Being charged with drinking and driving is a serious offense with no easy answers. If you’ve gotten a DUI, you need straightforward advice to make smart decisions based on your rights under Pennsylvania law.
Steven Kellis, a Montgomery County, PA DUI Lawyer understands the anxiety associated with a DUI charge. Alleviate your worries and find the best path forward with a qualified DUI attorney who can seek the best possible outcome for your case.
Every case has different circumstances requiring a specific defense strategy guided by an experienced attorney. If you have recently been arrested, work with a trusted Pennsylvania DUI lawyer to fight your charges.
Mr. Kellis has worked on both sides of DUI law, has relationships with the courts in Montgomery County, and will fight to reduce or dismiss charges against you. He has handled cases like yours every day for the past 25 years.
Learn about your available legal options during a free, no-obligation case review with Steven E. Kellis. Call 215-940-1200 or contact us online now.
Montgomery County DUI Statistics
Montgomery County has a rate of DUI prosecutions slightly higher than the state of Pennsylvania as a whole. In 2018, they handled 2,251 criminal DUI cases, making up 26.8% of its Court of Common Pleas docket. For comparison, the state of Pennsylvania had DUIs make up 25.2% of its Court of Common Pleas caseload.
Fortunately, there is an extremely low rate of DUI-related fatalities in the county. When ranking Pennsylvania’s 67 counties for DUIs compared to their population, Montgomery County comes in near the very bottom at #65.
Between 2013 and 2017, just one person died in a DUI-related accident for every 16,522 residents.
What to Expect When You’re Arrested
A DUI arrest typically occurs when a police officer stops a vehicle for a traffic law violation or for driving behavior that indicates intoxication. Signs of drunk driving include quick acceleration, weaving from one lane to another, or tailgating.
If the officer suspects that you’ve been drinking, you’ll likely be asked to perform field sobriety tests, such as standing on one leg or walking a straight line.
Based on observing these tests and noting other indicators of intoxication, such as stumbling when getting out of your car, alcohol on your breath, or slurred speech, the officer will continue with a DUI investigation and may arrest you.
The next step is to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC) using a breathalyzer machine, usually located at the police station. Always submit to the breath test. If you refuse, you could lose your license for up to one year, even if you are not guilty of a DUI. If your BAC measures .08 or higher, you will be charged with driving under the influence: usually a misdemeanor. At this point, you will need to contact a lawyer.
Montgomery County DUI Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, nearly one-third or 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
One out of every three drivers with BAC levels of 0.08 or higher who were involved in fatal crashes that year were between 21 and 24 years of age, 27 percent were aged 25 to 34, and nearly one-fourth were in the age group of 35 to 44.
Potential Penalties for DUI Accidents
When a drunk driver operates a vehicle with a high rate of alcohol (a BAC of at least .10) and causes bodily injury, vehicle damage, or property damage in Montgomery County, the following penalties typically apply:
- First-time offender – mandatory minimum imprisonment of 48 hours; a fine of $500 up to $5,000; mandatory attendance at an alcohol highway safety school; and compliance with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge, including up to 150 hours of community service.
- Second-time offender – mandatory minimum imprisonment of 30 days; a fine of $750 up to $5,000; mandatory attendance at an alcohol highway safety school; compliance with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge, including up to 150 hours of community service.
- Third-time offender – mandatory minimum imprisonment of 90 days; a fine of $1,500 up to $10,000; compliance with all drug and alcohol treatment imposed by the sentencing judge, including up to 150 hours of community service.
- Fourth or subsequent violation – at least one year of imprisonment; a fine of $1,500 up to $10,000; compliance with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge, including up to 150 hours of community service.
Montgomery County Extreme DUI
The state of Pennsylvania takes drinking and driving very seriously. Extreme, or enhanced, DUI charges in Montgomery County and throughout Pennsylvania are much more serious than an arrest for a simple DUI.
Pennsylvania: Tough on Drinking and Driving
The Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 24 in 2003, which lowered the state’s legal limit of alcohol from .10 to .08 and created a tiered approach toward DUI enforcement and treatment. It made many changes to the penalties, terms of suspension, fines and other requirements. The combination of an individual’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level and prior offenses determines the licensing requirements and penalties. The law focuses on treatment for first-time DUI offenders, rather than strictly punishment and suspension.
