You Don’t Have to be Driving a Car to Get a DUI in State College

Did you know that you can get a DUI in State College for riding a bicycle, skateboard, scooter, dirt bike or even a shopping cart?

DUI Bicycle

Yes it’s true!  In fact, there have been instances where someone who has been walking along the side of the road with their bicycle and have been stopped  for DUI in State College.  In Pennsylvania a vehicle is defined as any  device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks.

A recent NYU study has found that 13% of all bike related injuries involve riders who had consumed alcohol.

I think the moral of the story is that if you have been drinking and have made the intelligent decision not to your ride your bicycle home in State College, you should walk your bike on the sidewalk and not a public roadway.  If you have found yourself facing a DUI in State College for riding a bicycle, skateboard, scooter or even a shopping cart, you should immediately contact an experienced State College DUI Lawyer.

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The Use of Energy Drinks Increases the Risk of Drinking and Driving

A recent study published by renowned University of Florida researchers and picked up on by James Wigmore indicates that the consumption of energy drinks increases a person’s risk of drinking and driving.  The University of Florida researchers collected data from Wednesday through Saturday nights at a nearby college bar during April 2008.  The researchers divided the drinkers into groups who consumed alcohol alone (602) who consumed alcohol alone, drinkers who consumed energy drinks and alcohol, but not mixed (46) and drinkers who consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol (45).

Interestingly, 82% of the drinkers who consumed at least one energy drink and one alcoholic drink during the evening, but did not mix them, were male.  I’m not sure what can be extrapolated from this correlation other than to say that southern men like their shot of vodka on the side as appose to being mixed with red bull like southern women.  Even more striking than men preferring their alcohol straight up as appose to being mixed with red bull is what the researchers uncovered in terms of what happens to a person’s BAC if they mixed alcohol with an energy drink.  According to the study, individuals who mixed alcohol with an energy drink had a 300% increase in their chances of leaving the bar with a BAC level above .08%!  Simply put, if you mix alcohol with an energy drink when you go out, you are three times more likely to have a BAC above State College’s legal driving limit of .08%.  Just something to consider before you order your next red bull and vodka.

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The Single Most Important Thing To Know If You Are Charged With A First Time DUI Offense in State College, PA

As a State College DUI Lawyer, I get asked a lot of questions about what people should and should not do to avoid getting pulled over for a DUI or how they can get out of a State College or Centre County DUI after they are charged.  As a lawyer, my first response is always the same and it is probably the most infuriating and that is, it depends on the particular facts and circumstances of the indivdual’s situation.  Now this may sound all well good to my lawyer brethren, but to the average person who gets pulled over for a DUI in Philipsburg or Bellefonte, this means absolutely nothing.  So, in an attempt to help you out, I will answer the question that is never posed to me, but is the most important for any first time DUI offender in Centre County and that is, how do you insure the best opportunity to get into ARD?

As most of you probably already know, ARD stands for alternative rehabilitative disposition.  ARD is considered a diversionary program under Pennsylvania law that permits first-time DUI offenders in certain situations to enter into the diversionary program.  After successful completion of ARD, a person may petition a Centre County Court to dismiss the DUI charge and have the DUI charge expunged from their record.  In essence, successful completion of ARD wipes the slate clean.  Without the proper guidance of a Centre County DUI lawyer, you may cost yourself the chance to enter ARD well before you even get the opportunity to ask the prosecutor for it.

So lets say you are driving home on a Friday night and you are stopped for “erratic driving.”  When the officer approaches your car he smells alcohol and asks you to step out of the car.  The officer then asks you to perform various field sobriety tests and to blow into a breathalyzer.  After performing the walk and turn field sobriety test equivalent of the triple axle with a pause and kick turn,  you are booked for DUI.

