According to NBC Philadelphia, a western Pennsylvania couple is facing DUI charges stemming from a Fourth of July traffic stop. The unusual part of this incident is that both the 33-year-old man and the 24-year-old woman, who live together in New Sewickley Township, were charged for driving drunk in the same vehicle on the same night, within minutes of one another. Law enforcement authorities allege that the man was initially driving and swerving through traffic, when he pulled into a parking lot. He then switched seats with his female passenger, who was in the driver’s seat at the time of the traffic stop.
Police claimed that both individuals smelled of alcohol and were too intoxicated to drive safely when they were stopped, yet both had been driving the vehicle. Officers measured the blood alcohol content (BAC) of both parties; the man’s blood alcohol content was above the legal limit, while the woman’s BAC was just slightly below the legal limit. Nonetheless, both parties now face DUI charges.
While DUI charges are perhaps most commonly based on BAC levels, typically as measured by a breathalyzer or blood test, the Pennsylvania DUI statute provides that a driver is also impaired within the meaning of the statute if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that his or her mental faculties are impaired. Therefore, the mere fact that the woman’s BAC level was not above the legal limit does not mean that she cannot be convicted of DUI. Rather, if police observed her to be driving unsafely or erratically in some way, along with smelling of alcohol, then the prosecution may be able to prove that the woman is guilty of DUI.
While the article describing this incident does not go into great detail about the woman’s driving behavior, and seems to indicate that the woman was not driving any great distance prior to being stopped by police, it is unclear exactly what was observed that led to the traffic stop. For instance, the traffic stop may have occurred based solely on the man’s swerving, and may not have had to do with any observations about the woman’s driving. Therefore, it may be possible to challenge the observations that form the basis of the woman’s DUI charges. While the woman clearly had ingested some alcohol prior to driving, her BAC was not above the legal limit, and her driving arguably may not have been impaired to a degree sufficient to charge her with DUI.
This case illustrates that along with the help of an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney, it is very possible to mount a strong defense that may result in the reduction or outright dismissal of charges, based on a lack of evidence to support the charges. Observations of law enforcement can be extremely subjective, and can be difficult to prove when they serve as the basis for criminal charges. As a result, it is advisable for all individuals facing Pennsylvania DUI charges to contact a Pennsylvania DUI attorney as quickly as possible following an arrest in order to begin immediately building a defense.
If you or someone you know needs a DUI defense lawyer, contact The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis now. Consultations are free.