Being charged with drinking and driving in Pennsylvania 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 and Pennsylvania law. This may be your first arrest and involvement with the legal system. We understand that there is often anxiety associated with a DUI charge. You can alleviate your worries and find the best path forward with help from an experienced DUI lawyer in Montgomery County who can seek the best possible outcome for your case.
Steven Kellis is a former Senior Assistant District Attorney who’s prosecuted hundreds of drinking and driving cases and knows the many possible defenses for DUI charges. Mr. Kellis has worked on both sides of DUI law, has relationships with police officers and 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.
Every case has different circumstances requiring a specific defense strategy guided by an experienced attorney. If you have been arrested recently, you can work with a trusted DUI lawyer in Montgomery to fight your charges and seek the best outcome possible for your case. Learn about your available legal options during a free, no obligation case review with Steven E. Kellis when you call 215-940-1200 or contact us online now.
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 intoxicated. 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 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 an attorney.
Challenging Your Charge
Attorney Steven Kellis advises people facing a drinking and driving charge to avoid going before the Montgomery County judge and pleading guilty without first knowing their rights. It’s very important to seek the help of an experienced lawyer who understands DUI law. A mistake could have been made 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 percent 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.
Evidence inappropriately or illegally obtained by the police can be subject to suppression, or thrown out altogether. A DUI expert must carefully investigate the facts of your case. A solid defense can result in fewer penalties assessed against you and a reduction or dismissal of your driving under the influence charge.
DUI Statistics for Montgomery County
Montgomery County has a rate of DUI prosecutions slightly higher than the state of Pennsylvania’s as a whole. In 2018, Montgomery County 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.
There is an extremely low rate of DUI-related fatalities in Montgomery County, fortunately. 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.
Criminal Penalties for DUI Conviction
Penalties for receiving a DUI in Pennsylvania will vary depending on the circumstances of your case and the discretion of the presiding judge. Some of the biggest factors are whether you have a prior conviction and the concentration of alcohol detected in a blood sample (BAC).
Pennsylvania DUI penalties are listed in its Consolidated Statutes §3804.
There are 3 tiers of penalties depending on your BAC level at the time of your arrest:
- General Impairment: A BAC of 0.08 – 0.099
- High BAC: 0.10 – 0.159 BAC
- Highest BAC: 0.16 or greater BAC
Penalties for a first offense General Impairment BAC include: up to 6 months probation, a $300 fine, alcohol highway safety school, and, if ordered, substance abuse treatment.
Penalties for a second General Impairment offense include: a $300 – $2,500 fine, between 5 days to 12 months jail time, a 12 month license suspension, an ignition interlock, alcohol highway safety school, and, if ordered, substance abuse treatment.
Review the PA DMV website for more information on specific penalties related to higher BACs or more prior convictions.
Plea Options When Facing DUI Charges
- 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 really 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 Montgomery County DUI lawyer 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 attorney in Montgomery County 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.
When facing a drinking and driving charge, it’s important to seek advice from an experienced attorney who understands Pennsylvania DUI law and will fight for your rights.
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 DUI lawyer.
Call Steven E. Kellis at 215-940-1200 or contact us online to schedule your free case review now.
Montgomery County Office
630 Freedom Business Center, Third Floor
King of Prussia, PA