A New Pennsylvania Law Is Making It More Important to Have a DUI Defense Attorney

Did you know the DUI laws in Pennsylvania are changing? On October 24, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 961 (SB 961) into law, increasing the penalties for driving under the influence. Here’s what you need to know about these new penalties, and how they could affect people charged with a DUI.

How Does Senate Bill 961 Increase DUI Penalties?

For the first time in Pennsylvania history, the state will have felony driving under the influence charges. Drivers arrested for a third DUI charge with a blood-alcohol level of .16 percent or higher will be charged with a third-degree felony. A driver arrested four times or more for drunk or drugged driving will automatically be charged with felony DUI. This intensifies the penalties for repeat offenders.

Prior DUI convictions will also factor into penalties when it comes to fatal/injury crashes caused by drivers who were drinking. The current mandatory sentence for a vehicular homicide charge is three years. However, under the new legislation signed by our governor, the minimum penalty for a DUI driver caught in such an accident will be five years. If that DUI driver has two or more previous DUI convictions, that minimum sentence increases to seven years under SB 961.

What Effects Could These Changes Have on Your Life?

Besides increasing the possible jailtime you face, a felony conviction can have serious effects on your life. It can increase how long your license is suspended and it will remain on your criminal record. Anyone who runs a background check will see your felony conviction. This is why an attorney is so important when it comes to defending yourself from these charges.

An attorney can investigate to see if there were any flaws in the collection and processing of evidence in your case. Getting such evidence excluded could result in the reduction of charges against you or even a dismissal of your case. If your constitutional rights were violated during your arrest, an attorney can utilize those violations to plea bargain for a lesser offense.

These legal changes highlight just how important defending yourself against DUI charges can be. A felony conviction could send your life into a tailspin and seriously affect your future. At Fiore & Barber, LLC, we are experienced DUI lawyers who work diligently to give our clients the defense they need. Call us at (215)256-0205 to schedule a free consultation.

Will 2018 Break Thanksgiving DUI Numbers? We Take a Close Look at the Numbers

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel weeks in Pennsylvania. But did you know that it is also an active period for drunk drivers? Police usually come out in force to prevent a surge in drunk driving crashes, but 2018 could be different than most years.

Why Thanksgiving DUI Enforcement Will Go Up in 2018

Last year, the Thanksgiving holiday was busier for Pennsylvania State Police than normal. It reported 981 crashes in 2017, up from 931 crashes in 2016. In addition, 85 of those 2017 crashes were ruled alcohol-related, which was an almost 30 percent increase from 2016. These higher numbers were despite increased efforts to catch DUI drivers by state troopers. The agency reported that it made 629 DUI arrests last year between November 22 and 26, another increase over 2016’s statistics.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reported that 3,962 crashes happened during the Thanksgiving weekend in 2016, resulting in 38 fatalities. In 2017, PennDOT reported that the number of fatalities had decreased to 26 while the number of crashes had increased to 4,509. Considering that just as many travelers could be on the road in 2018 as there were in 2017, these numbers could easily rise.

To prevent another rise in crashes during Thanksgiving, drivers can expect enforcement to increase to levels higher than what we saw last year. That means even more Thanksgiving DUI arrests can be expected. And if you are charged with a DUI, you can expect the effects on your life to be dramatic.

A DUI conviction can lead to jail time, fines and the suspension of your driver’s license. This can also result in the loss of your job as well as other social consequences. Knowing your options when facing these charges is essential, and the criminal defense attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC may be able to help. We have over 28 years of combined experience that may help our potential clients minimize the damage done to their lives.

What are the Consequences of a DUI in Pennsylvania?

With Halloween right around the corner, you might be planning your costume for a big Halloween bash or picking out the bars you are going to visit with friends. Have you planned a safe way home at the end of the night? The last thing you need is a DUI on your record.

In Pennsylvania, the consequences of your DUI are determined by your blood alcohol content (BAC) and previous offenses. However, your age, license type and whether you caused injuries or damages to another person can affect the penalties too. Generally, there are three tiers of DUI in Pennsylvania:

Tier 1: Your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.099 percent

  • For first time DUI offenses, you’ll likely face a small fine and be required to take an alcohol safety course.
  • If you have had one or more DUIs, then you’ll receive an automatic 12-month license suspension.

Tier 2: Your BAC is between 0.1 and 0.159 percent

  • If your BAC is between 0.1 and 0.159, then you will receive an automatic 12-month license suspension even if it is your first offense. If you have had three or more DUI offenses, then it will be 18 months.

Tier 3: Your BAC is 0.16 percent or higher

  • You will receive an automatic 12-month suspension for your first offense and an 18-month suspension for additional offenses.

The more DUI offenses you have had in the past, the greater the consequences. For example, if you are charged with a DUI and have had one prior DUI charge, then you will be required to install an ignition lock in your vehicle for one year after your license suspension expires. An ignition interlock is a device that keeps your car from starting if you do not pass a breathalyzer test first. You will have to pass a breathalyzer every time you want to drive your car. In addition, the likelihood of prison is greater once you have accrued more than one DUI.

Minors, school bus drivers, truck drivers and drivers who caused injuries or damages to another person could be subject to greater penalties even if their BAC is in the first tier. Driving under the influence of drugs or refusing breath and chemical testing could subject you to the greatest penalties.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The DUI attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC represent clients in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Lehigh County and the surrounding areas. We could help you discuss your legal options. Call us today at (215) 256-0205 or contact us online.

What Are My Possible Defenses After a DUI Arrest?

