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Last Updated on: 10th October 2023, 06:03 pm
What to Do if You’re Arrested for DUI in Philadelphia
Getting arrested for DUI can be scary and overwhelming. But don’t panic! This article will walk you through what to expect and give you tips on how to handle it.
If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you of drunk driving, they will likely ask you to take a field sobriety test. This usually involves walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, standing on one leg, and following a pen with your eyes. If you fail the test, you’ll be arrested for DUI and taken to the police station.
At the station, you’ll be asked to take a breathalyzer test to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC). In Pennsylvania, the legal limit is 0.08%. If you’re under 21, any amount of alcohol in your system can lead to a DUI. Refusing the breathalyzer can also lead to penalties.
After the Arrest
After being arrested, you’ll have to deal with two separate cases – the criminal DUI charges and the civil driver’s license suspension. Here’s what to expect for each:
Criminal DUI Charges
- You’ll be photographed, fingerprinted and asked for basic information.
- The police might keep you in a holding cell until you sober up or post bail.
- Within 48 hours, you’ll see a bail commissioner who can set bail conditions.
- The police report will be sent to the District Attorney’s office where prosecutors will review the case and decide what charges to pursue.
- There will be a preliminary arraignment where formal charges are presented.
- You’ll be given a chance to plead guilty or not guilty. An attorney can enter this plea for you.
- The judge will set conditions of your bail, such as not driving unless to work or school.
- Your next hearing will be a pre-trial conference to discuss the case with the prosecutor. This is followed by the trial if charges aren’t dropped or a plea deal reached.
Driver’s License Suspension
After a DUI arrest, the police will confiscate your license and issue a temporary one valid for 30 days. PennDOT will send you a notice of suspension, which takes effect in 30 days unless you appeal. Here’s how to fight it:
- File an appeal within 30 days and request a hearing.
- At the hearing, the prosecutor must provide evidence that proves your BAC was over the limit or that you refused testing. You can argue against the evidence and testify yourself.
- If you win, the suspension will be overturned. If not, you can appeal to the Court of Common Pleas within 30 days.
- Get an occupational limited license if you need to drive for work.
Finding a DUI Lawyer
Having an experienced DUI lawyer is crucial for navigating the complex legal process and building your defense. Here’s how to find one:
- Ask friends and family for recommendations.
- Search lawyer directories like Nolo and Avvo.
- Look for lawyers who specialize in DUI defense, not general practice attorneys.
- Choose someone familiar with Philadelphia courts and judges.
- Ask about fees and payment plans – DUI defense costs $2,000-$5,000 on average.
- Meet with lawyers before hiring to discuss strategy.
Building Your Defense
A DUI conviction can lead to heavy fines, license suspension, ignition interlock device, jail time, and other penalties. Your lawyer’s goal is to get charges reduced or dismissed. Here are some strategies they may use:
- Challenge the reason for the traffic stop if there was no probable cause.
- Question the validity of field sobriety tests – they can be subjective.
- Dispute breathalyzer results if machines weren’t calibrated properly.
- Argue your BAC was rising and under the limit when driving.
- Claim the chemical test was done incorrectly.
- Allege mistakes in the police report like incorrect personal details.
- Negotiate a plea deal for lesser charges like reckless driving.
Preparing for Court
If your case goes to trial, preparation is key. Work with your lawyer to:
- Obtain police reports and evidence like dash cam video.
- Line up witnesses to testify about your sobriety.
- Gather receipts showing number of drinks consumed.
- Create a timeline of your day leading up to arrest.
- Get character references to show the judge.
- Testify clearly in your own defense.
- Highlight mitigating circumstances like no criminal record.
Potential results of your DUI case include:
- Not Guilty – Charges dismissed or acquittal at trial.
- Plea Deal – Plead guilty to lesser charges like reckless driving to avoid heavier penalties.
- Conviction – Jail time, fines, license suspension, DUI classes, ignition interlock device, and other penalties.
- ARD Program – Pretrial intervention program leading to dismissal of charges after classes, community service, etc.
Aftermath of a DUI
Even if charges are reduced or dropped, a DUI arrest can impact your life long-term:
- Higher insurance rates for 3-5 years typically.
- Difficulty finding or keeping a job, especially for commercial driving.
- Limitations on traveling internationally to some countries.
- Loss of federal financial aid if a student.
- Difficulty renting a car or other limitations.
- Social stigma and embarrassment.
The best way to avoid these consequences is by not driving after drinking. But if arrested, stay calm and call an experienced DUI attorney to protect your rights. With proper legal help, you can work to mitigate penalties and move on from the incident.