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DUI charges in Pennsylvania frequently involves two components: criminal and civil / administrative (PennDOT hearings). The criminal aspect of a DUI charge takes place in court and ultimately, if a person is convicted or enters a guilty plea, a judge imposes a sentence involving jail or probation.
The second aspect of a DUI charge in Pennsylvania has to do with a defendant’s driver’s license. In Pennsylvania, driver’s license suspensions are imposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). PennDOT has the authority under the law to suspend a person’s driver’s license based on the result of the criminal case. That is, PennDOT will suspend a person’s license based on the DUI “tier” a person pleads guilty to and whether a person has prior DUIs in the past.
In Pennsylvania, every person who drives a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to a chemical test of their blood, breath and/or urine so long as a police officer has reasonable grounds to request such a test. The legal justification for this is that driving is considered a “privilege” as opposed to a “right” (such as a person’s liberty). A person has the constitutional right to “refuse” to submit to such a test, but PennDOT will automatically suspend your license for at least one year in addition to any other DUI-related license suspension.
According to Pennsylvania DUI law, you have a right to contest certain driver’s license suspensions. If PennDOT suspends your license as a result of a chemical test refusal, you have the right to appeal. An appeal will result in a civil hearing where PennDOT will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (as opposed to reasonable doubt) that you knowingly refused to submit to a chemical test. At the hearing, a judge will hear testimony from the police officer (and the motorist) and make a determination whether the case involved a knowing refusal. For a refusal to be upheld on appeal, a judge must find that the police properly advised the motorist of the consequences of refusing a chemical test. And, for a refusal to stand, PennDOT must be able to introduce sufficient evidence of a refusal (meaning that if the police officer fails to appear, a judge may dismiss the license suspension).
Several pertinent issues may arise at a PennDOT hearing:
Who was driving the vehicle at time of arrest?
Were you legally stopped by the police officer?
Were you legally arrested by the police officer?
Did the police officer have reasonable suspension to request a DUI chemical test?
Did you take a Breathalyzer Test or undergo Field Sobriety Tests?
Was any Breathalyzer test administered properly and legally?
What was your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level?
If the case involves a “refusal”, did the police advise you of the consequences of a refusal?
If you have been charged with a DUI in the Philadelphia area you should retain the services of a skilled, experienced Montgomery County DUI Defense Lawyer to help you navigate through this process. Contact me, Norristown PA DUI Criminal Attorney Erik Petersen immediately if you are facing DUI charges and are concerned about losing your PennDOT driving privileges.
I have many years experience handling DUI cases and offer free consultations to those facing criminal and DUI charges in MontCo. and the suburban Philadelphia area.
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