Section 1543(a) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code penalizes driving on a suspended driver's license. Section 1543(b) penalizes driving on a suspended license because of a DUI conviction or ARD admission. Driving on a DUI suspended license carries a mandatory jail sentence of 60 to 90 days. If you get caught driving on a DUI suspended license and you are lucky, the police will cut you a break and write you a citation for a §1543(a) which carries no mandatory jail time, but an additional license suspension of one year. Many people are ecstatic about this because they avoid the jail time. However, when the novelty wears off and they begin serving their one year license suspension, they are not as ecstatic. My advice is to always plead not guilty to these citations. The goal of a criminal lawyer in these type of cases is to have the case plead to 75 Pa.C.S. §1501 Driver's required to be licensed. My firm has had a lot of success having §1543(a) cases plead down to §1501. §1501 carries no license suspension and no points. If convicted of §1501, you will merely be required to pay a fine. Some of my clients get nervous when I tell them it is possible for the officer to amend his citation to a §1543(b) from a §1543(a) if they plead NOT guilty and request a hearing. Some clients do not want to go forward because of the risk involved. My advice is still the same: plead NOT guilty and do not worry about it. In my experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney, the police have never amended to a §1543(b) and even if they did, at that point you could probably back down and plead guilty to a §1543(a). Earlier this year I had a §1543(b) case plead down to §1501 and my client was driving on a DUI suspended license for a third offense DUI. If you use finesse with police officers, they can be very accommodating. It is important to have an attorney that is good with people and has experience dealing with police officers. I worked with police officers on both sides of the aisle: as a defense attorney and as an Assistant District Attorney. I know it pays to be polite and appreciative.
September 2011 Archives
Always Plead NOT Guilty to Pennsylvania Underage Drinking. PA Supreme Court Case Makes Portable Breath Testing Devices Inadmissible in Court!
When I worked in the District Attorney's Office in Chester County, I prosecuted several underage drinking cases and they would usually go down as follows. A cop would bust a party at a frat house or apartment. Let's say it happened in West Chester. They would always line the kids up and make them stand against a wall. The cops would then id the kids and if they were under 21 they would administer what is called a portable breath test or "PBT" for short. This test is similar to a breathalyzer used in a DUI prosecution. The test requires the subject to blow into a mouth piece. Once the subject blows, it will immediately give the officer a digital blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading. This test works similar to a breathalyzer but it is not nearly as accurate. The test is convenient for police because it is easy to administer and it saves the officers time. Unlike a breathalyzer or blood test in a DUI prosecution, there was no necessity to bring the underage drinker back to the station to administrate the test. All of the students at the party could be tested and cited on spot.
When I was a prosecutor it was easy for police to obtain underage drinking convictions in court. All the police had to prove was that you were under 21 and that the PBT showed a positive reading. Last October of 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case of Commonwealth v. Brigidi came out and changed everything. In this case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court states that PBT's are NOT admissible in a judicial proceeding for evidentiary purposes. This means that PBT's should not be admitted into evidence in an underage drinking case.
Antoine Firm has Theft Charges and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle Charges Tossed Out by Linwood District Judge
I wanted to write about a preliminary hearing in Linwood, Pennsylvania that was held last week that is worth noting.
A lady from Camden, New Jersey dropped her 1999 Kia Sephia off at a Leonard's Body Shop in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania in March of 2010. She paid $1500 to have her car repaired. My client who was the shop owner's girlfriend, worked the front end of the business. She took the customer's cash and wrote out a receipt for the$1500. Her boyfriend owned the shop and performed all body work. After she dropped the car off months went by and no work was ever performed on the car. Subsequently, the owner was forced out of the shop and was forced to put the building up for sale. The customer could not locate her car. The police found out that the owner/boyfriend moved the car to his residential garage, never gave the car back and never contacted the customer. The shop owner basically kept the woman's car and never told her where it was. The Marcus Hook Police charged the boyfriend/owner and my client with Theft by Unlawful Taking, Theft by Deception, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and Disorderly Conduct.
I Refused the Breathalyzer in a Pennsylvania DUI Case and the DUI Case Was Thrown Out, Will Penndot Still Suspend my License? Part II of II
Continued from the September 16th blog....
Part II Question: How Can Your Office Beat a License Suspension for Refusing a DUI Chemical Test?
Answer: Here are 5 ways our office maybe able to beat your license suspension for refusing a DUI chemical test. This list is not exhaustive. Each case is different and you should have a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer evaluate your case.
1) Our office may be able to argue that the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe you were operating the vehicle while under the influence. Officers are trained to write in their police reports boilerplate language such as "the suspect has slurred speech and bloodshot eyes." If this is the only evidence the officer had to prove his case, your civil license suspension case could be beat. Also, if you were required to perform the field sobriety tests on an uneven or rocky surface and the test results were not accurate this could also be grounds for a valid license suspension appeal.
I Refused the Breathalyzer in a Pennsylvania DUI Case and the DUI Case Was Thrown Out, Will Penndot Still Suspend my License? Part I of II
Answer: Unfortunately yes. If your Pennsylvania DUI is thrown out (aka - the charges were withdrawn or you were found not guilty) and the police officer sends the refusal paperwork to Penndot, Penndot will still suspend your license for refusing chemical testing. Pennsylvania is an implied consent state. Per the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, any person that drives a car in PA, is deemed to have given consent to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol in their blood. If you refuse the breathalyzer, Penndot will suspend your license for a period of 1 year for a first offense DUI and 18 months for a second or subsequent DUI or refusal.