If you’ve ever been arrested for driving under the influence, you know that it can be a nerve-wracking and frenzied experience, even if it’s in your own neighborhood. Getting a criminal infraction in another state can be even scarier. You’re in unfamiliar territory, you’re far from home, and you’re faced with a number of pressing questions. Who has jurisdiction over the crime? Can you return back to your home state while under arrest? What rules apply in this state that don’t in my home state?
Out-of-state DUI arrests aren’t uncommon, especially for people who drink while on vacation or work trips, so it’s important to keep a cool head. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind should you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the law on unfamiliar terrain.
Who Has Jurisdiction Over the Crime?
The state where the alleged crime occurred is the state that has jurisdiction to prosecute the offense. For instance, if you live in Alabama and were arrested for drunk driving in Pennsylvania, it’s Pennsylvania that has the right to prosecute you for that criminal offense under Pennsylvania law.
It’s important to note that you can be arrested and charged for doing something in Pennsylvania that isn’t illegal in your home state. This doesn’t apply to DUI specifically, but being unfamiliar with the local law isn’t an excuse for breaking it. Likewise, the severity of the potential penalty varies from state to state. You’ll always be subject to the laws of the state in which the crime occurred, not the laws of your home state.
Understanding the Driver’s License Compact
Most states are members of the Driver’s License Compact—or interstate compact—which requires all member states to report any and all traffic violations to one another on a national database. This means that if you’re charged or convicted of DUI outside of your home state, that charge or conviction becomes a part of the national database. Only Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Tennessee aren’t members of the interstate compact.
The goal of the Driver’s License Compact is to share traffic information. It prevents individuals with suspended licenses from simply going across state lines to obtain a new license.
How Can You Resolve an Out-of-State DUI?
As with any criminal charge, a DUI will be handled in the state where the infraction occurred. If you live out of state but are arrested in Pennsylvania, the process is the same as if you’re a resident. After you’re pulled over, the officer may conduct a field sobriety test, perform the arrest, and bring you to the police station or medical center for chemical testing. After your release, you’ll be given a court date, and you must go through that state’s criminal process. It’s important to note that there’s not a separate administrative process for handling your driver’s license in Pennsylvania as there is in many other states.
If you live in Pennsylvania but are arrested for DUI in another state, the DUI process will likely be very similar to what you can expect in Pennsylvania. It’s important that you don’t try to hide this arrest from the state during a driver’s license application in the future. While Pennsylvania may not suspend a driver’s license for a low B.A.C. or general impairment first-time DUI outside of its borders, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation does have the ability to cancel your driver’s license if they later learn that you failed to truthfully answer questions on their driver’s license application.
Likewise, if you’re arrested in a state outside of the interstate compact, it’s important to recognize that while these states may not have immediate access to your driving record, they are not safe havens for those with DUI convictions. When applying for a driver’s license in any of these states, they’ll likely ask if another state previously convicted you of DUI. Failing to provide accurate information could result in additional penalties.
Can I Leave Pennsylvania While Under Arrest?
The process of going through the Pennsylvania criminal court system often requires the defendant to appear several times before a judge. Being required to frequently travel back and forth between your home state and the state where you were arrested can be frustrating and expensive. You may wonder if you’re still required to appear in person if you live in a different state. Your ability to go back to your home state depends entirely on the severity of the alleged crime that was committed. An experienced Montgomery County DUI defense lawyer can help you determine your rights at this stage.
However, note that you can’t get away with traveling back to your home state in an attempt to avoid prosecution. Endeavoring to do so would result in extradition—the act of removing a fugitive from their home jurisdiction and delivering them back to the jurisdiction where the crime was committed.
Contact an Experienced Montgomery County DUI Defense Lawyer
At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, we understand how intimidating an arrest outside of your home state can be. The process for out-of-state DUI cases can be tricky, which is why we want to make this process as easy as possible for you. Whether you’re a Pennsylvania resident who’s been arrested for DUI across state lines or you’re an out-of-towner who was arrested while driving in Pennsylvania, we’re here to help. No matter where you’ve been arrested for DUI, it’s important that you act quickly and contact an attorney.
For more than 65 years, the attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford have been serving the legal needs of clients in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Lehigh County, Chester County, Delaware County, and throughout the surrounding areas. We’ve earned the trust and respect of clients facing a wide range of legal problems, including DUI defense law. Our attorneys are ready to protect you and guard your rights. Give us a call at (215) 822-7575 or complete our online contact form today.