How to Beat A Pennsylvania DUI Charge

7 Ways to Beat a Drunk Driving Case in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Drunk Driving laws are tough, but many DUI cases can be won in court. A good attorney will work diligently, investigate thoroughly, and ensure that the prosecutor prove every element of the charge. The Constitution requires nothing less.

The police frequently make mistakes, and oftentimes, they are biased. Police usually form an opinion about an individual’s level of intoxication simply based on the smell of alcohol and other inconclusive evidence.

DUI cases are very complex. They involve scientific evidence and testing procedures, as well as confusing police and legal processes. My job is to convince a jury that the case is simple, the evidence is weak, and the circumstances, facts, and arrest could have happened to anyone.

#1: Challenge the Validity of the Initial Traffic Stop

In order to pull over a motor vehicle, a police must officer must have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a traffic infraction has occurred. In other words, the driver must be speeding, swerving, operating erratically, etc. in order for law enforcement to stop the car. The police report must set out the circumstances that caused your car to be stopped.

The validity of the traffic stop is usually challenged by a “motion to dismiss.” If the prosecutor is unable to prove that the traffic stop was valid, then the case should be dismissed.

#2: Challenge Operation of the Car

In every Pennsylvania DUI case, the prosecutor must prove that the driver was actually “operating” the motor vehicle. The element of “operation” requires the following – evidence of actual, physical control of either the machinery of the motor vehicle or the management of the vehicle’s movement; it does not require evidence that the vehicle was in motion.

A valid argument may exist if your car was already stopped when the police arrived. In other words, it may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that you were actually driving the car if there are no witnesses (such as a police officer) that can testify to such. This is true even if you were falling-down drunk. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must still prove that you were “operating” the motor vehicle.

#3: Challenge Police Procedures

At a certain point during the arrest, the police must inform you of your Miranda rights. This means that the police must tell you of your right to remain silent, etc. An officer’s failure to issue such rights usually won’t get a case dismissed; it may, however, keep the prosecutors from using certain admissions or other incriminating statements that you made during the arrest.

Additionally, if the officer failed to advise you of your rights and consequences of refusing a breath or chemical test, the results may be excluded as the proper procedures were not followed.

#4: Challenge Prosecutor Procedures

Prosecutors must also follow certain procedures. If the prosecutor in your case has failed to provide your attorney with the evidence that he/she intends to use at trial in a timely manner, then that particular evidence may be excluded.

In addition, the prosecutor may not introduce evidence at trial of which you and your attorney were not aware. You have a right to inspect/view every piece of evidence that the prosecutor anticipates using. If he/she attempts to introduce such evidence a mistrial may be declared. If such an event occurs, then the case may be tried again. In many of those instances, however, the Commonwealth does not pursue a second trial.

#5: Challenge the Breath Test Results

Many people think that if they failed the breath test, then their case can’t be won. That is untrue. There are ways to challenge the breath-test machines, which are inherently flawed. The devices that measure an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) are just as imperfect as the electronic devices that we use everyday, such as, computers, cell phones, and TV remotes. Just like those machines, breath-test instruments are not 100% reliable.

These machines oftentimes issue incorrect results based on radio frequency interference, a person’s diet, medical conditions (acid reflux), etc.

Additionally, an argument can be made about the test if it occurred during the “absorption phase”. If your BAC is measured shortly after your last drink, while your body is still absorbing alcohol, the results may be inaccurate.

#6: Challenge the Field Sobriety Tests

When we beat DUI charges, it is often because we are able to aggressively challenges the field sobriety tests, which are inherently flawed.

If you failed the field sobriety tests, even if you think you didn’t, there may be various reasons why the police thought you did; many of which are unrelated to being drunk.

  • The police officer wants you to fail. Your performance of the Field Sobriety tests are interpreted and judged subjectively by police officer. Naturally, most people fail the field sobriety tests.
  • You have injuries or medical problems with your back, knees, legs or feet; thus, you may not be able to perform the walk-and-turn test, or the one-leg stand test.
  • You are overweight or elderly; therefore you are not considered a good candidate for agility tests.
  • You were wearing high heels, large boots, or other inappropriate footwear.

Field Sobriety tests are inherently flawed. This is the area where you’re most likely to have success in challenging your DUI.

The experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) have concluded that three tests, if conducted properly, can predict whether a person may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These tests include: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk-and-Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test.

According to the NHSTA, the field sobriety tests have the following accuracies —

  • HGN* test – 77%
  • Walk-and-Turn test – 68%
  • One-Leg stand test – 65%

That means that these tests are each inaccurate nearly one third of the time.

Police officers are trained to administer the field sobriety tests. The training manual of each police department illustrates the correct way in which to conduct the tests. Oftentimes, police officers do not follow the procedures properly. Our attorneys will cross-examine the police officers, by using the officers’ training manual, in an attempt to expose the errors the officer made while administering the tests.

* The HGN test, is not admissible in court as evidence against you. The police will still use it to determine probable cause in whether or not to arrest you, however. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus/HGN test is where you must follow a light with your eye, and the officer judges whether or not you allegedly had involuntary movement in your eye, which theoretically relates to impairment.

#7: Challenge the Officers Observations

Officers routinely testify that defendants smelled of alcohol, fumbled with their license and registration, and/or appeared unsteady on their feet. These observations are subjective. They come from an officer who does not know you and who may have already formed an opinion. In most cases, the observing officer will not know anything about how you walk, talk, and act.

In some cases there may be witnesses who can offer unbiased opinions on your behavior. Also, videotape evidence taken from the cruiser, or at the police station, may be available. In many cases, this evidence is helpful.

These are just some of the many challenges and arguments I can make in court to establish that you were not impaired, and are not guilty of a DUI charge.

If you find yourself facing a Pennsylvania DUI charge, you should call me today. I will give you the benefit of my experience in fighting and winning DUI cases. I will review the facts of your case and tell you, honestly and straightforwardly, what I think about your case. I will let you know what I think of your chances to succeed in a trial or get a dismissal, and why. The legal advice is free, so call me now!  (888) 412-3298.

Our experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys represent clients facing criminal charges and DUI / Drunk Driving accusations across Eastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Carlisle and Lancaster, and in Bucks, Montgomery, Northampton, and Lehigh Counties. Call anytime, there’s no obligation!

We also represent clients in  Western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh metro area, Allegheny County, and across the state of PA.