If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in Harleysville or the surrounding communities, you likely have many questions and concerns. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest and the subsequent charges, a Pennsylvania drunk driving conviction can significantly affect your life. From stiff monetary fines to jail time and license suspension, a conviction can be costly. And, because a conviction remains on your record permanently, you will face increased insurance rates and criminal scrutiny for the rest of your life. The most effective way to protect yourself and improve the potential outcome of your case is to speak with a Harleysville DUI lawyer to learn more about your options. It is also critical that you educate yourself as much as possible about the Montgomery County DUI process.
What penalties will I face for a Harleysville DUI?
Pennsylvania statutes establish the potential minimum and maximum penalties for drunk driving convictions, depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC) and how many prior DUI convictions you have, if any, during the ten-year lookback period.
For general impairment (BAC .08 to .099), fines range from $300 to $5,000, plus all court and related costs. For high BAC levels (.10 to .159), fines are $500 to $10,000 plus related costs. For the highest BAC levels (.16 and above), fines can range from $1,000 to $10,000 plus related costs.
You can receive up to two years for general impairment, two days to five years for high BAC, and three days to five years for the highest BAC levels.
Driver’s License Suspension
General impairment convictions can carry up to 12 months’ suspension of your license. Both high BAC and highest BAC convictions carry 12 to 18 months’ suspension. Other potential penalties include probation, required participation in an alcohol treatment program, alcohol highway safety courses, and an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
Some of the most common aggravating circumstances that can increase your potential DUI penalties include:
- Refusing a chemical test: You will automatically be charged with the highest possible level of impairment.
- Presence of Schedule I drugs: If any amount of a drug or its metabolite is present, you will be charged with the highest level of impairment.
- Underage DUI: If you are under 21 years of age, blood alcohol content of 0.02 or more will result in high BAC DUI charges.
- Presence of a minor in the vehicle: If there was a minor in the vehicle at the time, you face an 18-month license suspension and a $1,000 fine for a first offense.
After my DUI arrest, what happens next?
When you are pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an officer will transport you to a local holding facility for arraignment. You will see a judge and, based on the location and circumstances of your arrest, the judge will determine whether to hold you overnight. During this process, it is imperative that you do not admit to anything or make any statements to anyone without having an attorney present. Prosecutors can — and will — use any statements you make to pursue a DUI conviction. Soon after your arrest, you will receive notification of your preliminary hearing in the mail. The preliminary DUI hearing presents the first opportunity for you and your attorney to review the evidence against you. This is also the point when the judge will determine if the evidence is sufficient to proceed to trial. Once the judge makes that determination, the court will formally charge you and ask you to enter a plea. By this point in your case, you and your attorney must decide on the best way to proceed.
What options do I have?
Depending on your case, you might have a few options to fight your charges or lessen your penalties:
Determine If You are Eligible for ARD
If this is your first DUI arrest, you may qualify for Montgomery County’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. To participate in ARD, you must apply for the program and receive an approval from the judge. However, if you had any extenuating circumstances associated with your arrest — such as injuries from an accident or a minor in the car — you may not qualify for ARD. If you have prior convictions for drunk driving in Harleysville (or elsewhere in Pennsylvania), or if your charges involved aggravated circumstances, talk with your DUI lawyer about fighting the charges.
Fight the Sobriety Test Results
Because field sobriety tests are subjective in nature and easily influenced by external factors, these assessments offer one potential area for challenging your arrest. Likewise, the statutes establish clear standards for blood alcohol testing and, if the arresting officer or testing technician failed to follow the statutory procedures precisely, any resulting evidence may not be admissible in court. A Harleysville DUI attorney can examine the police report and relevant evidence in your case to determine if these or other circumstances may provide a viable opportunity to challenge your drunk driving charges.
How can a Harleysville DUI lawyer help me?
A Harleysville DUI attorney can benefit you in a variety of important ways. In addition to the statutory fines and other penalties for drunk driving, your attorney will be familiar with alternatives to jail time that you may not be aware of. Your Harleysville DUI lawyer might also be able to arrange for your participation in a drug court or diversion program, supervised probation, or even house arrest. Or, if you qualify for ARD, your attorney can ensure that your application is properly prepared and submitted, to avoid any potential disqualification, and speak on your behalf to the judge. Finally, an attorney can provide compassion and support to help you cope with the emotional challenges of a drunk driving charge. Contact the McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with our Harleysville DUI lawyer: 610-680-7842.