In Philadelphia, there are five ways for a driving under the influence (DUI) to begin:
- After police notice a driving infraction
- During a pretextual stop
- After a single-vehicle car accident, or a crash that only damaged property
- After a car crash that hurt or killed someone else
- At a sobriety checkpoint
The most severe DUI offenses begin after an injury-producing crash or a fatal accident. In these cases, the penalties of a conviction rise significantly.
1. DUI Stops After a Driving Infraction
One of the most common ways for police to look for a DUI case is by pulling drivers after noticing a traffic infraction. These can be incredibly minor, like:
- Not signaling before changing lanes
- Speeding only a few miles per hour over the limit
- Following someone else too closely
However, the police officer usually hopes to find evidence of drunk driving by initiating the traffic stop.
2. DUIs After Pretextual Stops
Similarly, police often use pretextual stops to pull people over and search for signs of drunk driving.
Pretextual stops are different than those for traffic infractions because the reason for the stop doesn't have to do with the suspect's driving. Instead, they're for things that don't even hint at drunk driving, like a missing taillight or not using a seatbelt. Police often initiate these traffic stops in areas and at times where it is more likely to find drunk drivers.
3. Accidents That Don't Produce an Injury
When police respond to the scene of a car accident, one of the things that they tend to do is find any driver who was involved in the crash and, if they are not getting medical treatment, ask them to provide a breath sample for a chemical breath test. Under Pennsylvania's implied consent law, drivers have to comply with these requests if they are lawful, or face an automatic license suspension.
4. Fatal or Injury-Producing Accidents
DUI cases that begin with an accident that hurts or kills someone else are the most severe DUI charges that you can face. The penalties of a DUI conviction rise sharply if someone was killed or “seriously hurt.”
In many of these cases, the allegedly drunken driver is also in the hospital for medical treatment. Police have been known to use the opportunity to draw a blood sample to test, as well.
5. Sobriety Checkpoints
Even if you are driving perfectly safely and have nothing wrong with your vehicle that would warrant a pretextual stop, police at a sobriety checkpoint can pull you over. Even though they do not have probable cause, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the government's interest in stopping drunk driving outweighs the “minor” infringement of a driver's rights.
Around half of the states have disagreed with this interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, and have decided that their own state constitution's version of the Fourth Amendment outlaws sobriety checkpoints.
DUI Defense and Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Serves Philadelphia
Regardless of how your DUI case began, having a DUI defense lawyer on hand to fight the charges is essential.