Later that weekend you are talking to your neighbor Wilson and he tells you that he got out of a DUI for riding a bicycle drunk by simply asking the judge to put him in ARD.  Wilson also tells you that he saved a “couple grand” on paying for some sheister lawyer to do what he could do on his own.  So you think to yourself, that sounds easy enough and you like saving money, so you decide not to hire a State College DUI lawyer and instead do what Wilson did and plan to just ask the judge for ARD.  A couple of months later, you are at the preliminary hearing for your DUI charge and when your case is called you ask the judge for ARD.  The judge proceeds to tell you that ARD is at the discretion of the prosecutor and you will have to take it up with him.  The judge also tells you that in the meantime, the DUI charge has been bound over for trial.  After the preliminary hearing you approach the prosecutor and ask him if he can recommend you for ARD.  The Centre County district attorney politely declines your request for ARD and you are left to await trial on your drunk driving charge where you could be facing jail time, stiff fines and an extended driving license suspension.  Had you simply hired a State College DUI attorney and not listened to Wilson, all of this could have been avoided.

You may be asking yourself the same question as our friend Tim was asking himself after his preliminary hearing and that is why wasn’t I admitted to ARD when I asked the judge at the preliminary hearing for ARD?  This is the $64,000 question that most State College motorists who are cited for DUI ask themselves when they do not hire an attorney and are not admitted into ARD.  The answer is quite simple and that is the Centre County district attorney’s office is granted the sole discretion whether or not to admit someone into ARD or not (this means that you cannot simply ask the judge to place you into ARD).  Which brings up to the single most important thing to know if you are charged with a first time DUI in State College or Centre County and that is the Centre County district attorney’s office requires an individual to waive their right to a preliminary hearing in order to be recommended for ARD.  Whether this is constitutional or not is a subject for another post, but the bottom line is this, if you want to have any chance of being admitted into ARD for drunk driving in State College, you need to request ARD prior to the date of your preliminary hearing and agree to waive the preliminary hearing.

 

 

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Don’t Lower Blood Alchohol Content to .05%

breathalyzer

Lowering the Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) for drunk driving from .08% to .05% has been gaining traction in states across the country and the press is starting to pick up on it.  On May 14, 2013 NBC News reported that the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) recommended that all states lower their BAC levels for drunk driving to .05%.  In issuing its recommendation, the NTSB cited the increase in accidents across the country when a driver has a BAC of .05% versus .08%.  According to the NTSB, a driver who has a BAC of .05% is 39% more likely to be involved in traffic accident.  Similarly, the NTSB noted that a driver with a .08% BAC has a 100% greater chance of being involving in a car accident than someone with a BAC of 0.0%.  What the NTSB failed to disclose in its report is the methodology for collecting the information on drivers blood alcohol content and a state by state breakdown of the results.  For example, if the NTSB only included in its report those drivers who had alcohol in their blood stream at the time of the accident, then theoretically everyone who is involved in a car accident has a 100% greater chance of being in an accident then someone who did not have alcohol in their blood system.  This is a classic ends justify the means argument where the data used to justify the ends, i.e., the lowering of the BAC limit for drunk driving, is fugible

Another striking reality of the NTSB’s proposed action in lowering the drunk driving BAC limit to .05 is the lack of accountability and public debate in lowering the drunk driving limit.  As Jonathan Turley, a leading constitutional scholar and professor of law at George Washington Law, points out in recent article, One Drink Maximum, the NTSB as a federal agency, does not need the seal of approval from Congress to pass the “legislation” to lower the blood alcohol limit.  As Professor Turley points out, federal agencies are quasi-fourth branch of government, and their decisions, which effectively amount to laws, are insulated from debate in public forums.  As a result, the NTSB can simply “decide” to lower the federal drunk driving limit to .05% and it can be implemented in a state such as Pennsylvania through the federal government withholding state funds if Pennsylvania does not lower its drunk driving limits.  This is the exact same type of action the federal government took to force states to raise the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 (withholding highway and road repair funding unless the state had a drinking age of 21). 

