With over 25 years of jury trial experience, Attorney Steven E. Kellis, Esq. knows every possible defense to help you win your DUI case.
Thanks to his time as a former prosecutor, Mr. Kellis has worked directly with numerous judges and prosecutors across the state, so you will benefit from his stellar reputation among his colleagues.
His work in PA DUI law has earned him honors which include:
Call the Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis today for a free consultation at (215) 543-6566.
Mr. Kellis is looking forward to helping you navigate the best course of action after your DUI arrest.
Because a drinking and driving charge can severely alter your life, Mr. Kellis carefully assesses every client’s case with attentiveness and discretion.
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A drinking and driving charge can be a confusing and stressful experience, especially if it’s your first arrest. A DUI conviction can permanently alter your life by affecting your ability to drive, your job, your future employment opportunities, and your freedom. The penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania are potentially severe, particularly when it is not your first offense. The initial step after being charged with a DUI is to immediately contact an attorney for an evaluation. Pennsylvania DUI law is complex and requires advice from an experienced DUI lawyer who can successfully resolve your charge. Because harsh penalties can result from a drunk driving conviction, a strong defense strategy should be built for your case. It is very important to understand your rights before proceeding with the legal process.
Selecting an appropriate attorney to handle your case is vital. Due to the potential complications associated with DUI law in Pennsylvania, it’s important to have representation from an attorney who understands both sides of the law, the prosecution and the defense. Steven Kellis spent five years working with DUI cases as a Senior Assistant District Attorney and DUI Prosecutor, experience that gave him firsthand knowledge of the methods used by prosecutors and police officers in drunk driving cases. As a defense attorney, Mr. Kellis has aggressive investigation and cross-examination tactics, and has represented clients in DUI cases for more than 25 years. His law practice is focused solely on Pennsylvania DUI defense.
The prosecutor must first prove that you were “driving or in actual physical control of a moving vehicle.” This sounds basic, but you might be surprised to know that persons are regularly arrested without any evidence of driving. Mr. Kellis has handled cases involving persons asleep in their vehicle, persons arrested at their home, and even persons walking to their vehicle with their keys in hand.
The prosecutor must prove that the arresting officer had a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” for stopping or approaching the vehicle you were allegedly driving. If you were stopped at a roadblock, they must prove that the roadblock was set up and executed in accordance with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
They must prove (in many cases) that you were a less safe driver as a result of drinking alcohol.
They must prove that after your arrest, the officer read the correct “Implied Consent Warning”. The correct warning must be read in substantial compliance with the statute and must be read at the time of arrest or soon thereafter as practicable.
They must prove that there was “probable cause” to arrest you for DUI. Many times they attempt to do so by presenting evidence of Field Sobriety tests. However, these tests are standardized, meaning they have to be performed systematically without deviation. That is simply not reality, since not all police officers are adequately trained on conducting these tests. The three standardized Field Sobriety Tests are listed below.
Mr. Kellis will require that the State prove each and every one of these elements on your case.
As in any criminal case, you are entitled to all police reports, transcripts, videos, audio recordings, maintenance logs, 911 CAD logs, and even information regarding the officers’ credentials, training, etc. We will obtain each and every relevant piece of evidence related to your case.
If there is a video and it is available to us, we will obtain it and review it with you prior to going to court. These recordings are very helpful in the defense of a case.
We are entitled to contest certain aspects of your case prior to a trial. Mr. Kellis regularly files and argues a variety of legal motions relevant to DUI defense. Perhaps most common is the “Motion to Suppress” evidence. Mr. Kellis will draft, file, and argue this motion where any evidence being used against you has been obtained illegally or is unreliable. Sometimes, simply filing a motion may encourage the State to reconsider or reduce your charges. Simply put, Mr. Kellis does whatever he can to win your case before you go to trial.
In the event that a trial is necessary, Mr. Kellis may suggest employing expert witnesses who can testify about the field sobriety tests or chemical tests.
The initial method for determining intoxication during the traffic stop is the field sobriety test. After the police officer pulls you over, factors such as whether or not you have alcohol on your breath, slurred speech, or red eyes and glassy eyes will be considered. If the officer suspects that you’re intoxicated, you’ll be asked to get out of the car and perform several tests, such as the one-legged stand, walk a straight line, and horizontal gaze nystagmus. The purpose of field sobriety testing is to help the officer determine if you are intoxicated or otherwise impaired and should be arrested for DUI. At least two clues of intoxication must be detected. Field sobriety tests are given at the discretion of the police officer and are considered voluntary.
The Portable Breath Test machine, commonly known as the Preliminary Breath Test or PBT, is usually given at the scene to the driver to determine if he is over the legal BAC limit of .08%. The difference between a PBT and a formal breath test is reliability. Although PBTs offer an advantage of a hand held machine in terms of mobility, these devices are far less accurate than those used at the police station or a DUI Center. Thus, a hand held PBT machine is more likely to deliver false readings than an Intoxilyzer 5000 or Datamaster Breath Test Machine. Therefore, these devices should only be used to establish probable cause for your arrest and their numeric results cannot be used as evidence against you in court. Officers are only allowed to testify that the PBT results indicated only the presence of alcohol. Unlike formal breath tests, PBTs are entirely voluntary and you are not required to blow into the PBT breath machine when you are being investigated for a PA DUI. However, if you refuse to submit to a portable breath test, you can still be taken to the police station or DUI Center for a formal breath, blood or urine test. It is important to know that, due to implied consent laws, you are required to submit to any type of formal chemical testing (such as breath, blood, or urine).
