After being arrested for drinking and driving in Pennsylvania, you will undoubtedly have many questions about how to proceed. The legal process can be complex, and without proper guidance, you could jeopardize your defense. Following an arrest, it’s important to contact an attorney experienced in DUI law who can advise you of your rights.
Bucks County DUI attorney Steven Kellis has worked both the prosecution and defense side of Pennsylvania DUI charges and has been handling cases like yours every day for 25 years. He has relationships with police officers and the courts, and can guide you through the legal system so that you can get the most favorable outcome possible for your case.
If you have been charged with DUI, or are a victim of an accident resulting from a drunk driver, it is important to consult with an experienced Bucks County DUI lawyer. Steve Kellis understands Pennsylvania DUI law and will fight for your rights so that you can get the best possible outcome for your case. Call 215-940-1200 or contact his office online today to schedule a free consultation.
DUI Statistics for Bucks County
Bucks County has a relatively high rate of DUI prosecutions compared to other Court of Common Pleas cases. According to statistics provided by the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Bucks County had 2,048 DUI criminal cases in 2018, making up 27.5% of the Court of Common Pleas’ docket. For comparison, in Pennsylvania as a whole, DUI cases make up only 25.2% of the overall common pleas caseload.
Fortunately, Bucks County is not known for a high rate of DUI-related fatalities. A report ranking the 67 Pennsylvania Counties by their rate of DUI-related fatalities adjusted for population found that Bucks County ranked 57th overall, with one DUI-related fatality per every 9,240 residents.
Chemical Testing Requirements
Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, which means that anyone who obtains a driver’s license automatically agrees to submit to breath, blood, or urine testing. The testing is usually requested by law enforcement officers as part of a traffic stop, and is used to determine the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. Refusal to take a breath, blood, or urine test after being stopped for an alleged DUI is illegal and automatically triggers additional charges. Refusal will result in suspension of your driver’s license for at least a year. This is in addition to penalties for the DUI offense. Even if you are found not guilty of drinking and driving and have refused the test, your license will be suspended for one year.
A two and a half year suspension can result if you refuse the test and you are determined to be DUI, depending on your BAC. If you refuse testing and have a prior drunk driving conviction you will receive an eighteen month suspension for refusal plus eighteen more months for DUI.
The Preliminary Hearing
Once you’re released from the initial DUI arrest, it is mandatory that you appear before the court to answer to the charges. The local magistrate will send a letter by mail informing you of your preliminary hearing date. You must attend the hearing; otherwise, an arrest warrant will be issued in your name.
Every person arrested for DUI is entitled to a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the Commonwealth, or the state of Pennsylvania, must prove that you committed each element of the DUI crime of which you are accused. Given the importance of this hearing, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney who may be able to suppress evidence against you. Some people submit to the courts and plead guilty to the charge. But that is the worst thing you can do, as you will forfeit your right to challenge the charge and take the case to trial.
At your hearing, the Bucks County judge will set your bail and order you to make an appointment for a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation within 72 hours. This evaluation is an initial alcohol assessment that every person accused of DUI must complete. Depending on the results of the evaluation, you may later be ordered to have alcohol and/or drug counseling or treatment.
Given the importance of this hearing, you will need the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney in Bucks County who may be able to suppress evidence against you, file motions to dismiss your charges, or provide advice at key steps of your DUI case process.
The penalty for a first time DUI offense is a $300 fine and 6 months of probation; however, there is no mandatory suspension or prison sentence. The penalty for a second offense is 5 days to 6 months in prison, a $300 to $2500 fine, and having your license suspended for 12 months. A third offense results in 10 days to 2 years in prison, a $500 to $5000 fine, and a 12 month license suspension.
The severity of your penalties increase depending on how high your blood alcohol content (BAC) was and the number of times you have been convicted. An ignition interlock system must be installed for one year if you have a second or third offense. It may also be mandatory you go to alcohol abuse screening, treatment, and do community service.
