Fall is a great time of the year and many people want to get out of the house and enjoy the weather before winter arrives. Nights out to a local restaurant or bar with friends create lasting memories but also increase the change of a DUI car stop. Like I’ve written in the past, a DUI can happen to anyone and we see news stories every day about professional athletes, actors and even owners of sports team who made the wrong decision about drinking and driving.
A DUI will not only cost you a clean criminal and driving record (yes there is a difference) but its also expensive!
The True Cost of DUI in Pennsylvania
A conviction for a DUI isn't only a serious criminal matter, it's also an expensive one. The average costs of a DUI are as follows:
- Towing and impounding a car--$100.00-$1,000.00
- Additional insurance costs--$5,000.00
- DUI defense lawyer--$2,500.00-$5,000.00
- Court fines--$1,000.00
- License restoration fees--$150.00
- Ignition interlock--$250.00
While these costs are just estimates, there is always a possibility that a person could end up paying more, but on average a DUI conviction will cost a person as much as $10,000.00-$15,000.00 at the time of the conviction and approximately $3,000.00-$5,000.00 in additional insurance and premiums for the next 3-7 years. In total, therefore, a single first time DUI conviction can end up costing a person well over $25,000.00.
People sometimes drink too much alcohol and find themselves in a situation where police stop their car for suspicion of DUI. In these situations it is important that a person remember three (3) basic rules:
(1) Don’t refuse a chemical test (Breathalyzer Test or Blood Test),
(2) Don’t answer any questions even if the officer threatens to arrest you, and
(3) Tell the police officer about any physical limitations and injuries which would affect your balance or movement.
- In Pennsylvania, everyone who drives a car on the road has given “implied consent” for police or law enforcement to conduct a Breathalyzer Test. If you refuse the breathalyzer, PennDOT can still suspend your driver’s license even if you’re not convicted in criminal court. Driving is a privilege in Pennsylvania and PennDOT can impose a suspension through administrative channels which are separate from criminal proceedings. Even if your criminal defense lawyer wins your DUI case, PennDOT can still suspend your driver’s license. While your attorney can fight the suspension in civil court it may be an uphill battle which you won’t likely win!
If you take the Breathalyzer Test or Blood Test you will not only avoid a potential civil penalty but it can also improve your criminal case. A good criminal defense attorney can dispute the results of a Blood Test or Breathalyzer and there is a lot of litigation over the validity of Breathalyzer Tests in Pennsylvania. I have written previous articles on breath test science, field sobriety tests, DUI probable cause, and Motions to Suppress Evidence in a DUI case. In addition to these articles I encourage you to read my book: “5 Way to Fight and Win Your PA DUI Case” and to visit my video page.
- Don’t Answer Any Questions
If you are stopped for suspicion of DUI, police more than likely are going to arrest you not matter what you tell them. A typical question from a police officer is “have you been drinking tonight” or “where are you coming from?” People often will tell the officer they are coming from a friend’s house or a party and just had one drink. They are better off telling the officer that they aren’t going to answer any questions but that he is free to give a Breathalyzer Test or a Field Sobriety Test. Police officers are trained in the law and while not attorneys, they understand that everyone has the constitutional right to remain silent. Most police officers will respect this right and simply continue with the traffic stop by giving you a field sobriety test or taking you into custody.
Answering questions will never improve your DUI case because the officer is probably asking the question because he either smells alcohol on your breath or observed your car swerving or violating some traffic law. This is what gave the officer probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop your car in the first place. If you answer a question it will only hurt your DUI case because you’ve given the police and the prosecution more circumstantial and possible direct evidence of your intoxication. This could later lead to a conviction at trial or a judge denying your attorney’s Pre-trial Motion to Suppress Evidence. A statement like “I only had a little to drink,” or “I am coming from a party,” can persuade a judge that the police officer had probable cause to arrest you. Its always better to remain silent and simply cooperate with the police officer with regards to field sobriety tests, Breathalyzer Tests, and blood tests but never make any statements verbal or written.
I can’t stress enough however, that refusing to answer question doesn’t mean acting like a jerk to the police officer! Acting like a jerk will never help your case and will only make it worse. You could actually create additional criminal charges like disorderly conduct, resisting arrest which could cause to the prosecutor or DA to argue that you acted in this manner because of a consciousness of guilt
- Tell the Police about Your Physical Limitations
A standard field sobriety test requires that a person perform certain movements so that a police officer can assess a person’s motor skills. These tests, however, are often difficult to perform even for a person who has not consumed any alcohol. These aren’t movements that we perform everyday in our daily lives.
There are three standard field sobriety tests –
(1) the walk and turn,
(2) the one leg stand test, and
(3) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test.
The first two tests require you to walk on a straight line or balance on one foot. If you’ve had any type of surgery, played sports, or simply have wear and tear injuries this will, without a doubt, affect your ability to perform these tests correctly. Telling the officer that you’ve had an injury in the past will put the police, the prosecution, and the court on notice that the results of the field sobriety test may not be a fair indication of your intoxication. This will also allow your criminal defense lawyer to argue that the police didn’t have probable cause to arrest you based on the results of the field sobriety test.
With regards to the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus HGN Test, police officers are trained in the law but there is a great deal of case law which says that they can’t fairly use the results of the HGN Test to determine a person’s impairment. HGN is the involuntary jerking of the eyes and there is a strong argument that only a medical professional can accurately assess the results of this test. I encourage you to read my other articles on Field Sobriety Testing and to watch my videos on this topic.
If you’re stopped for DUI it’s important to keep these three (3) rules in mind because it will not only protect your rights but put your criminal defense lawyer in the best position to successfully defend your case. If you have questions about DUI, I encourage you to read my other articles, my blog, watch my videos, or read my books.