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Two Wrongs Add Up To Two Philadelphia City Council Staffers Being Charged With DUI In City Vehicles

As reported in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, two Philadelphia city council staffers were fired after both were charged with DUI stemming from the same Saturday morning incident.  Initially, council receptionist, Robin Jones, crashed a city owned Chevy Cobalt into the front of a building on 13th and Hamilton Streets at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning.  In what can only be described as what seemed like a good idea at the time, Jones called Philadelphia Sergeant-In-Arms, Rodney Williams, to pick her up.  Apparently Williams was at the same party Jones was and arrived at 13th and Hamilton in a city owned 1998 Ford Explorer, “visibly intoxicated.”  Unfortunately for Williams and Jones, two Philadelphia cops in city owned vehicles who were not intoxicated got to the scene first and charged both Jones and Williams with DUI.

In a late entry to the captain obvious statement of the year, City Council President, Darrell Clarke, stated “I’m going to lock those keys up.”  I guess that is a start President Clarke.

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Can I Avoid A DUI Checkpoint And What Should I Do If I Am Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint?

As a State College DUI Lawyer, one of the most frequent questions I get is , can I avoid DUI checkpoint?  The simple answer is yes, but the lawyer answer is really, it depends.  In Pennsylvania you are well within your rights to avoid a DUI checkpoint if you can make a legal driving maneuver such as a legal u-turn or turn onto a side road.  The problem is that the vast majority of DUI checkpoints are set up in areas where drivers are not provided with an opportunity to make a legal u-turn or turn onto a side road.  In fact, there is no requirement that the checkpoint be set up in an area where a driver has an opportunity to avoid the DUI checkpoint.

As a State College DUI lawyer, it is important to point out that the avoidance of a DUI checkpoint by executing a legal driving maneuver is not grounds to pull you over for suspected DUI.  Simply put, a State College police officer cannot pull you over for a suspected DUI simply because he sees you execute a legal u-turn in an attempt to avoid the checkpoint.  If you believe this has happened to you, it is important that you contact an experienced State College DUI lawyer.

If you cannot safely execute a legal driving maneuver to avoid the DUI checkpoint, you may find yourself stopped by a State College police officer and asked to roll down your window.  The single most important thing to remember when you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint is that the police officer is trying to detect the smell of alcohol.  If he smells alcohol, it is a foregone conclusion that you will be asked to submit to field sobriety tests or required to submit to chemical breath or blood testing.

The second most important thing to remember when you have been stopped at a DUI checkpoint is to not self-incriminate yourself.  All too often, State College and Centre County residents will think that if they admit to only having “one or two drinks” they can talk their way out of being charged with a DUI.  This is completely false, as it is an admission by you that you have consumed alcohol and will be used as a basis for probable cause to arrest you for DUI.  Put another way, you are doing the police officer’s job, namely, by removing the task of determining whether or not you have consumed alcohol.  Remember, you can be arrested and convicted of DUI without a BAC test if you are deemed unfit to safely operate a vehicle after consuming alcohol.  If you are asked if you have consumed alcohol by the DUI checkpoint officer, you should politely decline to answer the question.

The third thing to remember if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint is to have your license, registration and current insurance card in an easily accessible place in your car.  It is important to have these documents easily accessible because DUI police officers are taught to look for signs of diminished motor skills of a driver who is trying to locate their license, registration and insurance card.  Even if you had not been drinking that night, or you actually only had one or two drinks, digging through a glove box stuffed with used napkins, empty coffee cops and ten years of old insurance cards does not bode well for you.  Having your license, registration and insurance card in an easily accessible place also cuts down on the amount time the officer has to observe and detect alcohol on you during the DUI checkpoint stop, which can significantly increase your chances of avoiding being charged with DUI.  It may seem like common sense, but it is worth mentioning that the more time the officer has with you, the more likely he is going to detect the presence of alcohol if you had been drinking.

The next thing to remember is that you should decline any searches of you or your vehicle.  An officer does not have the right to search you or your vehicle at a DUI checkpoint unless you voluntarily consent to the search.  You may be thinking that why not agree to the search if you have nothing to hide, but this touches on two previous points: (1) do not voluntarily self-incriminate yourself and (2) it adds additional time for the officer to attempt to observe you and detect the presence of alcohol.  If the officer asks to search you or your vehicle, politely decline and let him know that you are eager to get home.  This brings up my final point, which is to always be polite and respectful.  Ultimately, many polite people are charged with DUI everyday, but by not being rude, you save yourself the difficult task of having to explain to a judge or jury your rude behavior.