There are 3 tiers of penalties depending on your BAC level at the time of your arrest:
- General Impairment: 0.08 – 0.099 BAC
- High BAC: 0.10 – 0.159 BAC
- Highest BAC: 0.16 or greater BAC
For those at the highest BAC level, Pennsylvania law provides strict penalties, but also permits offenders to receive treatment, allowing individuals to obtain counseling for their alcohol problem, but still penalizing those who choose to continue to drink and drive. Drivers under the influence of controlled substances and those who refuse breath or chemical testing are also subject to the highest BAC category penalties.
Challenging Your Charge
It’s very important to seek the help of a Montgomery County, PA DUI lawyer who understands DUI law. The police officer could have made a mistake with the field sobriety test or breathalyzer and a thorough investigation is required. Breath machines can be defective and are subject to human error. They must be adjusted and calibrated to account for air temperature fluctuations; otherwise, the machine may give a false reading.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 23% of drivers tested with a breathalyzer will have a BAC higher than their actual blood alcohol content. Dieters and diabetics can get faulty readings due to having high levels of acetone, which can be falsely identified as alcohol by some breathalyzers. There are many other factors that can give an inaccurate reading, all of which must be challenged by a knowledgeable attorney.
Inappropriately or illegally obtained evidence can be subject to suppression or be thrown out altogether. A solid defense can result in fewer penalties assessed against you and a reduction or dismissal of your driving under the influence charge.
Plea Options When Facing DUI Charges
You have four main options available when pleading a DUI charge:
- Delay your plea (usually only available at the arraignment)
- Not guilty
- Nolo Contendere
The judge may give you the opportunity to delay your plea at your arraignment in order to locate a lawyer or file appropriate motions.
Once you are forced to enter a plea, you really only have the choice between “guilty” and “not guilty.” A “nolo contendere” plea does not apply in criminal cases, and it is an option best reserved for certain minor traffic infractions.
A “guilty” plea should only be entered after you have spoken with the prosecutors about possible arrangements. An experienced DUI lawyer in Montgomery County, PA will be able to help you work out a fair plea bargain. Most frequently, a plea bargain can let you reduce your charges or help you seek a more lenient sentence.
A “not guilty” plea is available if you think the prosecution does not have a strong enough case to convict. Common defenses include disputing whether evidence may be entered, whether the traffic stop was legal, or whether the prosecution disclosed all relevant case facts during the discovery phase.
Working with a DUI lawyer in Montgomery County, PA will allow you to consider all of your plea options and select the one that offers the best chance at an optimal outcome.
Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program
The ARD program exists to help certain first-time non-violent offenders avoid trial and prosecution for their crimes. By participating in the program, they can have their case dismissed before it ever technically goes to trial. They can also petition the court to request that their arrest is removed (expunged) from their record.
Participating in ARD is only a good option if you have no criminal defense strategies available. In many cases, you may be able to seek reduced charges with penalties below a DUI. You may also be able to convince a jury that you are innocent or that the prosecution does not have a strong enough case to convict.
Always consider entering ARD carefully. Once you participate, you can never enter the program again. Speak with a Montgomery County DUI attorney to weigh your options and decide if ARD is the best choice for you.
Find Your Magisterial District Court
Depending on where you were arrested for a DUI in Montgomery County, you could be assigned to a different court and magisterial judge.
You can review a list of magisterial judges, their courthouse locations, and what areas they have jurisdiction over in this directory provided by the Montgomery County court system.
Cities we serve in Montgomery County
Contact Our Montgomery County DUI Law Firm
Just one DUI conviction can have a profound impact on your future. You may lose your license, your job, and countless opportunities.
Don’t assume that you have no options available. Learn about your legal rights and what strategies you could use to seek the optimal outcome for your case during a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Montgomery County, PA DUI Lawyer.
Call Steven E. Kellis at 215-543-6566 or contact us online to schedule your free case review now.
Montgomery County Office
630 Freedom Business Center, Third Floor
King of Prussia, PA