A recent news article reports that a 19-year-old western Pennsylvania teen was charged with homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter following an accident last year in which the teen driver crossed the center line into oncoming traffic and hit a car, killing both its driver and passenger. Authorities claim that the teen was texting and driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the fatal accident. Although the teen’s Pennsylvania DUI attorney claims that the teen was not texting when the collision occurred, phone records allegedly indicate otherwise.
The teen’s attorney also alleges that the teen was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. Although the police acknowledge that the teen was not legally intoxicated, he was charged because he was a minor who allegedly had some alcohol in his system at the time of the accident. Under Pennsylvania law, a minor may not have physical control over the movement of a vehicle when having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02% or greater, as measured within two hours of the time that the minor has driven, operated, or been in actual control of the vehicle. This is obviously a much lower BAC standard than for adults over the age of 21, for whom the BAC requirement for a drunk-driving offense is 0.08%. The theory is that since it is illegal for minors under the age of 21 to drink any amount of alcohol, then minors who drive even after consuming a relatively small amount of alcohol should be chargeable with a DUI offense.
As with adults, however, minors who possess a driver’s license are subject to Pennsylvania’s implied consent law. This means that anyone who obtains a driver’s license, whether a minor or an adult, agrees to submit to chemical BAC testing upon request. Therefore, refusal to undergo a breath, blood, or urine test after being pulled over and a police officer asks you to do so based on his or her reasonable belief that you are intoxicated triggers the implied consent law. If you refuse the test, you are subject to the automatic suspension of your driver’s license. Plus, your refusal of the test can be used against you in court as proof of your consciousness of your guilt.
The implied consent law, however, does not extend to field sobriety tests. These are the tests that police officers often ask you to undergo initially during a traffic stop. For instance, you may be asked to walk in a straight line, turn and walk back (“Walk and Turn”), or to stand on one leg (“One-Leg Stand”). If you refuse a field sobriety test, the implied consent law does not apply, and your driver’s license will not be affected by your refusal.
The penalties for DUI for a minor can be severe, particularly as in this case, where the alleged DUI accident caused the death of two individuals. Not only does this individual face DUI charges, but he is facing homicide and manslaughter charges, as well. The severity of these charges simply require that he obtain the services of an experienced Pennsylvania DUI lawyer, in hopes that he is able to successfully defend himself against the charges or at least minimize the potential consequences.
If you need legal counsel in the wake of a Pennsylvania DUI arrest, contact attorney Steven Kellis for a free consultation.