Central Pennsylvania Drinking and Driving Attorney
If you have been charged with a drinking and driving related offense in Pennsylvania, it is critical that you remain silent and that you fully cooperate with the police, as anything you say or do may be used by the prosecution and the police to establish that you had a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the .08 alcohol concentration limit at the time of your DUI stop. A conviction on these charges could result in life-altering consequences, including significant fines, possible jail time, and the loss of your driver's license.
Contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC today for skilled legal support and zealous advocacy, if you or a family member has been charged with a DUI. You have rights. We will work diligently to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the highest quality representation possible.
The DUI defense lawyers at our firm have over 65 years of combined legal experience implementing effective case strategies on behalf of our clients who are charged with drunk driving. We can represent you at every stage of the legal process, including:
- Full investigation of the traffic stop and charge
- Motions to dismiss or reduce charges
- All court appearances with you, or on your behalf
- Related traffic violations defense
- License revocation hearings
- License reinstatement process
The consequences of a DUI conviction are serious. In February, 2004, the Pennsylvania legislature tightened the guidelines for DUI charges. The new law has increased the jail time for a first time DUI with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .16% from two days to three days in jail. Additionally, subsequent convictions within 10 years now result in ninety days in jail, as opposed to thirty days under the old law. The BAC necessary to receive a charge of DUI or ARD are .02% for a juvenile offender, .08% for an adult, and .04% for a commercial freight hauler or bus operator.
Our attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the laws that relate to DUI stops, testing, and arrests. They will effectively represent you in your drinking and driving case.
Title 75 Pa.C.S. §3802(a) provides as follows:
An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
Thereafter, the DUI Statute provides for an additional assessment when the defendant has either drugs or alcohol, or a combined amount of both in their blood system under a three-tier system. (See DUI Statute in full to review further subsections on this site).
"Actual physical control"
The concept of "actual physical control" involves control of the movements of either the machinery of a motor vehicle or of the management of the vehicle itself, without a requirement that the entire vehicle be in motion. In determining whether a person had actual physical control of automobile to sustain a conviction for driving under influence of alcohol (DUI), following factors should be considered:
- whether the motor was running;
- the location of the vehicle; and
- additional evidence showing that the defendant had driven the vehicle.
A determination of actual physical control of a vehicle, as required to sustain a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), is based upon the totality of the circumstances. The fact that the car is not moving is not dispositive, however, of whether the appellant is "in actual physical control." In a DUI prosecution, the commonwealth can establish through wholly circumstantial evidence that a defendant was driving, operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Showing that an intoxicated defendant started a parked car, without more, is not enough to prove actual physical control necessary to sustain a DUI conviction; the commonwealth must show some additional facts to illustrate that the defendant was a danger to public safety. In order to establish that the defendant was in "actual physical control" of the automobile, the commonwealth must show something more than the defendant behind wheel, with the motor running; there must be evidence to support an inference indicating that the defendant drove the vehicle while he or she was intoxicated.
A defendant may be convicted of the offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol when the defendant proceeded downhill on a motorcycle without starting the engine, weaving the cycle from side to side, because with the exception of starting the engine, the defendant's actions were no different, and no less dangerous, than if the engine had been started.
In another instance, the defendant was in actual physical control of his motor vehicle and, therefore, was properly convicted for driving under the influence where (1) the defendant was found sleeping in his automobile on the berm of a road, with the engine running and his high beams activated, while a portion of his vehicle encroached on the road, and (2) the defendant's vehicle was found down the road from an establishment where he had purchased alcoholic beverages.
Likewise, the evidence in a prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol established that the defendant was in actual physical control of his vehicle where: (1) the defendant was found in the driver's seat and alone in the vehicle, (2) the defendant's vehicle was found at the bottom of an embankment about 100 yards off the side of the road, and (3) although it was a cold night, the hood of the vehicle was warm.
Similarly, in a prosecution for driving under the influence, the evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendant was in actual physical control of the automobile in which he was found where: (1) the defendant was found sleeping in the driver's seat of an automobile parked in the parking lot of a tavern, (2) the automobile's motor was running and its headlights were on, but (3) the automobile was not moving, and (4) it appeared that the defendant did not move the automobile after starting its motor. Also, the defendant was in actual physical control of his automobile where: (1) the automobile was stopped across a roadway obstructing traffic and with the lights on, (2) the defendant was seated in the driver's seat, and (3) although the engine was not running, the keys were in the ignition in the "on" position.
The determination of whether a defendant is in "actual physical control" of the movement or operation of a vehicle is a decision based upon facts. Any decision that requires a factual determination must be made by a trier or fact, such as a judge or jury. While these examples are from real cases, there are no two cases that are alike. These are only summaries. The application of the law to the facts is one to be made by a trier of fact. At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, we have successfully challenged many cases on the basis that the defendant was not in "actual physical control" of the vehicle. It is imperative that you obtain a confidential assessment of your own case prior to dealing with the police, commonwealth agents, or prosecutors in your case.
Location of the Offense is Crucial- Must be on Highways or Trafficways
Because driving under the influence of alcohol is defined in the Vehicle Code as a "serious traffic offense," the offense must be committed on a highway or a trafficway. An essential element of the driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) statute is that the vehicle be operated on a highway or trafficway while the operator is under the influence of alcohol. The key term used to specify the type of travel for a highway or trafficway is if the path is and can be used or open to the public. Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. §102, the following terms have the definitions set forth:
"Highway." The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. The term includes a roadway open to the use of the public for vehicular travel on grounds of a college or university or public or private school or public or historical park.