As labor day weekend is fast approaching, it is important to take a minute to locate your registration and current insurance card in your car and prepare yourself in the event you find yourself being stopped at a DUI checkpoint.

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State College DUI Checkpoints Labor Day Weekend

In an effort to assist you this weekend while you are out celebrating the end of summer, I have attempted to locate any and all checkpoints in and around the State College and Centre County area. Unfortunately, the closet I came to actually locating a specific time and place of a DUI checkpoint in State College was this four sentence gem in the July 31, 2012 edition of the Centre Daily Times.

According the Centre Daily Times, State College police will be,

“conducting a sobriety checkpoint in Centre County in the coming weeks.”

In Pennsylvania, in order for a DUI checkpoint to be lawful, the police officers conducting the checkpoint must provide reasonable notice to the public as to the time, date and location of the checkpoint.  Take a minute and re-read the above clip from the July 31, 2012 Centre Daily Times article.  Do you consider this reasonable notice as to the time, date and location of the DUI checkpoint in State College and Centre County?  It would seem to me that the above article provides the State College police with unfettered discretion to conduct an unlimited number of DUI checkpoints in an unlimited number of areas throughout Centre County for as long as they want.  Or, at least, until such time that the State College police decide to notify the Centre Daily Times that they will be conducting another waive of DUI checkpoints “over the coming weeks.”  In fact, I would argue that a reasonable reading of the above DUI checkpoint notification permits State College police to conduct DUI checkpoints anywhere they want in Centre County and at anytime they want and is merely window dressing to comply with the public notice requirements of lawful DUI checkpoints.  I’d be curious to see the number of DUI checkpoints that were conducted in State College and Centre County from a previous Centre Daily Times DUI notification such as this one and I’d be willing to wager that this blanket notification by State College police was used to conduct more than a few DUI checkpoints.

If anyone comes across any information concerning the location, date and time of any checkpoints in and around State College and Centre County this weekend, please feel free to post the location in the comments section and I will do my best to update this post as the information becomes available.  Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, and if you are going to the Penn State game this weekend, here’s to the beginning of the Bill O’Brien era!

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Challenging Breathalyzer Results: It Doesn’t Work!

A little over a year ago, a Philadelphia attorney decided to challenge the results of the breathalyzers being used in the field to convict Pennsylvania drivers of DUI.  Attorney Joseph Kelly, initially noticed the error in a calibration report.  At that time, Philadelphia police assured him that the error only effected 400 cases.  However, it was later determined that the police understated that number by 300%.  In other words, the investigation into the faulty breathalyzer machine disclosed that in almost 1,200 DUI cases, the convictions for drunk driving were based on higher recorded BAC rates than what the drivers actual BAC were at the time of driving.  Take a minute to re-read that sentence.  1,200 Philadelphia drivers may have been wrongfully convicted of drunk driving simply because a machine was “mis-caliberated.”  Had it not been for Mr. Kelly’s tireless efforts, how many more Philadelphia drivers would have been wrongfully convicted of DUI?  It certainly begs the question, if the machines were mis-caliberaterated in Philadelphia, how many other towns and cities in Pennsylvania have faulty breathalyzers?

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DUI Checkpoints: Who is the One Percent And Why Do We Pay To Find Them?

State College, PA- Over the weekend, State College police stopped 600 drivers in a DUI checkpoint that has been heralded by local media and law enforcement alike for its many successes.  As reported in the Centre Daily Times, drivers on North Atherton were in for an “unexpected stop” on Friday night.

For most, it meant a quick conversation with a police officer and a reminder to drive safely. Within seconds, they were on their way.

As the first sentence of the articles implies, this was little more than a friendly meet and greet for drivers to get acquainted with their local State College police officer.  Did I forget to mention that these friendly police officers were armed with alcohol sniffing flashlights?  Oh, and more importantly, State College drivers also were treated to the managing director of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) making a spectator sport out of Friday night’s DUI checkpoint.

