3 Rules To Follow If You Are Stopped For DUI or DWI in Pennsylvania

Drunk Driver being pulled over by police.

Even people with high alcohol tolerances can drink too much and find themselves in a situation where police stop their car for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). In these situations it is important that a person remember three basic rules: (1) don’t refuse a Breathalyzer Test, (2) don’t answer any questions even if the officer threatens to arrest you, and (3) tell the police officer about any physical limitations and injuries which would affect your balance or movement.

  1. Don’t refuse a Breathalyzer Test

    In Pennsylvania, everyone who drives a car on the road has given police implied consent to conduct a Breathalyzer Test. If you refuse the breathalyzer, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENDOT) can still suspend your driver’s license for 12 to 18 months even if you’re not convicted in criminal court. The reason is because driving is a privilege in Pennsylvania and PENDOT can impose a suspension through its administrative powers which are separate from criminal proceedings. Therefore even if your attorney wins your DUI case, PENDOT can still suspend your driver’s license.

    If you take the Breathalyzer Test you will not only avoid a potential civil penalty from PENDOT but it can also improve your criminal case. A good attorney can dispute the results of a Breathalyzer because there are a number of issues can affect a BAC reading.

  2. Don’t Answer Any Questions

    If you are stopped for suspicion of DUI, police more than likely are going to arrest you no matter what you tell them. A typical question from a police officer is “have you had anything to drink tonight?” People will tell the officer they are coming from a friend’s house and just had one drink. However they are better off telling the officer that they aren’t going to answer any questions but that he is free to give a Breathalyzer Test or a Field Sobriety Test. Police officers are trained in the law and understand that everyone has the constitutional right to remain silent. Most police officers will respect this right and simply continue with the traffic stop by giving you a field sobriety test or taking you into custody.

    Keep in mind you could be arrested for a DUI even if you are not driving. If you have actual, physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, then that can be enough for an officer to arrest you. In Pennsylvania, the terms “operating” and “actual physical control” are basically the same. They generally mean that the driver is in the vehicle and could make it move, even if the driver is not trying to move the care when the officer finds him. Therefore, telling the officer why you were sleeping in the car while the radio and the heat are on will not help your case.

    Answering questions will never improve your DUI case because the officer is probably asking the question because he either smells alcohol on your breath or observed your car swerving or violating some traffic law. This is what gave the officer probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop your car in the first place. If you answer a question it will only hurt your DUI case because you’ve given the police more circumstantial and possible direct evidence of your intoxication. A statement like “I only had a little to drink,” or “I am coming from a party,” can persuade a judge that the police officer had probable cause to arrest you. It’s always better to remain silent and simply cooperate with the police officer with regards to field sobriety tests, Breathalyzer Tests, and blood tests, but never make any verbal or written statements.

  3. Tell the Police Officer about any Physical Limitations You’ve Had in the Past

    A standard field sobriety test requires that a person perform certain movements so that a police officer can assess a person’s motor skills. These tests, however, are often difficult to perform even for a person who has not consumed any alcohol. There are three standard field sobriety tests – (1) the walk and turn, (2) the one leg stand test, and (3) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test.

    1. The first two tests require you to walk on a straight line or balance on one foot. If you’ve had any type of surgery, played sports, or have any knee or leg injuries this will affect your ability to perform these tests correctly. Telling the officer that you’ve had an injury in the past will put the police, the prosecution, and the court on notice that the results of the field sobriety test may not be a fair indication of your intoxication. This will also allow your criminal defense lawyer to argue that the police didn’t have probable cause to arrest you based on the results of the field sobriety test.

      With regards to the HGN Test, police officers are trained in the law but there is a great deal of case law which says that they can’t fairly use the results of the HGN Test to determine a person’s impairment. HGN is the involuntary jerking of the eyes and there is a strong argument that only a medical professional can accurately assess the real results of this test.

      If you are stopped for DUI it’s important to keep these three rules in mind because it will not only protect your rights but put your attorney in the best position to successfully defend your case. If you have questions call Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604.

Understanding How to Apply for a Pennsylvania Ignition Interlock Limited License

Woman blowing into breathalyzer

As of August 25, 2017, Pennsylvania is now requiring anyone convicted of a first time DUI with a high blood alcohol content or for refusing to get an Ignition Interlock Limited license (IILL). An IILL is a driver’s license issued to a Pennsylvania driver whose operating privileges are suspended or revoked for one or more violations of DUI related to alcohol, controlled substances, or for refusing to submit to chemical testing. An IILL allows an individual to drive if certain requirements are met. One of the requirements is that the person’s car is equipped with an ignition interlock device during the term of their suspension or revocation.

The following criminal offenses are eligible for an IILL:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (Title 75 Section 3802)
  • Refusal of chemical testing to determine the amount of alcohol or controlled substance (Title 75 Section 1547)
  • It’s also important to keep in mind that a violation of a similar statute in another state like New Jersey, which leads to a license suspension in Pennsylvania due to the Interstate Driver’s Compact is also eligible for an Ignition Interlock Limited License.

An individual can apply for an IILL by completing PENDOT Form DL-9108. This application must be sent with the required fees and documentation to PENDOT via Certified Mail.

An Ignition Interlock System is a device that is installed in a motor vehicle to prohibit an individual under the influence of alcohol from operating a car. A person is required to blow into the device before starting the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol, it will prevent the vehicle from starting. In addition to starting the vehicle, there may be times during the operation of the vehicle when the individual will be prompted to blow into the device to ensure that he or she is not under the influence. An Ignition Interlock System is leased from an authorized vendor within the Commonwealth and currently the average cost associated with the lease is between $900.00-1,300.00 per year. An approved list of vendors is available at the Pennsylvania DUI Association home page www.pa.dui.org.

The penalties for failing to comply with the Ignition Interlock Law are as follows: a first offense will extend the Ignition Interlock period for one year from the date of the conviction and a second offense or subsequent offense will result in a recall of the Ignition Interlock License and a one year license suspension. Even when the license is restored, a person will be required to maintain an Ignition Interlock License for one year after that 2nd or 3rd offense.

Thirty days prior to being eligible to receive an unrestricted driver’s license, PENDOT will mail a notice to the individual that contains the date of eligibility and an application to apply for an unrestricted driver’s license. Prior to PENDOT issuing an unrestricted license, the Ignition Interlock vendor must complete a declaration of compliance which certifies that an individual has not had any incidences with the Ignition Interlock Device.

If you have any questions or need representation for a traffic violation contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604. Mr. Spadea is the founder of the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC located in Ridley Park.

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