Pennsylvania Criminal Defense – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is my Pennsylvania charge a misdemeanor or felony?

It can depend on many factors. See my PA Criminal Charges page for some more detail, but it may be difficult for you to determine, generally speaking.
There are different grades of felonies and misdemeanor charges from 1st to 3rd being the least serious, as well as lesser summary offenses.
For example, in Drunk driving/DUI cases, all first offenses are considered ungraded misdemeanors. However, a second offense with a BAC level or over .16 is a first degree misdemeanor, and a third or subsequent offense is always at least a second degree misdemeanor, unless you blew a BAC of over .10, in which case it is a first degree misdemeanor.
As you can see, the criminal penalty classifications can get complicated very quickly.

I have a drug problem that has caused me to commit crimes. Do I have any good defense options?

Yes. Montgomery County and other Pennsylvania courts have what is known as a Drug Court. These courts are designed to avoid convictions for those who are drug dependent, and not selling drugs. For example, you may be eligible if you are facing a retail theft charge to support a drug habit. If you are motivated to change your life and willing to work to get off drugs, this may be a great solution for you. They can be strict, and if you mess up the consequences can be serious, but it is worth considering with your lawyer.

What is the statute of limitations for a certain charge in Pennsylvania? (I have an outstanding warrant)

You may be asking the wrong question if you are interested in a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations only applies to a crime committed in the past for which no charges have been filed. However, if you were charged with a crime and skipped out or forgot about it and there is a warrant out for your arrest, that charge will not just go away.
If you have an outstanding warrant in Pennsylvania, call me to help clear it up. It may be possible to get the case dismissed due to lack of remaining evidence or witnesses. But if you don’t deal with it, you never know when it will show up on a computer search and cause you real problems. More and more, old criminal records are being put online after 9/11, so you never know when any traffic stop could land you in jail. But if you try to address the situation proactively, you may have a very good chance of clearing up the matter with minimal penalties and hassle.

What is the difference between a DUI, a DAI, or a DWI in Pennsylvania?

They are all the same thing. Technically, in 2004 Pennsylvania changed its drunk driving laws. The crime of drunk driving is now officially referred to as Driving After Imbibing (DAI); it replaced the old phrase DUI (driving under the influence). The two, however, are used interchangeably. DWI (driving while intoxicated) is also a term that is used informally in Pennsylvania, but is the legal term in many other states, such as New Jersey.
See my Pennsylvania DAI laws page for more details.

I am accused of driving under the influence of drugs. How can they prove it? Can I fight the charges?

Pennsylvania has a per se DUI/DAI/Drugs law; a zero-tolerance policy. In other words, anyone who drives a car while under the influence of any amount of schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (which was not medically prescribed) is considered DAI. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not have to prove that the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle was impaired; it only must show that you had drugs in your system.
But there are many technical challenges to proving that you had drugs in your system. Please contact us for details on how we can defend DAI/Drugs charges.

If I am convicted of a DUI, will I have to get one of those Breath Test Machines in my car?

Possibly. Under current Pennsylvania DUI law, an interlock device is required for a second offense DUI conviction. However, there is support in the legislature to change it to require one for any first offense.
An interlock ignition device tests the level of alcohol on your breath before you drive.  It is set to a low threshold, such as .025 BAC, and will not allow you to drive after one drink, in many cases.

If my License Requires an Interlock Device to drive, do I have to get one in any car I drive?

Yes, you can not drive in any vehicle without an alcohol ignition interlock. To attempt to circumvent the device in your car, or to borrow someone else’s car is a separate criminal charge.
This is a huge problem for people who drive for a living, or use different company vehicles. But there is currently no way around this problem.

How Does The Juvenile Criminal Process work in Pennsylvania?

The Juvenile arrest, detention, and trial court process works a bit differently than for regular adult criminal charges. Typically, there are more options for monitoring and rehabilitative processes. But serious offenses can still result in juvenile detention.
If you have a child accused of a criminal offense, I know you are concerned. We can help fight for your child’s rights and work to make certain your child is treated fairly.
See my juvenile court process page and juvenile arrest page for details on juvenile charges in Pennsylvania.

If you have any questions about a criminal charge you are facing in Pennsylvania, whether it is in Eastern Pennsylvania or the Philadelphia, PA area, or Western PA and the greater Pittsburgh, PA metro area,  take advantage of our free, no obligation criminal defense legal consultation, and I’ll give you the information you need to figure out what to do next. Call (888) 412-3298 or contact me via this form, and we’ll get back to you.

(888) 412-3298

If you can’t find the answer, Call us with your questions on your PA Criminal charges.

We represent clients in criminal cases across Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Carlisle and Lancaster, and Bucks, Montgomery, Northampton, and Lehigh Counties, as well as all of Western PA, the Pittsburgh, Pa metro area, South Hills, and Century III areas, including Greensburg, Mt Lebanon, Kittanning, Cranberry, Allegheny County, Westmoreland County, Washington County. Call today, no obligation!
(888) 412-3298.