PA Court Voids Cumberland County Judge’s DUI License Suspension Order

county-courthousePenn Live reported that the Commonweath Court overturned a Cumberland County judge’s ruling regarding the five-year driver’s license suspension of a Maryland woman for having been deemed a habitual drunk driver under Pennsylvania law. After being arrested for DUI three times within three months in 2011 in York County, New Cumberland, and East Pennsboro Township, the woman pleaded guilty and no contest to the charges, and received sentences including house arrest, probation, and a one-year license suspension. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) subsequently notified the woman that she was subject to a mandatory five-year suspension of her driver’s license.

The woman appealed the decision to Cumberland County Court, arguing that she should not be subject to the mandatory suspension due to the fact that her three arrests occurred shortly after she had become the victim of a kidnapping and sexual assault. She further argued that she was unaware that her plea agreements in the DUI cases would subject her to a five-year mandatory license suspension.

According to the woman, she had been taking medication at the time of her arrests in order to help her cope with her recent experience; her first arrest occurred only one month after the woman’s assailant had been arrested. The woman told police that her assailant had threatened to kill her and removed her cell phone battery so that she was unable to call for help. The woman ultimately escaped when she slipped a note to a bank teller, who then notified police. The woman’s male assailant eventually pleaded guilty in York County Court to various charges related to the incident.

On appeal of PennDOT’s license suspension order, Cumberland County Judge Thomas A. Placey expressed sympathy for the woman’s plight, and ruled that the woman’s driver’s license should not be suspended for a five-year period. PennDOT appealed the judge’s ruling to Commonweath Court, which ultimately voided the Cumberland County order. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson found that a five-year driver’s license suspension was mandatory for anyone who had been arrested three times for DUI within a five-year period, i.e. a habitual drunken driver.

While Simpson lauded the compassion shown to the woman by Judge Placey, he ruled that the woman did not have to be notified of the potential for a five-year license suspension prior to entering into her pleas in her DUI cases, and that her lack of knowledge of the consequences did not invalidate the law requiring her license suspension. Furthermore, the Court noted that the Pennsylvania mandatory driver’s license suspension law takes into account several factors, but ultimately is aimed at counteracting the dangers that habitual drunken drivers cause on the roadways.

As this case illustrates, the penalties for multiple DUI arrests are quite severe, and these penalties are not optional, even when the person subject to the law is arrested multiple times under unusual and even somewhat understandable circumstances. These penalties make it even more important for anyone who is accused of DUI or a related crime to immediately contact a skilled Pennsylvania DUI attorney for assistance in defending against the charges. Contacting a lawyer right away can help minimize the potential consequences of a DUI conviction, or perhaps avoid a conviction altogether. For assistance with your Pennsylvania DUI case, contact The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis today to schedule a free consultation.