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DUI in Pennsylvania - You Need a Good Lawyer

Pennsylvania has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country. As a result, honest people who would never knowingly violate the law sometimes unknowingly violate Pennsylvania's DUI laws. When that happens, people occasionally question whether they need to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the criminal justice system. The answer is simple: Yes.

Some people would say that a lawyer is not required, and that criminal defendants can represent themselves. The same could be said for surgeons. You don't need to see a surgeon for your appendectomy, but you'll probably kill yourself if you try to do it yourself. When it comes to DUIs, you won't kill yourself if you proceed without an attorney, but you will likely wind up in jail and will lose your driver's license.

Recently, a prospective client came to see me, faced with his second DUI within 10 years. The mandatory minimum punishment he faced was 90 days in jail, $1,500 - $10,000 fines, and an 18 month license suspension.

What the client didn't know, however, is that there was a significant change in the law of the land this past summer. The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Birchfield vs North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (2016) . In that case, the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests following DUI arrests, but not warrantless blood tests. The cases focused on states where drivers are criminally penalized for refusing to submit to a breath or blood test.

Without getting into the specifics, the important takeaway is that the Court's ruling affects laws in 11 states that impose criminal penalties for refusing a blood test. Pennsylvania is one of the affected states.

As a result, DUIs that occurred prior to June 23, 2016, may be treated differently than they otherwise would have been treated.

Prior to Birchfield, a DUI suspect would be taken to the hospital for a blood test, where police would read a set of warnings. One of the warnings advised that if the suspect refused the blood test, he or she would face heightened criminal penalties, such as increased prison time.

However, the Supreme Court's ruling in Birchfield outlawed this practice. As a result, DUIs that occurred prior to Birchfield could be affected by this change.

So that takes us back to the client mentioned above. Instead of 90 days in jail and an 18 month license suspension, he received 5 days in jail and a 12 month license suspension. And solely because he hired the right lawyer, he was able to serve his 5 day sentence on house arrest. Therefore, hiring a lawyer saved him 90 days in jail and 6 months without his license. And the best part, you ask? His fines and costs dropped by $1200 from what he would have paid without a lawyer. So if you think hiring a good lawyer is expensive... think again. The costs of not hiring the right lawyer can be much, much greater.

If you are facing DUI or other criminal charges in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware of Philadelphia counties, give us a call at 215-822-7575 and set up a free initial consultation. We are the largest criminal practice in the counties surrounding Philadelphia, and we are here to help you!

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