There are a number of factors that must be considered when formulating an effective DUI defense. What was the reason for the stop? Did the officer have reasonable suspicion? Was the driver a victim of racial profiling? Was the driver given the "O'Connell warning" before being subjected to a field sobriety test or any chemical testing? Was the Breathalyzer properly calibrated or was there any dysfunction with the BAC test? Were the driver's rights violated at any time during the tests, during the arrest or after?
These are only a few of the questions that a skilled DUI defense attorney must ask. At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, our attorneys have been providing zealous advocacy for over 65 years. We have a strong history of effective courtroom representation. Contact us today to discuss your DUI defense with a knowledgeable attorney at our firm.
Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini has significant experience fighting DUI charges in Pennsylvania courts. Speak to her today and get an experienced defense attorney on your side.
Experienced Representation At Every Stage Of The Criminal Process
After performing a thorough investigation of all the facts involved, we will represent you at every stage of the legal process, from the initial bond hearing to your license revocation hearing to your trial. We will file motions to reduce or dismiss the charges against you, and attend all court appearances with you or on your behalf.
What The Police And Prosecution Must Do
In Pennsylvania, the police must first advise a suspect that he or she does not have the right to remain silent and that a refusal to take a chemical test will result in an administrative license suspension. This is called an O'Connell warning and it must precede any testing request by police. Were you given this warning?
The Commonwealth always has the burden of proving the specific blood alcohol content (BAC) in a DUI charge. While a Portable Breath Test (PBT) may establish that a suspect has consumed alcohol, it does not measure with certainty the amount of alcohol a driver consumed. Furthermore, Pennsylvania courts have held that a PBT result is not admissible in court to establish the necessary elements of DUI.
Custodial Interrogation at the Hospital
When a DUI investigation is opened outside of a traffic stop, as in the case of a car accident caused by drunk driving, the officer and the Commonwealth must conduct an investigation to determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest. It is not uncommon for an officer to question a motorist (suspect) at the hospital where he or she has been taken following an accident.
Such encounters represent the beginning stages of the police investigation. It also represents a crucial time for determining whether the suspect was in custody for purposes of determining whether Miranda rights are applicable [ Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.ct 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)]. Any statements made by the suspect at this time may be suppressible based upon the nature and circumstances of the situation and whether or not the suspect was properly advised that he or she has the right to remain silent.
There are also situations where hospital personnel are the individuals that hear the most incriminating statements from a suspect. Even if statements are not made, these people still observe, see, hear and smell the suspect and therefore may become Commonwealth witnesses. However, there may objections possible to such testimony.
Understanding Your Privacy Rights In Criminal Investigations
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA") is the primary federal law providing for patient privacy protection. It provides that a patient's personal medical information may not be released to outside parties without the consent of the patient or when the information is given to the Department of Health and Human Services when it is undertaking a review, compliance investigation or enforcement action.
While there are very few cases to date that deal with the application of HIPAA arising in criminal cases, interest has been growing since April 14, 2003. Two recent state court decisions have held that blood samples obtained solely for law enforcement purposes do not fall under the protections afforded by HIPAA because the samples were not taken for the purposes of obtaining health care, diagnosis or medical advice ( State v. Neely, 2005 Ohio 7045 (Ohio Ct.App. 2005); State v. Friedman, 2007 WL 1486085).
The requirements for proper release of medical records for judicial, law enforcement and other purposes provide several areas to attack a subpoena. First, one can establish that the release of protected health information ("PHI") was improper or, second, that subsequent handling of the PHI violated HIPAA. For example, HIPAA requirements in 45 C.F.R. Section 164.512(f) require that any released PHI records be delivered to a law enforcement officer. Additionally, most releases of PHI require that the patient be notified and be permitted to raise objections in a timely manner.
Our lawyers will look at all aspects of the BAC testing done in your case and evaluate the machines used. We will investigate the unique circumstances surrounding your stop and your arrest.
You Can Trust Our Firm To Vigilantly Protect Your Rights
Trust the attorneys at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, to provide aggressive representation on your behalf. Timing is critical in DUI defense cases. Contact us to discuss the charges against you and your options for challenging your DUI.
Learn more about DUI charges on our Criminal Law Blog.