Our criminal defense law firm handles a large number of cases pertaining to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) in Pennsylvania. In these matters clients face not only potential jail time but also a license suspension usually between 12-18 months depending on the severity of the charge. Most people forget, however, that you can lose your Pennsylvania driver’s license and/or driving privileges in Pennsylvania (if you are an out of state driver) if you are convicted of something other than DUI.
These are all criminal charges and the prosecution (District Attorney) must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of any of these offenses which range from felony to summary crimes. In Pennsylvania the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will suspend your license if you are convicted of any of the following crimes:
- Drug possession or possession with the intent to deliver,
- Refusing a chemical test (Breathalyzer & Blood Test)
- Underage drinking/purchasing/consuming alcohol,
- Drag racing
- Reckless Driving
While there is a major difference between possession and possession with the intent to deliver illegal drugs or narcotics under section 1532 of Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code, PennDOT will suspend the driving license or the driving privileges for anyone convicted of an offense involving drugs. If you are convicted of a drug crime PennDOT will suspend your license for six (6) months for a first time offense and one year for a second offense. Section 1532 doesn’t require that your drug conviction relate to the use or operation of a motor vehicle so a conviction will result license suspension regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident.
One of the most common mistakes made is refusing a Breathalyzer Test during a police stop. If you are stopped for suspicion of DUI you should never refuse a Breathalyzer test because your refusal, in and of itself, is a criminal charge. All drivers are subject to Pennsylvania’s implied consent law. Implied consent means that you have already given Pennsylvania permission to take your blood or breath sample following a DUI. Refusing a chemical test such as a blood or breathalyzer is totally irrelevant and separate from other criminal charges pertaining to DUI. You could for win your DUI case but lose on the refusal charge. The prosecution must only establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the police officer clearly communicated his request and that you voluntarily refused it in Pennsylvania. Anything other than a “yes” response is considered a refusal but I have written previous articles on chemical test refusals which you should read to understand more about the supporting topic. I’ve made a very short video on this topic.
It is common knowledge that the drinking age is 21 not only in Pennsylvania but all 50 states. I have written previous articles on license suspensions for non-driving offenses for young people. Again, there isn’t a constitutional right to drive a car or have a driver’s license in Pennsylvania. PennDOT therefore can suspend the driver’s license of any person under the age of 21 if this person is convicted of possession, consuming, or transporting alcoholic beverages and/or using a fake id. Again, there is no requirement that any of the instances involve a car but possession or use of alcohol.
- Drag Racing
When people think of drag racing they normally think of movies like Fast & Furious or perhaps Days of Thunder (I’m dating myself). Most people assume that the crime of drag racing is limited only to the actual drivers but this is simply wrong. While Pennsylvania defines a “drag race” at the operation of two or more vehicles, side by side, competing at an accelerated speed within intent to outdistance each other the actual crime covers much broader conduct. In Pennsylvania it is not only a crime actually to drive in a drag race but also participate in one. Participation is again defined broadly and even watching a drag race is considered participation in it. If a person is convicted of drag racing they face a sixth (6) month license suspension regardless of their age under Section 3367 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. Drag racing is a summary offense like underage drinking in Pennsylvania and a person also faces fines and there is even the possibility of jail but this is highly unlikely.
- Reckless Driving
Carless and reckless driving are terms that many people believe the law uses interchangeably. This, again, however is simply wrong. Careless driving is actually the lesser of these two charges and is defined as driving a motor vehicle in this manner (carless) but not with any type of deliberation or intent causing an accident. You can commit the crime of carless driving by falling asleep at wheel. Careless driving is a summary offense but will not result in a license suspension. Reckless driving, however, requires the prosecution prove intent. Intent in this context means that you were acting deliberately irresponsible or “recklessly”. If you are convicted of reckless driving in Pennsylvania, you face not only a fine but also a six (6) month license suspension. If reckless driving involved an injury there is a $1,000.00 fine and up to ninety (90) days in jail. Careless driving is a violation of Section 3736 under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code while reckless driving is violation of Section 3714 under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.
If are charged with any of these offense, it’s important to speak to the right attorney. Never make assumptions about the consequences of a conviction. Speak to a criminal defense lawyer and understand your rights. I encourage you to read more about me and to visit my free download section on this website.