Every Friday we will take a look at some of the most commonly asked DUI questions so that we can clear up any misconceptions and provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information. Today:
I Just Blew a 0.18. What’s the use of Fighting This?
There are three main reasons why I would advise, in most cases, that you should fight these DUI charges:
1. The Consequences of a Pennsylvania DUI conviction are Very Serious
Under Pennsylvania DUI law, a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.18 falls under the "Highest Rate" DUI category. For a first time offender, the penalties range up to six (6) months in jail, one (1) year license suspension and up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) in fines. There is seventy-two (72) hour mandatory minimum period of jail that can depending upon jurisdiction can be substituted for house arrest with electronic monitoring. One of the most important potential consequences is the fact that, if convicted, it will be on your criminal history for background checks and also on your driving record. Please see our post The Legal Consequences for a DUI in PA for a more detailed description on Pennsylvania DUI Penalties for different categories . As you can see, the penalties for this category are very serious and can seriously effect your life. There also many other consequences of a DUI conviction that you may not be aware of (see our series Why Fight a DUI in PA).
The stakes are too high for you not to fight. If convicted it could change your whole life.
2. Nothing has been Proven Yet
A BAC reading from a breath machine or a blood test is just a number. The Commonwealth needs to prove that the reading taken is accurate, precise, reliable, repeatable, trustworthy, robust and true.
In many cases, we have seen faulty breath machines, improper administration of the breath test, contamination of the blood test, and improper laboratory procedures. All of these can lead to artificially inflated BAC levels.
I once had a prosecutor who said to me, "I have a blood test, how can you possibly challenge that?" I simply shrugged my shoulders and showed him how at trial with the Jury pronouncing Not Guilty. Afterwords the members of the Jury told the prosecutor the same exact message that I had been preaching which was an opinion as to a BAC (which is all a number from a machine is) with no data to support it is just a guess. The jury said that they could not guess their way to guilty as it is called proof beyond a reasonable doubt, not guess beyond a reasonable doubt.
In short, there is a very heavy and never-shifting burden of proof on the prosecution that they must prove the BAC results to be accurate, precise, reliable, repeatable, trustworthy, robust and true. There are a number of very commonly made mistakes in the collection, administration, and testing of samples that can skew these results. So pleading guilty prematurely is like giving them a free pass to potentially ruin your life.
3. There May a Better Deal Down the Road
Even if the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can prove the BAC reading to be accurate, precise, reliable, repeatable, trustworthy, robust and true, there are still a number of other things they can be challenged on.
There is also the fact that many prosecutors hate going to trial in DUI cases especially if their evidence is shaky. I have seen many cases where I have declared "ready to go to trial" only to have the opposing counsel throw in the proverbial towel or offer a good deal at the last minute. I’ve also seen numerous cases where the prosecution’s case seemed rock solid only to have it totally fall apart during a trial.
In summary every case is entirely different. That is why it is best that you consult with the most qualified DUI attorney you can find before moving forward. The McShane Firm offers a free consultation where one of our DUI attorneys will talk your ears off in reviewing your case and give you valuable advice.
If you would like to ask a question, please submit it via the contact us link.
-Justin J. McShane, Esquire, Pennsylvania DUI Attorney
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