DUIs are a serious problem in Pennsylvania, and the state is starting to tighten regulations and increase punishment severities.
Driving is legal, and drinking is legal if you’re over 21. Where the two activities collide, there is often confusion, so we’ve put together a list of the five things you should know about driving under the influence (DUI) in Chester County PA.
1. DUI is a Major Safety Issue in Pennsylvania
In 2014, there were an average of 29 drunk driving accidents every day in Pennsylvania. An average of 20 people were injured in those crashes. Of all traffic fatalities, alcohol accounted for 28 percent of them during 2014.
Alcohol impairs your ability to drive. It affects vision, slows reaction time, and impairs judgment. We need the law against drunk driving to maintain safety on the road.
2. DUI Checkpoints are Becoming More Common in the Area
Pennsylvania law enforcement officers conduct several hundred DUI checkpoints per year. In Pennsylvania, police pull over drivers, whether or not they are suspicious of intoxication, and interview them. An article in the Daily Local details the process:
- The officer greets the driver and asks the location they left and their destination. They check for visual signs of intoxication. These include bloodshot eyes, flushed face, slurred speech, smell of alcohol, and repetitive statements. If the officer determines the driver is not intoxicated, the driver is released.
- If suspicion is raised, the driver and passengers exit the vehicle and the officer drives the car into a designated lot.
- The officer administers sobriety field tests on the driver while the passengers wait in a coned-off area. If the driver fails, the officer reads them their rights, they are taken to have their blood drawn, and they are arrested.
Police officers are trained to identify even small amounts of alcohol, and they use evidence they find to move drivers to the next level of sobriety testing, which is a blood alcohol content (BAC) breath or blood test.
3. In Pennsylvania, the Severity of DUI Punishment is Increasing
This year, the Pennsylvania government increased the use of interlock devices for DUI offenders. An interlock device requires the driver to test their BAC levels before starting their car. If their BAC is too high, the car will not start.
In the past, the device was only required for repeat DUI offenders. This May, Governor Tom Wolf signed a new bill into law that requires interlock devices for first-time offenders who had BACs of 1.0 or higher at the time of arrest. Since the legal BAC limit is .08, this puts most offenders in the 1.0 or higher realm. The new requirement will affect an estimated 90 percent of DUI arrests.
4. If You Are Convicted of a DUI, There are Steps to Expungement
Drunk driving is a mistake that affects your safety and puts others on the road in danger. Despite the severity of your actions, the court may grant you a fresh start if you meet certain requirements, such as completing an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
After expunging your DUI, you will become eligible for licenses and certifications as well as benefits like student loans and housing assistance. You will be able to apply for jobs without worrying that your DUI will come up on your criminal background check.
At Luongo Bellwoar, our attorneys can help you through the DUI expungement process.
5. Depending on Your Number of DUI Offenses, Your Defense Method May Be Slightly Different
Every DUI is different. The number of DUIs you have received, your BAC percentage, your age, and other factors can contribute to the severity of your punishment.
It’s important to hire an attorney who is experienced with handling a variety of cases. Tom Bellwoar has defended clients who have received multiple DUIs as well as those who were convicted of vehicular homicides involving DUI. These challenges have given him the depth of experience to handle any type of charge.
Making the Best Choice for Your Future
In light of the problems DUIs cause every year, shuttle services like Lyft and Uber are making it easier to find affordable transportation home if you’ve been drinking.
If you need help in the aftermath of a DUI charge, schedule a free consultation with one of our DUI lawyers.