case in Pennsylvania, in 13 states it is possible for a driver who is suspected of being impaired to be charged with a separate crime for refusing to consent to a breath or blood test without a warrant having been issued. However, those laws may be in jeopardy after arguments on a case was heard by the Supreme Court. This was even after the court acknowledged that states already have the right to fine drivers or suspend their licenses for failure to submit to testing.

In all 50 states, people have given implied consent to such a test when they apply for a driver’s license. What made the justices skeptical about the legality of the laws making refusal a separate criminal offense was the ease in which a warrant could theoretically be obtained. Some of them also seemed to be surprised to hear that most Breathalyzer tests take place at police stations as opposed to the site of the traffic stop.

As part of their line of questioning to lawyers for the states of Minnesota and North Dakota, they asked why making an extra phone call would be so hard. They also noted that magistrates were available 24 hours a day, so timing was not likely to hinder an ability to get a warrant.

A driver’s license suspension often results after drunk driving charges have been issued, but this is deemed an administrative sanction rather than a criminal penalty. This can be appealed at a subsequent DMV hearing, which often takes place well before the criminal charge is heard. As a conviction on DUI charges can have serious ramifications, people who are facing them may want to have legal assistance in constructing a defense strategy. One line of challenge could be to the way that the sobriety tests were administered.

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Man claiming to be a checkpoint trooper faces DUI charges

Pennsylvania State Police detained a man after they said he pretended to be trooper and was stopping vehicles to check for drunken drivers. The incident occurred in Somerset.

According to the report, at approximately 4 a.m., the 20-year-old man created a sobriety checkpoint on Route 601, diagonally parking his vehicle across the road and using a flashing blue light bar and safety flares to make motorists think he was a trooper. When law enforcement officials appeared at the scene, they alleged that the man was in the process of requesting identification from a female motorist. However, when he saw the police, he reportedly passed his weapon, a BB pistol, to a passenger in the vehicle. The motorist later told police that the man called himself a trooper from the division of narcotics and alcohol. The man was charged with impersonating a public servant, drunken driving and possessing instruments of crime.

Under Pennsylvania’s strict DUI laws, motorists who are charged with drunk driving may be penalized with jail time, probation, heavy fines and a suspension of their driver’s license. When other crimes are involved, the penalties may be even more severe. A DUI conviction can also have a negative impact on a defendant’s record, which may deter future employers from hiring the person and lead to increased auto insurance premiums.

Therefore, those facing such charges may wish to contact an attorney who could provide a strong defense that might result in the defendant’s charges being lowered or completely dismissed. For instance, the attorney could question the validity of toxicology tests, for an improperly administered test could render the evidence inadmissible. If challenging the charges is not a viable defense strategy, the attorney may decide to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutors in an effort to secure a reduced penalty.