If you have ever been cited for driving while intoxicated or a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), you know that your driving privileges get suspended for a certain period of time, depending upon your blood/alcohol level. So what happens if you are then caught driving with a suspended license?
If you've pled guilty or have been convicted of a DUI, odds are that your driver's license has been suspended. It is standard operating procedure in the Pennsylvania judicial system to revoke the driving privileges of those that are guilty of driving under the influence. However, if you are caught driving while your license is suspended, you are opening yourself up to additional sanctions.
When a client comes to me to discuss a DUI, there is always confusion regarding the officer's use of field sobriety tests. First, a field sobriety test is just one tool at the officer's disposal in forming probable cause to make an arrest for DUI. Pennsylvania courts have determined that reasonable grounds to arrest do not require the failure of a field sobriety test. Officers may use other indicators such as an odor of alcohol, disorientation or bloodshot eyes to establish probable cause. In addition, officers have breathalyzers available if the driver consents to submitting to one.
Each time you renew your driver's license in Pennsylvania, you sign a form that permits the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to draw blood, breath or urine if you arrested by police for driving under the influence. This form of permission given by you to the Commonwealth is known as the Implied Consent Law. According to this law, if you refuse to provide the police with a blood, breath or urine sample in conjunction with a DUI, your license will automatically be suspended for one year.
I have previously written about the consequences associated with being charged with or convicted of a DUI. While those consequences are obviously less than ideal, the ramifications of being convicted of a DUI if you have a Commercial Driver's License ("CDL") are much more severe, especially if you use that CDL to make a living. In Pennsylvania, a CDL is required for a driver to operate any commercial vehicle. Such vehicles include semi-trailers, buses, and HAZMAT vehicles. Depending on the type of vehicle the driver wants to operate, there are a number of different classifications of CDL.
In Pennsylvania, if you plead guilty to or are convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, one of the consequences of your conviction is that you will have to have an Ignition Interlock device installed in your vehicle. The Ignition Interlock is a piece of equipment that prohibits a person from starting a vehicle if he or she has been drinking. A driver is required to blow into the device before he or she attempts to start the engine. If there is no alcohol on the driver's breath, the vehicle will start as usual. However, if the device detects alcohol, it will prevent the ignition from firing and the vehicle will not start. Additionally, throughout the course of the drive, the device will prompt the driver to blow into it to ensure that he or she does not drink alcohol after the car is started.
One of the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI") is that your driver's license is typically suspended. Depending on how intoxicated you were at the time of your arrest and how many previous DUI's you have had, the length of the license suspension varies widely. However, regardless of whether your suspension is 30 days or 18 months, it is extremely important to not risk driving during the suspension.
If you have not heard about it, you will! Recently, a Daughin County Common Pleas Court Judge ruled that certain breathalyzer machines used by the police when stopping an individual suspected of driving while intoxicated are flawed and not reliable for readings above .15 and below .05. Accordingly, the Police Department, in an attempt to keep every DUI stop out of court, has decided that all possible DUI prospects will now be subjected to a blood test.
Recently, the national news picked up a story about a Colorado state senator that introduced a bill affectionately known as the "Drinking with Dad" bill. This piece of legislation would have permitted parents to purchase alcohol for their child in Colorado Bars and restaurants if the child was 18 and older but not yet 21 (legal underage drinking). The senator who introduced the bill advocated the measure because he felt that permitting children to drink alcohol with a parent present would provide an opportunity to teach them how to drink responsibly.
As of December 24, 2012, the penalties for underage drinking and public drunkenness in Pennsylvania will increase significantly. On October 25, 2012, Governor Corbett signed into law Act No. 205, increasing the fines for the above offenses. Prior to the Governor signing the Act, if you were convicted of underage drinking in a Pennsylvania Magisterial District Court, you were subject to a $300 fine, responsible for paying court costs and suffered a 90 day driver's license suspension. If you were convicted for a second or subsequent time, the fine would increase to $500 and the license suspension was raised to a full year.