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How Is a DUI Defined In Pennsylvania?


In Pennsylvania, a DUI is defined as a motorist who is driving, operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The state has to prove that a person is incapable of safe driving due to impairment by alcohol, illegal drugs or prescribed drugs. Because driving under the influence of drugs encompasses prescribed drugs, it’s becoming more and more prevalent that people are being arrested for essentially taking their prescription medicine. The Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that any substance that can cause impairment will be considered a drug. For example, if someone inhales gasoline in order to get high and then drives, that can be considered driving under the influence.

What Are The Top Misconceptions People Have About Being Charged With A DUI?

The biggest misconception people have about being charged with a DUI is that there is no defense. There are a lot of defenses, but many attorneys don’t understand the science behind DUI cases. They don’t understand that you can get experts to review cases and identify where the state is falling short. It’s really important for people to understand that there is hope. It’s extremely important for those charged with DUI to contact the right attorney immediately. Your attorney should be schooled in all of the science, investigation, and preparation that is required to successfully defend DUI cases.

What Are The Common Mistakes People Make When They Are Arrested For A DUI?

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is offering unnecessary statements to the police. It is important to remember that an officer is attempting to build a case against a driver the minute they see or speak to them. It’s a big mistake for a citizen to answer questions about what they did that evening or to offer information about whether or not they had been drinking. Citizens have an absolute right not to incriminate themselves.

How Do You Advise People That Want To Plead Guilty To DUI Charges?

It’s important for everyone to know the consequences that they will face by pleading guilty to a DUI charge. Many people will be risking their jobs, families, and their ability to pay for their homes, cars, and other things that are important to them. All of those things are at stake because the DUI laws are only getting harsher. There are a whole host of penalties involved, including driver’s license suspension. How can you get to and from work if you can’t drive? It’s important to know about all of the options available to you. If somebody wants to plead guilty, that’s certainly their choice. But if they do, then they should get the best outcome possible given the circumstances. That involves hiring a lawyer who has knowledge of the law, knowledge of the science behind DUI cases, and knowledge of what tools the police use to prosecute a person for DUI. All of these things would be important to know so that if the person wants to plead guilty, then they can at least get the best deal.

What Typically Happens After Someone Is Pulled Over On Suspicion Of DUI Charges?

The minute the officer gets behind the motorist, they are building the case. The minute they put their overhead lights and siren on, the officer is looking at every action that the motorist is taking. They are looking at how they pull off the road, whether or not they are sticking out in traffic, whether or not they parked crookedly, how the driver hands them their license, registration and insurance, and whether or not they have slurred speech. The officer will also be looking for any other mannerisms that may indicate impairment.

Then, the officer does what’s called a divided attention test, which essentially means asking somebody to perform an action that requires simultaneous thought and physical action. In other words, the officer asks the motorist to perform a mental task and a physical task at the same time. The best example of that would be to ask the driver, “Can I have your driver’s license?” and then looking to see if the person fumbles while retrieving it from their wallet or purse. The officer is looking at all of these things. When the officer orders the person to get out of the vehicle, the officer is looking at whether or not they are standing upright or they stumbled, and whether or not they had to hold onto anything for stability while exiting the vehicle. They will also want to see whether or not the person can walk normally. The officer is looking at all of that in an effort to build a case.

Police officers will then have the person perform the standardized field sobriety tests, which are more like exercises than they are tests. Many times they’re not even graded properly. So, if you can imagine taking a test in school and not having it graded properly, that’s what often happens on the field sobriety tests. Oftentimes the officers give these tests and just assume from the get-go that the person will fail. Even if the officer has made their decision, they’ll administer a portable breath test. In Pennsylvania, the portable breath tests are not admissible in the trial because they are unreliable. Then, the officer will arrest the person and take them for either a blood test or a breath test.

Even though a motorist is technically arrested, the motorist will typically be permitted to go home if they can get a ride. If someone sober is willing to pick them up, then they’ll be released. They will receive the paperwork anywhere from two weeks to two months later. As soon as a motorist has been arrested for DUI, they should call a competent DUI defense lawyer who is well versed in the science and law involved in DUI cases so that they can start building their defense right then and there. It’s important to start early and not wait until the paperwork comes.

For more information on DUI Charges In Pennsylvania, a free strategy session is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (412) 471-5000 today.

What is the Mike Sherman Difference?

Mike Sherman has unique experience and knowledge which he uses to protect his clients.
  • Mike Sherman is a former attorney for the Pennsylvania State Police. He knows both sides of the law and uses that knowledge to benefit his clients.
  • Mike Sherman wrote “the” Pennsylvania textbook on Pennsylvania DUI law, Driving Under the Influence Law and Practice.
  • He uses a scientific method to investigate your case. Relying on his deep understanding of forensic science, he picks apart the evidence against you and looks for errors that he can challenge. He then carefully prepares your case with the goal of highlighting these issues and putting you in the best possible position.

If you are facing a serious charge, don’t delay. Call now to set up your free consultation at

(412) 471-5000

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