While your DUI case is pending, your Bucks County criminal defense attorney will utilize the discovery process and build your defense by investigating and evaluating the prosecution’s evidence against you. This includes detailed information about your arrest, field sobriety and police reports, breathalyzer and/or blood testing results, maintenance records of the chemical testing instruments used, and any other information relevant to your case.
Your Bucks County DUI lawyer will also have the opportunity to question witnesses and collect information from the arresting officer and other police officers who participated in your arrest and processing at the police station. A defense strategy will be built based on the information gathered, and whether or not there was an illegal arrest or inaccurate test results. Your attorney will then determine what motions should be filed. These motions may be used to try to suppress or throw out improperly obtained evidence in your case.
Resolving Your DUI Charge
You must resolve your DUI by entering into a plea agreement with the Commonwealth, or by going to trial on the charges you are facing. Your attorney will evaluate the evidence, present your options, and help you make an optimal decision based on your case. If you decide to go to trial, your lawyer will advocate on your behalf throughout the trial proceedings, which may be before a judge or a jury, depending on the circumstances.
A driving under the influence charge is a serious criminal offense that can make a negative impact on your life and future employment. It is critical that you get help from an experienced attorney who will assist you in building a strong defense to your DUI charge while guiding you through the legal process.
Plea Options for Bucks County DUI Charges
When facing your DUI charges, you will be given a number of plea options:
- Delaying Your Plea: You may be given the option to postpone your plea to a later court date in order to obtain legal representation or seek motions that could potentially dismiss or reduce your charges.
- Not Guilty: A not guilty plea means you believe you can make a case for your own innocence. Proving your innocence can mean either irrefutably showing you were not guilty for the crime or disputing aspects of the prosecution’s case.
- Guilty: You can choose to make a “guilty” plea, but you should only do so in cooperation with the prosecution. They may be willing to grant you more lenient sentencing or reduce your charges in exchange for a guilty plea and a speedy resolution to the case.
- Nolo Contendere: A “nolo” plea means “no contest.” It can provide benefits for minor traffic violation cases compared to a guilty plea, but for more-serious charges like a DUI, it is not beneficial compared to a “guilty” plea arrangement.
A DUI lawyer in Bucks County can help you evaluate all of your available options and choose the one that offers the most potential benefits for your case outcome.
Pennsylvania’s ARD Program
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program in Pennsylvania is designed to help certain first-time offenders for non-violent crimes avoid a formal trial and prosecution. During your arraignment — or sometimes prior-to — you may be given the opportunity to enter ARD and basically put a stop to your case’s criminal proceedings.
ARD requires you to submit to drug counseling, abide by certain restrictions, and participate in a probation-type program. Upon completion of the program, the prosecution may drop all charges pending against you relating to your DUI. You can petition to have these charges removed (expunged) from your record.
Entering ARD may seem like the perfect escape hatch from DUI charges, but the reality is that you may have better options available. Once you participate in ARD once, you will never be able to again. You may wish to fight your charges instead by entering a “not guilty” plea and working with an experienced Bucks County DUI lawyer.
Find Your DUI Court in Bucks County
The court where you will be expected to appear will be different depending on where your Bucks County DUI arrest occurred. You can visit the official Bucks County website to view the list of magisterial district courts and locate the one that has jurisdiction over your case.
Cities we serve in Bucks County
Contact our Bucks County DUI Law Firm
Facing charges for a DUI can be intimidating. You may not know your legal options, and you may be worried about your possible future. Working with an experienced DUI lawyer in Bucks County can help you know exactly what options you have available. You and your attorney may be able to reduce the severity of your DUI charge by seeking to reduce the charge, challenging evidence, filing a motion to dismiss charges, or any other tactics available.
Steven Kellis has the experience and knowledge to provide you with skilled legal representation for your DUI case. With his assistance, you can explore the options available to address your charges and make decisions that are best for you and your family. Call 215-940-1200 or contact Steven Kellis online today for a free consultation.
Bucks County Office
196 West Ashland Street