Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance (DUI/DWI)
Effective February 1, 2004, the Pennsylvania legislature revised the Commonwealth’s drunk driving laws. In most instances, first-time offenders who are convicted by guilty plea or trial serve at least a few days in jail and lose their driving privileges for some period of time. The penalties become more severe for second and subsequent offenders and the higher the blood-alcohol content.
Berks County averages more than 1,200 DUI prosecutions each year. Fortunately, alternatives exist to incarceration in Berks County, and our firm is familiar with all of them.
For most first-time offenders, the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is available. ARD is a pretrial diversionary program in which a defendant agrees to participate (not plead guilty) in exchange for probation and a shorter license suspension. Upon completion of the program, all charges are dismissed and the records expunged, although an ARD disposition does count as a prior DUI offense in the event of a second or subsequent DUI arrest within 10 years.
Berks County is one of the few counties in the state to offer treatment programs to second and subsequent DUI offenders who face mandatory minimum periods of jail time. The second-time offender program (STOP) allows defendants to receive credit on their jail sentences after residing at a halfway house or serving house arrest with outpatient counseling. Many third-time and subsequent offenders are offered Treatment Court as a way to shorten the period of time which must be spent in jail by participating in treatment and intensive counseling and supervision.
All defendants should be aware of their rights following a DUI arrest. Trial is always an option. Our firm can also file license suspension appeals for those defendants who face driver's license suspensions for refusal of chemical testing such as the breathalyzer or a blood test.