In fact, if you refuse to take a formal breath, blood or urine test, you may face more severe penalties than if you would have taken the test and failed.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is an involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person may have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object. In the HGN test, the officer observes the eyes of a person as the person follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his or her eyes. The examiner looks for three (3) indicators of impairment in each eye:
– Eyes cannot follow a moving object smoothly.
– Jerking is distinct when the eye is at a maximum deviation.
– Angle of the onset of jerking is within 45 degrees of center.
The HGN test is complicated. Frankly, there are countless police officers with little or no training in accurately conducting this test. Further, the test is usually conducted in less than ideal settings, such as at night, on the side of the highway, with bright lights within view. Further, Nystagmus may be a medical condition you were born with or acquired. Finally, Nystagmus can be caused by numerous other substances or exposure to various chemicals.
Walk and Turn (WAT)
The Walk-and-Turn test and One-Leg Stand test are “divided attention” tests. They require a suspect to listen to and follow instructions while performing physical movements that have no relationship to driving. These tests are not on the driving test and their relevancy is questionable.
In the Walk-and-Turn test, the driver is (in theory) directed to take nine steps, heel to toe, along a straight line (usually imaginary). After taking the steps, the driver must turn by taking a series of small steps and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The examiner looks for eight indicators of impairment:
-Cannot keep balance while listening to instructions.
-Begins walking before the instructions are finished.
-Stops while walking to regain balance.
-Does not touch heel-to-toe on each step.
-Steps off of the line.
-Uses arms to balance.
-Makes an improper turn.
-Takes an incorrect number of steps.
Only Seventy-Nine Percent (79%) of individuals who exhibit two (2) or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 or greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998). Further, Officers regularly give incorrect or insufficient instructions. Officers also fail to demonstrate the test or demonstrate it incorrectly. And again, these tests are conducted under often impossible circumstances (ie: on the side of the interstate with cars speeding by at 90mph). Also, a persons own physical limitations or previous injury may impact their ability to perform this test.
One Leg Stand (OLS)
In the One-Leg Stand test, the driver is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count out loud by thousands until he or she is told to put the foot down. The test should last no longer than Thirty (30) seconds. The officer looks for four (4) indicators of impairment:
– Sways while balancing.
– Uses arms to balance.
– Hops to maintain balance.
– Puts foot down.
Only Eighty-Three Percent (83%) of individuals who exhibit two (2) or more such indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 of greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998). Here again, there are countless issues with officer training, test conditions, improper instructions/demonstrations, and physical limitations.
The breathalyzer test, usually administered at the police station, is important evidence used against you by the prosecution. This machine measures the amount of alcohol in your blood, referred to as BAC. Since 2003, and the passage of Act 24, the illegal blood alcohol content for drivers 21 years old and over in Pennsylvania is .08 or higher. If you are under 21, you are considered to be DUI if your BAC is .02 or greater. Breath machines require maintenance and calibration, and sometimes give faulty readings. There is also the possibility of human error from the police officer administering the test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) an estimated 23 percent of drivers tested with a breathalyzer will have a BAC higher than their actual blood alcohol content.
Law enforcement officers typically administer a blood test, also used to determine your BAC. For some of his clients, Attorney Kellis has discovered that the BAC was lower than the legal limit after retesting blood samples through a private lab. An expert needs to examine every detail of a DUI charge in order to provide a successful defense.
There are three different warnings, and the officer must read the correct warning. This warning gives you the option of either taking a “Chemical test” (or tests) or “refusing the test”. The officer designates which type of test (blood, urine, or breath). Occasionally an officer will not read the Implied Consent warning at the time of arrest, or does not read the Implied Consent Warning properly. This may be grounds for the exclusion of the Chemical test. You do not have the right to have an attorney present at this point, however, you have the right to refuse to take these tests. The implied consent warning (in relevant part) indicates that should you choose to refuse the tests “your driver’s license may be suspended for a minimum period of one (1) year.”
They must prove (in many cases, where a test was given) that the test was done properly and on a machine that was working properly and had all of its electronic and operating components attached and in good working order. They must prove (in the case of adults, and on DUIs where alcohol is the alleged intoxicant) that your BAC was over a 0.08 within two (2) hours of driving. While officers can and do request the three types of chemical tests, breath tests and blood tests are the most common. They must prove (in the case of drivers under 21, and on DUIs where alcohol is the alleged intoxicant) that your BAC was over a 0.02.
Steven Kellis has successfully defended more than three thousand DUI cases in various jurisdictions around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Mr. Kellis regularly takes DUI cases to trial and has a high success rate. Many times these cases involve traffic accidents, eye witnesses, high blood alcohol (BAC) levels, prior arrests, and refusals. Further, because of Mr. Kellis’ reputation and expertise in DUI defense, and because he is known for taking DUI cases to trial, he is often able to secure a dismissal or reduction of charges.
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Steven Kellis has the experience and knowledge to provide an aggressive defense strategy for clients facing drunk driving or other DUI-related charges. Mr. Kellis is always available to meet with you about your case. Contact our office today at (215) 940-1200 for a free consultation to explore the options available to address your charges and make decisions that are best for you and your family.