If you are ever charged with a DUI, you should know that the penalties for this type of charge can be pretty serious. If you have experienced a DUI arrest and you feel like you should fight the charge, understand that there are a few possible defenses that you could use in court. With a viable and well thought out defense, you could convince the prosecution to drop or reduce your charges, prevent your driver’s license from being suspended, or even win an acquittal at trial.

What Defenses Can I Use After I’m Arrested for a DUI?

The prosecution during your trial will try to prove that you were driving a vehicle and that you were “under the influence” while driving. Your defenses could either be related to the “driving” aspect or to the arrest procedures.

For a defense related to driving, you could argue that you weren’t necessarily driving. If you were parked and sleeping in your vehicle when law enforcement arrived, you could possibly have a good defense. Most states, however, don’t require proof of actual driving in order to be convicted for a DUI. Usually, the prosecution just needs to prove that you were “operating” or “physically controlling” the vehicle when you were intoxicated.

Another, and arguably easier defense for your DUI charge, is the defense related to how you were arrested. If you believe that the police officer didn’t follow the law when stopping and/or arresting you, you could use certain evidence to defend yourself.

Prove:

  • There was no probable cause for arrest: Police officers need probable cause to actually stop your vehicle, especially on the cause of a DUI suspicion. Traffic violations are usually the reason for the police’s probable cause, but if you believe the officer pulled you over for no legal reason, you could use this as a defense.
  • No Miranda warnings: Law enforcement is generally required to read your Miranda rights before questioning you while you are in police custody. If you made an incriminating statement in response to police questioning, and you were not given your Miranda warnings prior to this, the statement may not be admissible in court.

Our attorneys at Fiore & Barber can assist you if you were charged with a DUI and you want to fight your charge. Contact our firm today for a free consultation.

How Do Horses Relate to DUIs in Pennsylvania?

What do a 53-year-old Florida woman and a 19-year-old Amish teen from Pennsylvania have in common? Besides the most interesting first line to a joke, these two seemingly unrelated people got caught up in rare aspects of drunk driving law you may not have been aware of. And when it comes to the serious nature of DUIs in Pennsylvania, it is important to always be informed.

Things You May Not Have Known About DUIs in Pennsylvania

In Lakeland, Florida, a 53-year-old woman was disoriented while riding horseback in the afternoon. After getting her off the animal, they found her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. They took her to jail and her horse to the Polk County Sheriff’s Animal Control livestock facility because in Florida a horse is considered a vehicle. The law isn’t very different here in Pennsylvania.

While on patrol in New Wilmington at around 7:30pm, an officer saw a buggy travelling without its required lights activated. When he pulled the buggy over and asked the driver to activate the lights he noticed the 19-year-old struggling to control his horse. He subsequently discovered that the teen had a blood-alcohol content of .0526, which is higher that the .02 limit for people under the age of 21. The Amish teen was charged with a DUI.

In both these cases, driver and rider were arrested for DUI because horses and horse drawn vehicles are still considered vehicles in their respective states. Here Pennsylvania, a horse and rider/buggy are considered vehicles with full rights to the road and all the duties that entails, which means drunk driving laws apply to modes of transport involving horses. Considering how common this type of transport is in our state that’s a good thing to know. If you are under the age of 21, it’s also good to know that the legal limit for your age group is .02 and not .08.

From the attorneys at Fiore & Barber, LLC—helping you understand your rights and the laws of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Legislature Slams Shut Loophole for DUI Offenses

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On October 27, 2014, Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation that will greatly affect punishment for certain DUI offenses.

Until this new legislation, subsequent DUI offenses were governed by the decision in Commonwealth v. Haig, 981 A.2d 902 (2009). In that case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the actions of an individual subsequent to the DUI violation were beyond the scope of the prior offense provision during sentencing. In layman’s terms, this meant that an individual can be convicted as a first-time offender on multiple DUI arrests if those offenses were committed after the first violation.

Under the new amended law, the relevant recidivism time-period to the ten-year period before sentencing (not after violation) will be counted towards the prior offense grading and penalty. It also added the language “whether or not judgment of sentence has been imposed for the violation.” Therefore, going forward, a driver with multiple DUI offenses will be sentenced to much harsher penalties. This provision is effective 60 days from Monday, October 27.

To discuss this amendment or how it may affect your case, please contact Fiore & Barber, LLC.

Skippack DUI lawyer

Don’t Let a DUI Ruin Your Halloween Celebration

This year, Halloween is on a Friday which means there may be a likely increase in the number of costumed revelers enjoying adult beverages. When Halloween and a Friday night combine, there can be an increase in DUI arrests. It is important to learn how to avoid getting a DUI so you can enjoy the party and costumes without facing harsh legal consequences or putting yourself and others in danger.

Designate a Driver

The first and foremost tip for Halloween partiers is to either rely on a cab or a designated driver to help you get to the parties and then home safely. However, this isn’t always an option as some people may unexpectedly find themselves behind the wheel after drinking. While this is never ideal, there are ways avoid getting arrested and posing for a mug shot rather than a costumed selfie.

It can be helpful to be aware that it is a Friday night and police will be patrolling after bars close. You can consciously avoid where police will logically be located. Also, be sure your car is in legally working condition. Police can’t just pull you over for no reason or based on a hunch that you may have left a party or bar. However, if your taillight is out or your registration is outdated, they can and will pull you over regardless of how cautious you may be driving.

If you or someone you know does make a mistake and receive a DUI over Halloween, then please reach out to our firm so that we can help you through this period.

Fiore & Barber, LLC

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Harleysville, PA 19438
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