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DAVID CLARK
Criminal Defense Attorney

Montgomery County DUI Myths

Despite how common DUI charges are in Pennsylvania, there are number of myths and misconceptions people have regarding the administration of breath tests and how they can impact a DUI case. With this in mind, the following are some of the most common myths and how true they are according to a Montgomery County, PA DUI lawyer.

Myth 1: You Should Take The Breath Test If You Know Your BAC is Under the Legal Limit

Verdict: True

In Pennsylvania, the answer to this question is always true regardless of what is in your system. The Pennsylvania statutes for DUI and the crimes of DUI in the State of Pennsylvania require an individual to give a breath and/or blood test. Otherwise, the individual is perceived to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of driving, which can make a trial very difficult to win.

Additionally, the individual faces a one-year license suspension automatically for refusing a blood and/or breath test that runs consecutively to any other suspensions the person has. In the simplest of terms, the answer is always yes in Pennsylvania to taking breath and/or blood tests because the court punishes an individual administratively and criminally for refusing to take such tests.

When a person in Pennsylvania obtains a driver’s license, one of the main conditions of such driver’s license is, should a person be involved in an accident and/or should a person be asked by police with probable cause to take a breath and/or blood test, the person must answer yes.

The person must also comply with all requirements of such tests. Therefore, failing to properly breathe into a Breathalyzer machine or failing to cooperate with a draw of blood from a person’s body is in effect refusing to give a breath or blood test and subject to all of the appropriate penalties.

Myth 2: Breathalyzers Are a Reliable and Consistent Indicator of BAC

Verdict: True (if calibrated and kept up to date)

In Pennsylvania, over the last 10 years, there have been multiple problems that attorneys have discovered with breath results from the machines used to take them.

Over the last five years, Pennsylvania has updated their equipment, kept it calibrated, which means that they have kept it up to the proper legal limits so that they can test properly and maintain them in such a fashion that problems with the Breathalyzer machines are rarely seen.

Therefore, the Breathalyzers used in most municipalities in Pennsylvania are indicative of a person’s blood alcohol content within their system. Alcohol can easily be measured with the proper use of these mechanisms and machines. Therefore, a person under the influence of alcohol in particular, can suffer the ramifications of a DUI conviction merely upon the reading from such a machine.

Myth 3: Officers Cannot Justify a DUI Arrest Unless You Are Really Drunk

Verdict: False

Each individual, based on their body makeup and metabolism, is affected by alcohol and other substances in different ways. Therefore, a person may still legally be able to drive with a 0.05 blood alcohol level, but still shows signs of swerving and bad driving that would be indicative of that individual being unable to operate a motor vehicle safely on the roads of Pennsylvania.

Even crimes involving blood alcohol content below 0.08 can be prosecuted in Pennsylvania. They would be prosecuted under the A1 Statute for DUI, which carries no jail time, no license suspension, and six months of probation.

Myth 4: It’s Hard For An Officer To Tell If I’m Slightly Buzzed

Verdict: False

In most cases, trained officers that rely predominantly on DUI stops are able to detect drivers who may not be drunk, but may be under the influence of alcohol enough so that their driving or their responsiveness is impaired.

These officers are trained in DUI checkpoint stops and specific DUI days of operation, and are trained to look for the most obvious as well as the least obvious characteristics of a person driving under the influence of alcohol.

Therefore, being buzzed and driving is potentially being drunk and driving. An individual who has any amount of alcohol in their system should not be driving in the State of Pennsylvania under any circumstances. It is sometimes unfair because the individual may be below the legal limit, but the law takes that into account. Buzzed driving can be drunk driving and a person should try to avoid that at all times.

Myth 5: I Can’t Be Arrested For DUI In My Own Garage or Driveway

Verdict: False

In Montgomery County, to be found guilty and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, a person must be unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on the streets of Montgomery County and must be unable, due to alcohol and/or drug use, to operate that motor vehicle safely on those roads. Those two elements are important. If an individual was to drink alcohol on private property, the defense that an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney in Montgomery County would bring to the court was that it was not on a public street or public location, like a public parking lot.

In those cases where a person is on their own property, DUI is easily defensible as long as others do not have it right away. If a person was in their automobile in their garage drinking and listening to the radio, that would not be DUI for purposes of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

However, if a person was to pull out of their driveway onto a public street at any time, or the police saw a person pull into their driveway, the fact that they are in their driveway at the time of the stop is not indicative of an innocent individual.

The police can make the assumption that a person drove to that location. They can make the assumption that a person left one location and used the public road to return to their own home, which then would be a private road. There would be a presumption that the person did operate a motor vehicle unsafely on the roads of Montgomery County and thus, could still face charges and a conviction for DUI in Pennsylvania.

Myth 6: Blood Alcohol Content is a Reliable and Consistent Indicator of a Driver’s Impairment

Verdict: False

In Pennsylvania, blood alcohol content is used by the Supreme Court and the legislature to determine whether a person is, in their opinion, unfit or unable to operate a motor vehicle safely on the roads within the State of Pennsylvania.

The limit in Pennsylvania is 0.08. That is the amount of blood alcohol content that the legislature finds to be inappropriate and cause a person to be unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.

The content of 0.08 is the bottom, called tier one, and that first tier goes from blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.10. That is a person would have 0.10 blood alcohol content within their system. Once an individual is above that limit, they reach what is called tier two in Pennsylvania. That is any blood alcohol content between 0.10 and 0.16. Under those circumstances, enhanced penalties and longer license suspensions play a major role.

Lastly, the third tier in Pennsylvania involves blood alcohol content of 0.16 and above. A tier three DUI carries the highest sentences, the largest cost and civil penalties, as well as license suspensions of all the tiers.

Therefore, reliability is anywhere between 0.08 and above. It depends on where an individual falls within that chart at the time of driving. If the test is administered fairly close to a person’s driving, a person often tests lower than maybe even their blood alcohol content.

Reliability as well as the time the test is taken matters. All tests in Pennsylvania must be taken to be properly accepted by the courts within two hours of driving. Therefore, if a person is stopped at 1 a.m., but not administered a Breathalyzer and/or a blood test until 4 a.m., those results are deemed to be unreliable and will not be used against the person in a court of law.

Other Popular DUI Myths

In Montgomery County, like the rest of Pennsylvania, the largest myth is that a person driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol stopped by police should deny the use of any alcohol and refuse to take any breath test and/or blood test.
It is a myth that if the police do not test the person, then they cannot tell what is in their system and they can deny it at a later time.

That myth no longer has any weight in Pennsylvania, because under the current state of the law, should a person refuse to give a blood and/or a Breathalyzer test, that person has a presumption against them of guilt even before they start their bench and/or jury trial.

Therefore, a judge and/or jury is instructed that a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol because they did not give a proper Breathalyzer test and/or allow a blood test. On many occasions, verdicts for DUI cases have been won with less evidence than that. Therefore, having the right lawyer with the right defense is what can make the difference.