"Trafficway." The entire width between property lines or other boundary lines of every way or place of which any part is open to the public for purposes of vehicular travel as a matter of right or custom.
Compare the term "Roadway." That portion of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk, berm or shoulder even though such sidewalk, berm or shoulder is used by pedalcycles. In the event a highway includes two or more separate roadways the term "roadway" refers to each roadway separately but not to all such roadways collectively.
The defendant was properly convicted for driving under the influence arising from an incident which occurred in the parking lot of an 11-story apartment building in which he was a tenant since the parking lot was a "trafficway," notwithstanding signs which limited use of the lot to tenants.
There is authority that a university parking lot that is restricted for the use of properly registered student vehicles and designed for the parking of these vehicles is not open to the public for the purposes of vehicular traffic, thus is not a trafficway within the meaning of the Vehicle Code, so that a charge of driving while under the influence which took place in such a parking lot must be dismissed.
Intoxication or influence of intoxicating liquor- "Under the Influence"- Alcohol OR Drugs
The accused must be intoxicated or under the influence of intoxicating liquor to be guilty of the offense of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of intoxicating liquor. (See list of Alternative Sources of Alcohol found on the Breath but not found in the BAC at this site). One is intoxicated, within a statute prohibiting driving while intoxicated, when he or she does not have the normal use of his or her physical and mental faculties by reason of the use of intoxicating liquor, when he or she is affected by liquor to the extent that it is less safe for him or her to operate the automobile than it would be if he or she were not so affected, or when, by reason of such use, he or she is incapable of driving with the care essential to the safety of occupants of the vehicle and others. Under some specific statutes, however, proof that the defendant was "under the influence" or "intoxicated" is not required for a conviction of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle when one has a specified blood alcohol content. However, the test whether a motorist is driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor is not his or her fitness or unfitness to drive, but, rather, whether he or she has imbibed to an extent that his or her mental or physical condition is deleteriously affected.
In Pennsylvania, an individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that-
- the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
- the alcohol concentration in the individual's blood or breath is at least 0.08% but less than 0.10% within two hours after the individual has driven, operated or been in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
- the alcohol concentration in the individual's blood or breath is 0.16% or higher within two hours after the individual has driven, operated or been in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle. (See Correlation of Driving Behavior with Alcohol Level at this website).
In addition, an individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle under any of the following circumstances:
- there is in the individual's blood any amount of a Schedule I, Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance, as defined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which has not been medically prescribed for the individual; or metabolite of such a substance
- the individual is under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree that impairs the individual's ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle
- he individual is under the combined influence of alcohol and a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs the individual's ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle
- the individual is under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance in violation of the provision relating to the sale or illegal use of certain solvents and noxious substances.
Under the influence of narcotic drugs.
Within the meaning of a statute making it an offense to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of narcotic drugs, a person is under the influence of such drugs when he or she has taken a sufficient amount of them to cause him or her to lose the normal control of his or her bodily or mental faculties, or both, to such an extent that there is an appreciable impairment of either or both of those faculties. Stated another way, if a motorist is under the influence of a drug to the extent that it impairs the motorist's ability, in any manner, to operate his or her vehicle, the motorist is in a "drugged condition" and guilty of driving while intoxicated. The legal use of a prescription drug is no defense, and generally there is no requirement to show intent in a prosecution for driving while under the influence of drugs. In addition, a prescription drug user may be convicted where he or she also consumed intoxicating liquor, the drugs making him or her more susceptible to the influence of the liquor.
It is impossible to properly define and classify every element of the DUI Statute in Pennsylvania as it relates to an individual's case. That is why it is essential to have an attorney with the knowledge and experience to defend your case review with you the criminal complaint, incident report, and any charging documents supplied by the police in support of the case against you. At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, we take the time to properly investigate your case, review the charges, interpret the commonwealth's case against you and provide a solid foundation and recommendation to alleviate the pain and anxiety that invades your life when you've been charged with a DUI. Don't let the situation handle you- you handle the situation!
Please select one of the links below to read additional information about the following topics.
A Special Note About DUI/DWI and other Driving Offenses
The results of a portable breath test (PBT) are not admissible in court and may not be offered into evidence at a summary proceeding on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. However, you do not have the right to refuse a DUI test--whether it is a breathalyzer, urine test, blood test, or saliva test--without losing your driver's license.
ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. It is a pre-trial diversionary program that allows first-time offenders (and in certain extreme cases, second-time offenders) to complete a probationary period, pay fees and court costs, complete community service, undergo counseling, and complete the requirements of the Alcohol Safety School. At the conclusion of which, their record is expunged (wiped clean). The benefits to such a program are that the offender does not go to jail and there is a reduced license suspension period for Class C drivers (cars). In general a first-time DUI offender would be looking at the possibility of up to 72 hours in jail and the loss of driving privileges for a year. If the ARD program is acceptable, the offender would not go to jail and receive only 30-60 days of suspension. ARD requirements vary from county to county. Most counties, such as Dauphin, Cumberland, York, and Schuylkill Counties require a period of probation (usually 12 months), completion of community service, and the payment of fees and court assessments (approximately $1000).
Timing is critical in drunk driving cases. By neglecting to hire a knowledgeable attorney, you may be compromising the outcome of your case. If you or a family member has been charged with DUI or a related alcohol offense, contact the Central Pennsylvania DUI lawyers of Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC immediately.