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DUI Attorney in Delaware County, PA

If you were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Delaware County, PA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Attorney Michael Skinner fights DUI cases in Delaware County from his office conveniently located in the Borough of Media. He represents clients charged in Media and the surrounding boroughs and townships.

Focused on DUI defense, Michael Skinner is experienced in representing his clients in both the administrative actions to suspend a driver's license after a DUI arrest and the criminal aspects of the case. Whether your case involves a refusal to submit to testing or a high breath test reading on the breathalyzer, call us to discuss your case today. Call (610) 436-1410 to find out more about the criminal charge, ways to avoid the potential penalties and important defenses that might exist in your case.

Explaining Pennsylvania's DUI Laws

In a trial for DUI in Pennsylvania, the statute uses the terms "drive," "operate," and "actual physical control." The crime of DUI can be committed not only by a person who actually drives a vehicle but also by a person who "operates" or is in "actual physical control" of the movement of a vehicle.

In cases where the person drove, it is not always necessary that the law enforcement officer saw the person actually driving the car while it is in motion. In DUI cases involving a crash or accident, the officer might only see the person outside of the vehicle many minutes after the crash. In many cases, the prosecutor for the Commonwealth will attempt to prove that the defendant "drove" the vehicle through circumstantial evidence.

Pennsylvania's DUI statute also provides that a person may "operate" or be in "actual physical control" of the movement of a vehicle even when it is stationary and not driving down the road. The terms for actual physical control are broader than the term "drive" because the law is concerned with the threat to public safety from motorists who have a present intention of driving a vehicle immediately within their control even if they did not actually drive.

In some cases, the vehicle is “truly parked” instead of just temporarily stopped. Even sleeping while drunk inside a vehicle can be considered being in actual physical control of a stationary vehicle when the driver is sitting in the driver’s seat and the car is running or the keys are in the ignition.

The law provides that the mere fact that a defendant was somewhere within the passenger compartment of a vehicle is not, by itself, enough to show that he or she was operating or was in actual physical control of it. In such a case, your attorney may be able to file a motion to dismiss the case showing that the uncontested facts are not sufficient to show driving, operating, or actual physical control.

Despite this distinction in the law, jurors often expect proof that the defendant was actually caught driving the vehicle. Many people believe it is unfair to prosecutor someone for "sleeping it off" in their car.  As a result, prosecutors understand that cases without proof of actually driving are often more difficult to prove at trial.

Definition of "Incapable of Safe Driving"

At trial, the issue for the fact finder to decide is whether the person driving or operating the vehicle was "incapable of safe driving.” This phrase has a precise meaning under the law. Pennsylvania law provides that the person accused of DUI need not have been drunk or severely intoxicated or driving wildly or erratically to commit this crime. Instead, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant drank enough alcohol to substantially impair the defendant's normal mental or physical faculties that were essential to safe operation of a vehicle.

The issue comes down to whether the defendant’s “thinking, judgment, physical skills, ability to perceive and react to changes in the situation or other faculties were impaired and that the impairment was caused by alcohol."

DUI Refusal in Media, Delaware County, PA

In many DUI cases in Delaware County, the prosecutor will allege that the defendant refused to give a sample of his or her breath, blood or urine for testing. A person can express "refusal" in words by saying “No, I will not submit to the chemical test.” In some cases, the prosecutor will allege that the refusal was demonstrated by uncooperative conduct. In determining whether a refusal actually occurred, everything said and done by the police officer and the defendant will be considered, including all of the surrounding circumstances at the time of the alleged refusal.

In some cases, the courts have found that if a person refuses, that initial refusal can still be regarded as a refusal even if he or she later offers a sample for testing. In other words, the defendant can not necessarily recant or cure the refusal by later agreeing to submit to the chemical test after first refusing.

If a refusal is proven, then the prosecutor will often argue that the testimony about the refusal tends to show that the defendant refused to give a sample of his or her blood, breath, or urine indicates that he or she was conscious of guilt. In other words, the prosecutor will argue that the driver knew he would blow over the legal limit of 0.08 and that is why he refused to submit to the breath test. On the other hand, the criminal defense attorney will argue that there were reasons why an innocent person might refuse to take the test.

At trial, the standard jury instructions provide that if the jury finds that the defendant was asked for and refused to give a sample of his or her breath, blood or urine for testing, then the jury can consider that fact, along with other facts, when deciding whether the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. The jury can give the alleged refusal whatever weight and meaning it thinks it deserves. The other evidence can include the circumstances surrounding the request for the sample, the words of refusal, and other reasons the defendant gave for the refusal.

