In 2017, there were approximately 5,042 vehicle crashes in Berks County. In roughly 457 of these accidents, one or more drivers were determined to be impaired. Other dangerous driver behavior included 159 accidents that were attributed to speeding, 656 resulting from driver distraction, and 260 involving aggressive driving.
Driving under the influence of alcohol occurs when a motorist drives, operates or otherwise maintains control of a vehicle when they have consumed alcohol to a level that makes it unsafe. The concept of implied consent requires all drivers who are suspected of being impaired by a member of law enforcement to submit to testing. Refusal will result in an automatic suspension of driving privileges.
The federal government implemented a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of .08% for impairment. Those operating under the influence of certain drugs also may be charged with DUI. These include Schedule I controlled substances, Schedule II substances not prescribed by a physician, and other noxious agents.
Tiers of Alcohol Impairment
BAC: 0.08 - 0.099%
BAC: 0.10 - 0.159%
BAC: 0.16% +
Felony DUI Law Established in Pennsylvania
A prior DUI offense refers to any conviction within the past 10 years. Certain DUI offenders may now be charged with a third-degree felony offense. Individuals with a third offense having a BAC of .16% or higher will now face felony charges. All four-time DUI offenders also face felony charges under the new law.
All felony offenders will have their driving privileges suspended for 18 months and be required to maintain an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for one year. Ignition interlocks require the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle. Other penalties include:
- Third-Offense Felony: Incarceration from one to seven years; fine of between $2,500 and $10,000
- Fourth-Offense Felony (General): Incarceration from ten days to seven years; fine of between $500 and $15,000
- Fourth-Offense Felony (High): Incarceration from one to seven years; fine of between $1,500 and $15,000
- Fourth-Offense Felony (Highest): Incarceration from one to seven years; fine of between $2,500 and $15,000
Berks County DUI Treatment Court Program for Repeat Offenders
A DUI program was established that focuses on habitual offenders. This includes those with a second DUI offense that was found to have a BAC of .10 or higher and those who have been convicted of a third DUI. An initial assessment is conducted that classifies the offenders into one of three categories as follows:
- High risk with high needs
- High risk with low needs
- Low risk with high needs
The offenders are subject to a reduced jail sentence. The majority of second-time offenders must serve a sentence of four days and third-time offenders serve six days and then resume the treatment program.
Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM)
Offenders may be monitored for alcohol consumption by using a SCRAM ankle bracelet that is worn 24 hours per day. This bracelet can detect the presence of alcohol through the body's normal perspiration. The offender is responsible for paying roughly $240 per month in advance for SCRAM monitoring.
DUI offenders in Berks County are subject to random urine screening. Each morning, the individual must call a hotline that alerts them of whether they are to report for testing that day. There is also a means of testing where a sample is obtained by a swab of saliva.
How an Experienced Defense Lawyer May Help
When facing felony-level DUI charges, it is critical to retain legal counsel that has experience in this specific realm of practice. Your attorney may be able to identify errors in the proper procedure of the arresting officers such as a failure to have reasonable grounds for a traffic stop. Your attorney may expose weaknesses in the prosecutorial evidence that provides grounds for negotiations and more.
Attorney for Berks County DUI Defense
Joseph D. Lento has been defending clients in Pennsylvania facing allegations of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs for many years. For a free evaluation contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.