Most people think of a traffic ticket as a pretty minor offense. The only punishment is usually paying a fine and court costs. Sometimes, a driver might get a couple of points added to their license. If it is a serious traffic offense, perhaps a driver would get his license suspended. Hardly anyone, however, would expect to go to jail.
In some instances, incarceration is not only a possibility, it is MANDATORY under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. Most commonly, this occurs when a driver is issued a citation for driving with a suspended license, which is codified at 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1543. There are two basic types of citations for driving with a suspended license.
First, a “1543(a)”, covers any person who is caught driving a vehicle after the commencement of a suspension, revocation, or cancellation of a operating privilege but before the operating privilege has been restored. The penalty, upon conviction, is a $200 fine per statute. However, under a separate section of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S.A. 6503, upon conviction of a second offense under 1543(a), the fine changes to a sliding scale of $200 to $1,000. Furthermore, a Judge has the option to sentence a “second offender” to up to six months in prison.
Perhaps even more significantly, anyone convicted of a sixth or subsequent offense under1543(a) SHALL be sentenced to a MANDATORY fine of not less than $1,000 and MANDATORY imprisonment of not less than 30 days to six months. In other words, a Judge does not have any discretion to sentence someone in this situation to less than 30 days in jail.
The second type of citation for driving with a suspended license is a “1543(b)”; it is commonly referred to as a license suspension that is “DUI-Related”. A 1543(b) applies to anyone caught driving a vehicle while his operating privileges have been suspended or revoked because of a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction in Pennsylvania. The law also applies to a conviction for a “substantially similar” offense to DUI in another state. The law even applies to someone who has their license suspended for refusing to submit to chemical testing as part of a DUI arrest. And since the suspension is “DUI-Related”, the Pennsylvania Legislature decided to make the punishment more severe than a more general 1543(a) offense. Under 1543(b), a first time offender, if convicted, must pay a MANDATORY fine of $500 and serve a MANDATORY 60-90 days in prison.
I have represented many clients charged with 1543(a) and 1543(b). In the vast majority of these cases, the number one goal of my client is to eliminate the threat of any jail time. I have been successful in achieving that goal in most of my clients’ cases. Whether it is negotiating with the police officer who charged the citation or arguing the case in front of the Judge, there are many different strategies that I can utilize to minimize the impact that this type of case can have on someone’s life.
If you have been charged with a traffic citation for driving with a suspended license under 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1543(a) or 1543(b) in Reading or Berks County, call my office today. I would be happy to set up a no cost consultation to discuss your situation in more detail.