Evelyn McKee, manager of the area chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, looked on late Friday as officers made contact with drivers. She said getting even one intoxicated person off the road makes a difference.

“I’ve been coming out for the last 12 years,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve been to one where I haven’t seen someone who was intoxicated.”

But more than anything, McKee said, checkpoints deter others from driving drunk. Police agree.

“It’s two-fold,” said Ferguson Township police Sgt. Ryan Hendrick. “We’re going to get every impaired driver on this roadway tonight. Every person not impaired is reminded this can happen on any road in State College.

Having read the above quotes from Ms. McKee and Sgt. Hendricks, I felt that this was a good time to separate fact and the fictions that people like Ms. McKee perpetuate in order to further their agenda.

First, lets start with the cost, the average DUI checkpoint conducted in Pennsylvania costs taxpayers in excess of $10,000.  That’s not including the time spent by State College police stopping law abiding drivers for crimes they have not committed, instead of investigating actual criminal activity and chasing actual bad guys.

In case you are wondering, less than 1% of all vehicles stopped in a checkpoint are prosecuted for DUI.  Put another way, 99% of the drivers that are stopped in a checkpoint are completely sober and have not broken a single law, yet they are subjected to the same intrusive search, which the Supreme Court of the United States has noted is a violation of your constitutional rights, as the 1% of drivers who are over the legal limit.  That means that State College residents spent $10,000 to arrest 6 suspected DUI drivers.  That is the same number of DUI arrests that State College police made without a checkpoint on State Patty’s day.  In this climate of educational cutbacks and evaporating pensions, is this the most effective means of spending our tax dollars?  And more importantly, why are people like Ms. McKee and Sgt. Hendricks trumpeting the success of a DUI checkpoints when they have a 99% failure rate?  Oh and did I mention that texting while driving or driving while drowsy have all been proven to be more dangerous than driving with a BAC of .08.  If you have found yourself arrested for DUI as a result of a DUI checkpoint, it is imperative that you hire a State College DUI lawyer to represent you, as there are many defenses to DUI arrests based upon a checkpoint stop.

 

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State College DUI Lawyer News and Notes- You Don’t Have To Be Actually Driving The Car To Be Convicted of DUI

State College, PA- This past week, State College police arrested two suspected State College residents for DUI.

On Monday, State College police f0und a twenty-one year old man passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle at the intersection of Transfer Road and East College Avenue.  Adam Smeltz of StateCollege.com reported that State College police found the man at 3 a.m. asleep behind the wheel at the intersection of Transfer and East College.  According to State College police, the man’s BAC was .206 at the time of the arrest.  The State College police report noted that a DUI charge is pending against the man.

I bring up this latest arrest for DUI by the State College police for two reasons.  First, and as is a recurring theme, if you find yourself in a similar situation, it is an absolute must that you  hire a competent State College DUI Lawyer to defend you.  A situation like this one, where you are facing what appears to be insurmountable odds and a slam dunk prosecution, may be tempting to “cut your losses” and agree to plead guilty.  Do not do this! Having a State College DUI Lawyer can make the difference between a mandatory jail sentence and probation, or in some instances, an expungement of the DUI from your record.

The second reason I bring this DUI up is because Mr. Asleep-At-The- Wheel was not actually “driving” when he arrested for DUI, which means you may be asking yourself how was he charged with “driving under the influence (DUI)”? then  As I have mentioned in prior posts, the Pennsylvania legislature modified Pennsylvania’s DUI laws in 2004 with the enactment of  section 3802 of the vehicle code.   Under Pennsylvania’s new DUI law, a person needs to simply be in physical control of the vehicle in order for the presumption that he was operating the vehicle while intoxicated to apply.  This presumption has a whole host of constitutional issues that warrants its on own post, but it is safe to say that if you are found asleep behind the wheel, literally, you will be presumed to have been operating the vehicle while intoxicated if your BAC is above the legal limit.

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