Should I take a test if the police stop me for DUI in Pennsylvania?

This issue comes up so often that I thought it prudent to address it. If you’re pulled over in Pennsylvania and the police think you may be under the influence, what are your rights?

There are three types of tests that the police can give you. The first two you can refuse without terrible consequence. If you refuse the third type, you’ll lose your license for a year and often still be charged with DUI. If you’re then found guilty of DUI you’ll lose it for another year (assuming it’s a first offense DUI, longer otherwise).

The first type of test is standard sobriety tests. These can be walking a straight line, the walk and turn test, the stand on one leg test, the alphabet backward test, the follow the pen with your eyes only test, and many others. These roadside tests can be refused with no official consequence and you probably should refuse them if you’ve been drinking or if you may have recreational or prescription narcotics in your blood system from current or earlier use.

The second type of test is a portable breath test. Many offers carry these portable machines that they can get you to blow into on the side of the road. These tests have been deemed inaccurate by the courts and their results are NOT admissible in court. You can refuse this test as well without official consequence.

The third type of test is an official chemical test. This can either be a blood test drawn by a phlebotomist at a hospital or other location, or it can be a breathalyzer machine set up at a roadside checkpoint or back at the police station. These tests cannot be refused under Penndot policy. If you do refuse it, you’re license will automatically be suspended for one year, and that’s before any suspension you might suffer as a result of potentially being charged and convicted of traffic or DUI offenses.

Just to be clear what a refusal is, as this is often a contentious issue. Anything you say other than the word ‘yes’ can be considered a refusal by the police.

If you or someone you’re concerned about has been stopped for or charged with DUI (driving under the influence) in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery or Bucks County, PA, it is critical that you contact our office immediately. Every day we see people in court get harsher punishments than necessary for DUI because their lawyers do not have the experience to understand the intricacies of the DUI laws.  Often these lawyers scramble up to members of our team to ask for help at the last minute but by then it’s often too late. Make sure you’re represented by a team of experienced and aggressive professional defense attorneys if you’ve been charged with any crime in the Philadelphia area.

The Preliminary Hearing – PA Criminal Defense Attorney

When you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Pennsylvania, you are entitled to a preliminary hearing. (For purposes of ethics, please only consider these comments in regards to charges filed in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County or Bucks County, because that’s where we practice.)

All hearings in Philadelphia are held in the Criminal Justice Center at 13th & Filbert, across from City Hall. In the four surrounding counties, preliminary hearings are held in the District Courts, which are the local courts set up in the various municipalities throughout the counties. There are between 20 and thirty District Courts in each of the four counties surrounding Philadelphia, and our Criminal Defense Team has the privilege of practicing before all of them on a consistent basis.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether the police have what is called a Prima Facie case. In layman’s terms, it means they have to put on a hearing and submit evidence to the judge to show that there is some evidence that a crime was committed, and some evidence that the person charged with the crime had something to do with it.

The Preliminary Hearing is not a trial. You are not being found guilty or innocent. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine which, if any, charges should be ‘held over’ to the Court of Common Pleas, which is the trial court. At the trial court, you can either have your defense attorney negotiate a deal on your behalf, or you can have him or her litigate your case. Just to be clear, you have to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to be convicted of a crime, but the standard to have the case held over from the Preliminary Hearing is much less.

One might then wonder if it’s important to have an experienced defense attorney at your Preliminary Hearing. The answer is an unconditional YES. Our attorneys are almost always able to  make headway in a case at the preliminary hearing that can make an enormous difference later on. It’s our first opportunity to begin negotiations on your behalf, to have some of the charges dropped, and to have bail reduced. If you’re facing charges in the Philadelphia area or know someone who is, it’s imperative that you contact us as quickly as possible.

 

ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition)

Many clients who come into our office are first offenders. In Pennsylvania, a well trained Criminal Defense Lawyer may be able to avoid a trial and get the client accepted to a special first offender program called ARD. ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. In most cases, if we can get you accepted to the program, you will be asked to go on temporary probation, pay a fine, and complete some community service. If you complete the program successfully, then the case against you will be dismissed.

ARD is a great option when it’s appropriate, but there are some concerns. First, many less experienced lawyers automatically go for ARD in cases which could otherwise be beaten. This is extremely unfortunate as you can only get ARD once in your life in Pennsylvania, and it’s ridiculous to waste it on a case that can be dismissed through other means that simply require higher skill and more experience. Second, getting through the ARD process is often more complicated than it seems to the inexperienced attorney.

We have represented countless clients through the ARD program in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County and Bucks County. Each county has different rules, unique intricacies and different people making the decisions. We believe it makes a difference that we’ve gotten to know the decision makers and their processes. If you need an experienced pennsylvania lawyer to help you with ARD, please call us immediately at (610) 566-1006.

ARD is often appropriate for people with no criminal record who have been charged with DUI, possession of drugs, retail theft, petty theft, simple assault, and other low grade misdemeanors in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia DUI with Marijuana – Philadelphia DUI Attorney – Philadelphia DUI Lawyer

This is Arik Benari, managing partner of Benari Law Group. Over the past twelve years I’ve had the unfortunate privilege of representing hundreds of people charged with DUI in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County and Bucks County, as well as other counties throughout Pennsylvania. What I’ve learned over my career is that there are a lot of people out there who recreationally use marijuana (also known as weed, grass, pot, etc.). What these clients never realized before they found themselves sitting in my office was that you DO NOT HAVE TO BE STONED TO GET A DUI.

In fact, you can get pulled over weeks after smoking marijuana and still be found guilty at trial. This may seem unfair, ridiculous, or even stupid… but it is the law. We’ve fought hard in our cases to get common sense and reason to prevail, but so far the judges in Pennsylvania have been unwilling to listen. Marijuana can stay in your system for up to thirty days after you smoke, and if you’re given a blood test by the police during those thirty days after being pulled over for suspected DUI, you’ll most likely be charged and be forced to plead guilty or face trial.

So why am I writing this today? Simple. IF YOU SMOKE MARIJUANA, THEN YOU NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR DRIVING. You should not speed, roll through stop signs, drive carelessly, try and rush through yellow lights to beat a red, or talk on your phone while driving…. EVER. Also, you should never, ever drive after drinking anything. In fact, you should never drive after having a piece of rum cake, or a dose of cough syrup. The smell of the alcohol on your breath could be enough to get a cop who pulls you over to send you for a blood test. If you refuse the test you’ll lose your license for a year automatically and probably face DUI charges anyway, and if you take the test they’re going to find the traces of marijuana and you’ll certainly be charged.

If you are ever charged with a DUI, drunk driving, driving under the influence, or any crime for that matter in the Philadelphia area, you owe it to yourself to make sure you get advice and representation from one of the best Criminal Defense Lawyers in the Greater Philadelphia Area.