How Pennsylvania Students Can Avoid Criminal Convictions For Disorderly Conduct and DUI on Their College and Job Application

Applicant Filling Up the Online Job Application

I have represented many high school and college students who were charged with criminal offenses like:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Underage drinking
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

The student’s parents are not only concerned about the immediate consequences of these minor offenses, but their long term effect on their child’s academic and professional careers.

Most employer applications often require a minimum degree of education and in many cases background checks. These background checks are not only concerned with criminal convictions but also focus on any type of contact with law enforcement which would include arrest and citations.

Disorderly Conduct

If your child is charged with disorderly conduct the prosecution will need to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she created a public disturbance which ultimately lead to his or her arrest. If your son or daughter was charged with disorderly conduct it is important that your defense attorney negotiate a favorable non-trial disposition such as Accelerated Remedial Disposition (ARD). ARD provides for the expungement of the criminal record after completing the program. If your defense attorney isn’t able to negotiate such a non-trial disposition, he should never have your child plead guilty to this charge. Again, disorderly conduct isn’t a serious offense but many employers and colleges often deny applicants based on withdrawn charges or arrests even without a conviction. That is why it is critical to have your child’s record expunged before they apply for college or an internship.

Underage Drinking

In Pennsylvania, underage drinking for a first time offender can result in a 90 day license suspension. This driver’s license suspension will not only increase car insurance rates but it can also limit college internships as many colleges require their students to have a driver’s license in order to travel to and from different locations.

Again, a student should never simply plead guilty to an underage drinking charge but rather your defense attorney should either negotiate a favorable non-trial disposition or contest the charges. Contesting the charges means forcing the prosecution to prove each element of underage drinking beyond a reasonable doubt. This may be difficult especially if the prosecution’s case relies on non-government witnesses such as bartenders or waitresses who are often transient and unwilling to come to court, even with a subpoena, because they are not being paid for their time outside of work

DUI

In Pennsylvania, a minor (who is under the age of 21) commits a DUI when his or her BAC is .02. This is an extremely low blood alcohol content so practically any alcohol consumption will result in a BAC of this level. Minors, can still receive programs such as ARD which would only result in a 90 day license suspension as opposed to a one year license suspension for a first time offense. If a minor doesn’t accept ARD or isn’t eligible for it because of some prior offense, the mandatory minimum is 2 days in jail, a 1 year license suspension, and a $500.00 fine.

If your son or daughter is charged with a criminal offense please contact the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604.

How Diabetes Can Affect Your Breathalyzer Results in Pennsylvania

Police officer giving a breathalyzer test

The use of Breathalyzers in Driving Under The Influence (DUI) prosecutions in Pennsylvania is declining but the device is still used by many law enforcement departments including the City of Philadelphia. A blood draw is a far superior method to determine a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

While blood tests provide more accurate results, a Breathalyzer is more convenient. Further, police can give a Breathalyzer test at the police station or practically anywhere because the device is portable. While they can do a blood test anywhere it requires much more preparation. Blood alcohol analysis is based on a scientific principal known as “Henry’s Law”. Henry’s Law states that when a liquid containing a volatile substance, like alcohol, makes contact with air in a closed container (Breathalyzer) the amount of alcohol in the air and the liquid are static (consistent or unchanged). Breath testing devices measure the amount of alcohol found in a person’s breath and multiplies it by a pre-determined co-efficient to arrive at a person’s estimated BAC. Breath testing, therefore, relies on scientific assumptions and constants.

Since a breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s body through their breath it is important to determine if any other medical conditions could negatively affect breath testing. Diabetes is one medical condition which can be a potential defense to a DUI case. Diabetes is a disease which causes the body not to produce or properly use insulin.

In addition to alcohol there are thousands of substances that could be inside a person’s breath sample. Breathalyzers use infrared spectrometry and one of the substances found is acetone. Acetone can negatively influence Breathalyzers results because it is a byproduct of a metabolic state known as Ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a high concentration of ketone bodies which is normally associated with Type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, prolonged alcoholism can also cause Ketoacidosis. There are two types of this condition alcoholic: Ketoacidosis and Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This condition can cause a person’s breath to smell fruity and police can sometimes confuse this smell with that of alcohol.

Individuals with Type 1 Diabetes can therefore have high levels of acetone in their breath. Acetone is found naturally in the environment and is normally present in the body from the breakdown of fat. Acetone is a substance that can be falsely identified as ethanol or ethyl alcohol. This condition can cause the Breathalyzer to show a false positive even when the suspect hasn’t consumed any alcohol. If the Breathalyzer doesn’t take into account the level of acetone in a person’s breath the prosecution won’t be able to distinguish ethyl alcohol from acetone. This can create reasonable doubt as to the test’s results or cause the judge to rule that the results are inadmissible and grant your pre-trial motion to suppress it. If you are charged with DUI call Gregory J. Spadea of the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604.

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

Blurred night

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). 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 (PennDOT) can still suspend your driver’s license 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 been drinking 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 while not attorneys, they 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.

    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. This could later lead to a conviction at trial or a judge denying your attorney’s Pre-trial Motion to Suppress Evidence. 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.

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 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 about DUI, please call Gregory J. Spadea of the Law Offices of Spadea & Associates, LLC at 610-521-0604.

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