June 2011 Archives

June 26, 2011

Middle Pennsylvania DUI Case Dismissed at Preliminary Hearing

I recently took a second offense DUI case out of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, Union County. I was reluctant at first, because I couldn't point to Mifflinburg on the map or Union County. I knew it must be somewhere in the middle of the state. However, I wanted to help this guy out and get his charges dismissed. As the saying goes, "if you buy, I'll fly."

The case all hinged on the officers observations of my client and the field sobriety tests (link to pennduidefense.com field sobriety test page) since my client refused any chemical testing of his blood. When I arrived at the prelim., I didn't think I had a chance of getting the charges dismissed at the prelim. level. I thought "big city attorney in a small town, not a chance with the local politics." However, I was pleasantly surprised. I cross-examined the police officer and used a few helpful techniques I picked up along the way that helped me get the case dismissed.

When I read the police report (at the prelim. Known as the affidavit of probable cause) I noticed my client was charged with speeding but no other traffic offenses. I cross-examined the officer and established that my client traveled 3-4 miles without crossing the double yellow or fog line. This is significant. Most drivers cross these lines inadvertently on a day to day basis without being drunk. Heck, I cross the lines everyday when I go to work. It's pretty hard for a guy to be too intoxicated behind the wheel and drive the car as straight as an arrow.

Next, police officers usually put standard boilerplate language in every affidavit of probable cause. I've done hundreds of DUI cases in Pennsylvania and they all say just about the same thing: "I noticed an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, and the suspect exhibited bloodshot glass eyes and slurred speech which are consistent with intoxication. The suspect then fumbled for his license and registration." Like clockwork the police will put these items in their report. In this particular case, the officer left a few of these things out.

Continue reading "Middle Pennsylvania DUI Case Dismissed at Preliminary Hearing" »

June 21, 2011

Do You Fear Immigration Consequences for a DUI Offense?

Whenever you have concern for Immigration consequences of criminal conduct, first your status or lack of status is considered (how you came to be present in the United States), as such all your immigration-related documents that explain your presence are helpful.

The classification of the crime for the purposes of Immigration law must then be determined. For example, "crimes involving moral turpitude" may serve as a basis for removal proceedings (deportation or exclusion). Such crimes also implicate "good moral character" when considering forms of relief from removal and naturalization. "Moral turpitude" in general refers to acts that are evil or wrong by society's standards. To be considered a crime involving moral turpitude the act must involve both reprehensible conduct and some degree of scienter, which may be specific intent, deliberateness, willfulness, or recklessness.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is the administrative appellate body which reviews appealed Immigration Judge decisions. Immigration Judges fall under the jurisdiction of the attorney general and within the Department of Justice The Executive Office for Immigration Review. The BIA has struggled with charges of Driving while under the influence. Because precedent has been inconsistent, it is important to look to Pennsylvania's current case law, as well as to the specific elements of the Pennsylvania statute to determining whether a DUI would be considered a crime involving moral turpitude.

Continue reading "Do You Fear Immigration Consequences for a DUI Offense? " »

June 11, 2011

Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part IV of IV)

Continued from the May 11th, 2011 blog

Back in May I was scheduled for this preliminary hearing in Coatesville District Court. My client refused chemical testing and the only evidence the Commonwealth had to convict my client were the field sobriety tests. When I arrived at this preliminary hearing in Coastesville District Court (Judge Koon's Court), I sat down in the lobby and prepared for my dui preliminary hearing as I always do. I sat silently next to my client and and read the affadavit of probable cause and police criminal complaint. These are the charging documents in a preliminary hearing. The police officer drafts them. These documents contain a narrative of the facts of your case and contain the charges that your client will face. It is important for your attorney to review these documents thoroughly. I always go through each one of the charges and review the sections and sub-sections of each crime. Sometimes the police will write down the wrong section or sub-section and will charge the wrong crime. A good attorney will leave no stone unturned and review these things thoroughly. I also read the facts of the case several times and prepare a cross-examination outline if I am going to have a hearing. I oberve other attorneys in court a lot. I notice that a lot of attorneys like to utilize their time socializing at the prelim rather than preparing and strategizing. They will fraternize with other attorneys, clients and court staff. This is great for generating business, but not great for conducting a thorough hearing. I take this hearing seriously and like to "put the heat" on police and prosecutors right from the start of the case.

Continue reading "Pennsylvania DUI Preliminary Hearing: What is it? What's the Purpose? What's the Strategy? (Part IV of IV) " »

June 5, 2011

Are You Eligible for a DUI Retrial in Philadelphia Because of an Improperly Calibrated Breathalyzer Machine?

Were you recently arrested for driving while under the influence? Human error in calibrating Breathalyzer machines in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during 2009-2010 led to incorrect blood alcohol concentration (BAC) readings that may affect thousands of cases in the city. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, an internal review by the District Attorney's office found that four of eight police Breathalyzers were not properly calibrated, affecting over 2000 DUI cases between September 2009 and November 2010. Instigated by a criminal defense attorney who questioned the accuracy of the breathalyzer readings used in the prosecution of his client's case, the investigation by the Philadelphia DA's office revealed problems that threaten to compound Philadelphia's already severe problems with trial backlogs as cases are retried. Moreover, the cost of judgments or settlements in suits from those who were jailed on the basis of the faulty evidence from the improperly calibrated machines could end up hurting the city financially at a time when it can least afford it. See also the ABC news report on this topic.

Continue reading "Are You Eligible for a DUI Retrial in Philadelphia Because of an Improperly Calibrated Breathalyzer Machine?" »

June 1, 2011

Can A Letter from Your Dentist Can Get You Off Pennsylvania Drug Charges?

Reported by: Christiana Martin, Drexel University College of Law
Legal Intern for Jason R. Antoine, Attorney at Law PLLC, Pennsylvania Drug Charge Lawyer

I arrived at Marple Township District Court shadowing Jason for the first time. His client was on probation in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and faced new charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and public drunkenness. Typically, if a probationer is found guilty of new charges, he or she will be violated by the adult probation department and incarcerated. However, if the attorney can have your case plead down to a summary offense, typically, the probation department will not violate. Pleading this case down to a summary seemed like a monumental task at the beginning. The client had a rap sheet of drug offenses a mile long. He was on probation for drugs and got caught passed out in his front yard with PCP laced cigarettes in his pocket. The client could have faced jail time for violating the terms of his probation -- particularly with lab tests in evidence that showed that the client possessed a controlled substance at the time he was arrested by a Marple Township police officer. It seemed the chances of reducing the sentencing grade were slim, and the client's record and conduct seemed to point towards an unfavorable outcome, but drawing from his experience defending clients for years in Delaware County courts, Jason Antoine negotiated with the Delaware County District Attorney's Office to make an amazing deal that kept his client out of jail. He had all of the drug charges dropped and the defendant plead guilty to two summary offenses: Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness. All the defendant had to do was pay a fine and he didn't have to go to jail. How did Mr. Antoine get this deal? Answer = oral hygiene. No one expected the client's oral hygiene to come up in these discussions. Yet, a letter from the client's dentist saying he was a nice guy was among the materials introduced into evidence, prompting the District Attorney to jokingly ask if the defendant had good teeth. Though Mr. Antoine could not speak to the dental health of his client, he used the letter attesting to the client's great disposition.

Continue reading "Can A Letter from Your Dentist Can Get You Off Pennsylvania Drug Charges?" »