West Chester DUI Attorney

Every year, thousands of people visit West Chester and the environs to take a break from their everyday lives.  Unfortunately, some people find out the hard way that having a little too much fun in Chester County can have its downsides. In a state with significant police presence, including local police and the Pennsylvania State Police, a DUI arrest can happen just about anywhere in Chester County - whether it be at a checkpoint, at the scene of an accident, or at a minor traffic stop.

If you've been arrested for a DUI in Chester County, retaining legal representation is important. So many people feel defeated when a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test determines they were driving under the influence. But DUI tests and the accounts of police officers are not the ultimate factors in determining guilt, nor are these parties and resources infallible.

To truly understand how crucial it is to have a qualified DUI attorney in your corner, you need to be aware of what's at stake. Continue reading to learn more about DUI laws and penalties in Pennsylvania.

Chester County DUI Court Process

If arrested in Chester County for a DUI, your case will be scheduled for a preliminary hearing at the applicable Magisterial District Court. There are 19 District Courts in all in Chester County. If the case proceeds past the preliminary hearing, the case will be scheduled for a formal arraignment at the Court of Common Pleas (also known as the Chester County Justice Center) located at 201 Market Street, West Chester, PA 19380, and the trial process will continue from that point forward often either resulting in the case proceeding to trial or being resolved through non-trial disposition such as ARD.

Pennsylvania / Chester County DUI Laws

A DUI is charged by police when a motorist is found to be driving impaired by a substance. A DUI may be charged if a driver is caught driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and any other illegal substances.

Alcohol DUI

The alcohol DUI is the most common form of impaired driving charge in Pennsylvania. the standards for constituting an alcohol DUI depend on the type of driver you are. For example:

  • drivers of commercial vehicles are over the legal alcohol limit with a BAC of .04% or greater
  • School bus drivers are over the legal alcohol limit with a BAC of .02% or greater
  • Drivers under the age of 21 are over the legal alcohol limit with a BAC of .02% or greater
  • Non-commercial drivers that are over the age of 21 are over the legal alcohol limit with a BAC of .08% or more

Drug DUI

Pennsylvania law states that a drug DUI is constituted when it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant had a schedule I, II, or II controlled substance in their bloodstream upon the time of arrest. However, the prosecution must present a minimum drug metabolite level for a drug test to be admissible (used against you) in court.

When a drug metabolizes into the body, it produces effects that could potentially impair the user. The courts have concluded that it takes a certain quantity of drugs to truly impair a driver. For example, at least 50 nanograms of marijuana in defendant's bloodstream is a definite sign of impairment and will constitute a drug DUI in the state. Other controlled substances like cocaine, meth, and even cough syrup have a set metabolic rate that the state has distinguished to determine impairment. It's important to note, however, that even if the prosecution can't establish a drug's quantity or metabolite, it can still prosecute and convict a defendant. Although the drug test may not be admissible, other proof that there may have been a mere presence of drugs in a defendant's system while at the wheel is enough in most cases.

Penalties

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania imposes DUI sentences based on what are known as “tiers” of impairment. What tier you belong to depends on your BAC. The three tiers are as follows:

General impairment (between .08% and .099%)

  • 5 days mandatory jail time and up to 6 months in a Chester County jail
  • A fine of up to $2,500
  • 12-month license suspension
  • The installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Mandatory attendance at alcohol highway safety school

High impairment (between .10% and .159%)

  • 30 days mandatory jail time and up to 6 months in a Chester County jail
  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • 12-month license suspension
  • The installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Mandatory attendance at alcohol highway safety school

Highest impairment (.16% or greater)

  • 90 days mandatory jail time and up to 5 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • 18-month license suspension
  • Mandatory attendance at alcohol highway safety school

Keep in mind, refusing a blood or breath test after a DUI arrest will lead to an automatic “highest impairment” charge, regardless of your BAC. A conviction under the highest impairment tier is a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Aside from the legal penalties of a DUI, there are other lasting repercussions, known as collateral consequences, that are worth mentioning. If this is your first crime, a DUI conviction will establish your criminal record. This record is public and permanent. Ultimately, this means that anyone with access to the internet can google your name and see details about the crime. A criminal record is infamous for limiting employment. Future employers will also be able to see your record when conducting background checks, and they use criminal records to weed out applicants.

Your auto insurance will surge significantly. If your driving record is riddled with incidents, a DUI may be the last straw that urges a provider to deny you coverage altogether.

If your DUI case results in the severe injury or death of another person, the victim or their family has the right to file a civil liability case for damages. This means the courts may order you to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars out of pocket for causing an accident that hurt someone else.

West Chester DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in Chester County, it's crucial you retain legal representation. It's important to remember that a DUI charge does not guarantee a conviction regardless of how challenging the situation may seem. With the help of a seasoned legal professional, you have a much higher chance of getting your charges reduced or even dropped altogether. With the help of attorney Joseph Lento, you can rest assured that we'll build the solid defense you need to fight this case. Contact him today for a consultation at 888-535-3686.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations – the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Northampton County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

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