If a DUI refusal case proceeds to trial, the standard jury instructions for Driving under the Influence of Alcohol found at 17.3802(h) explain the importance of "refusing" to submit to testing of the breath blood or urine after a DUI arrest.

DUI Statistics in Delaware County, PA

Municipal departments in Delaware County, PA, made 1,612 DUI arrests in 2014, according to Pennsylvania’s Unified Crime Reporting statistics. The number of DUI arrests was down from the 1,644 municipal arrests in 2013. The Pennsylvania State Police made 597 arrests in 2014, bringing the total number of DUI arrests in Delaware County, PA, to more than 2,200. 

The majority of those cases, 1,248, involved first-time offenders. Second-time offenders comprised 280 of those arrested, while 95 of the DUI cases in Delaware County in 2014 were for third-time offenders. A total of 43 offenders were arrested for DUI two or more times in 2014.

Approximately 75 percent of those arrested for a first-time offense were put into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The diversionary program includes a period of supervision and other restrictions such as a requirement that the offender takes safe driving classes. The District Attorney’s Office in Delaware County says that on average, Delaware County processes 55 to 65 ARD cases per month.

Although the number of alcohol-related offenses has dropped over the past five years, the number of drivers impaired by chemical or controlled substances has risen during that same period. The majority of police departments have officers certified in DUI enforcement for alcohol and drugs. If a driver appears to be impaired by a chemical or controlled substance, then the arresting officer can request that a drug recognition expert (DRE officer) perform an evaluation to determine if any chemical or controlled substance played a role in the impairment.

Law enforcement officers in Pennsylvania have moved away from DUI checkpoints in recent years and focused on adding more roving patrols, especially on weekend nights and around holidays.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that alcohol-impaired driving fatalities dropped 23 percent nationwide between 2004 and 2013, the last year for which data was available. Pennsylvania had 1,208 traffic fatalities in 2013, of which 368 involved a driver with blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Additional Resources

Department of Diagnostic Services in Media, PA — Visit the website of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas to learn more about the Department of Diagnostic Services located on West Front Street in Media, PA. The Department of Diagnostic Services is open from 8:30 to 4:30 on Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). The Department of Diagnostic Services completes all court-ordered evaluations both from Court of Common Pleas within the Thirty-Second Judicial District and the Magisterial District Justice System. Each DUI offense requires the Court Reporting Network (CRN) Evaluation. In some cases, the court might order another type of evaluation, including a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation, a Psychological Evaluation, or a Psychiatric Evaluation.

The results of the CRN Evaluation determine whether a more comprehensive drug and alcohol evaluation is required. The evaluation is used by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to gather important data from all 67 Pennsylvania counties on the DUI population. If you are required to undergo this evaluation, you must pay $70 at the first appointment. The payment is made to Court Financial Services because the Department of Diagnostic Services in Media does not collect money.

The type of evaluation required is determined by a host of factors, including whether the person refused chemical testing, the person’s blood alcohol level (BAC) or the presence of any controlled substance. After a CRN evaluation, the second type of evaluation, a Drug and Alcohol Evaluation, may be required. Both evaluations are automatically required for any third or fourth DUI offense. The drug and alcohol evaluation is also required for a second DUI offense when the BAC is between 0.10 and 0.159, or an injury or crash occurred. A drug and alcohol evaluation is also required anytime the BAC is 0.16 or above. Recent DUI statistics in Media, PA, show that the average blood alcohol level is nearly 0.18 at the time of arrest.

Alcohol Highway Safety DUI Educational Classes — To schedule the Alcohol Safe Driving Classes or Track 1 Out-Patient DUI Classes after a DUI arrest call (610) 237-8630. You can also register online.

Find a DUI Attorney in Delaware County

If you were arrested in the City of Chester or the Borough of Media, or any of the surrounding boroughs or townships of Delaware County, PA, then contact an experienced drunk driving defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm. Michael Skinner represents clients who submitted to the breath test and those who refused any chemical testing. Experience counts when it comes to defending a person against an allegation of drunk driving in Media, PA.

Call Attorney Michael Skinner to discuss your DUI case in Montgomery County for a first offense that might be eligible for the Delaware County ARD Program or for a more serious second or subsequent charge. Call us if your case was removed from the ARD program because of a new arrest or because of your prior criminal record. Michael Skinner is experienced in fighting the DUI breath test and the alleged refusal to submit to DUI BAC testing. Call (610) 436-1410 to discuss your case today.

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