Pennsylvania legalized marijuana for limited medical purposes in August of 2016 and dispensaries are now operating. Although the law has been passed, there is still much work to be done in order to implement the program and to ensure that medical marijuana usage is legal and safe. One area in which there is a still a question about the legality of medical marijuana is Pennsylvania DUI law. Currently, marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug which means that it has been determined to have no legitimate medical usage. Obviously that is no longer an appropriate classification based on the current law. However, the outdated classification continues to leave Pennsylvania DUI law in limbo.
DUI law in Berks County is currently in question following the US Supreme Court's decision in a case called Birchfield v. North Dakota. The Birchfield case addressed a number of issues including warrantless requests for chemical testing, the implied consent warnings that are read when chemical testing is requested by the police and enhanced penalties for refusal to submit to the testing.
What should you do about your Berks County DUI charge? You should have your case evaluated by one of our experienced DUI attorneys. Read about some of our recent cases.
Your first court appearance in Berks County after your arrest will be your Preliminary Arraignment. This is a time when you go in front of a Berks County Magisterial District Judge, are informed of the charges against you and your bail is set. If you've never been charged with a crime before then your bail will probably be set at ROR (released on your own recognizance) or an unsecured amount (no money needs to be paid to remain out of jail). You will also be given a date for your Preliminary Hearing. It is very important that you have an attorney with you for your Preliminary Hearing so it is in your best interest to contact our experienced DUI attorneys as soon as you are informed of your Preliminary Hearing date.
A recent Berks County DUI client was placed in the ARD program thanks to the hard work of Attorney Ebner. This client had been denied entry into the Berks County DUI ARD program on two previous occasions when represented by other attorneys. This client was a single mother with 2 children and desperately needed her driver's license. The DUI ARD program has a mandatory license suspension for certain BAC's, but the suspension is much shorter than with a DUI conviction. Attorney Ebner instructed her client to pay off all outstanding fines and then asked for her ARD application to be reconsidered again. This time the request was granted and the DUI client was placed in the ARD program.
Attorney Nevins recently obtained an "not guilty" verdict for a client charged with a 2nd offense DUI in Berks County. This client was involved in a single-vehicle accident and later refused to submit to chemical testing. Based on the accident and refusal, he was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days of incarceration. After consultation with Attorney Nevins, this client decided to proceed with a bench trial which meant that a judge, rather than a jury, would decide the verdict.
Berks County DUI Diversionary Programs
The Pennsylvania Legislature recently closed a loophole in the DUI statute which will result in harsher sentences for repeat DUI offenders. The loophole was created by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Commonwealth v. Haag in 2009. The Court in Haag said that a defendant could not be sentenced as a repeat DUI offender unless he had been sentenced on his prior DUI offense before the subsequent DUI offense occurred. The Haag ruling resulted in defendants receiving significantly reduced sentences for multiple DUI's because they could be sentenced on multiple DUI's without facing the recidivist penalties. In other words, a person could hypothetically have two pending DUI cases (technically a first and second DUI) and only be sentenced as having two first DUIs. Therefore, a person would not be penalized for having more than one pending DUI.
Attorney Ryan W. McAllister recently represented a client in Berks County who was charged with a second offense DUI. Our client had refused the blood test at the hospital, so he was looking at the "highest rate" penalties if he was convicted, which would include a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 90 days in Berks County Prison, followed by a five (5) year period of supervision. Our client was employed full-time at a local Berks County company, and he was have undoubtedly lost his job if he received a 90 day jail sentence.