Our Easton DUI Lawyers provide Aggressive DUI Defense in Lehigh County, Monroe County & Northampton County.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in the Lehigh Valley, your freedom, your license, your livelihood and your reputation are all at stake. But our experienced Easton DUI attorneys can help. Our Easton DUI Lawyers have beat DUI cases in the Lehigh Valley. The DUI Lawyers in our Lehigh Valley DUI Defense Firm have saved our clients from decades of jail time as well as decades of license suspensions.
In Pennsylvania, the penalties associated with a drunk driving arrest will vary based upon your blood alcohol level (BAC) and whether you have had any previous DUI convictions or ARD usages. Almost all driving under the influence offenses carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence and license suspension. An experienced Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyer can help avoid the mandatory DUI penalties in most cases, even when we cannot outright have the DUI charges dismissed.
The earlier we become involved in a Lehigh Valley DUI case the better the outcome we can achieve for our clients. Our Easton DUI Lawyers have had a Northampton County client call us immediately after a Bethlehem DUI arrest and, through their quick actions, and our quick response, our Easton DUI Lawyers were able to have the DUI charges dismissed. We are the only Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyers to successfully have a Northampton County DUI case dismissed based upon early intervention by our DUI Lawyers and independent blood test results.
Unfortunately, early intervention in a Lehigh Valley DUI case is rarely possible so we must rely on DUI education. The three most important thing to know if you are pulled over for DUI in Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton are 1) You do NOT have the right to speak to a Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyer before deciding whether to consent to a DUI blood or breath test; 2) Refusing to Consent to Blood or Breath Test will result in additional license loss; and 3) If this is a third or subsequent DUI in the Lehigh Valley, refusing a blood test may very well be the best option. Ask us more about these points at a free consultation.
Ideally, Lehigh Valley DUI clients will contact our Easton DUI Office well in advance of their preliminary hearing. We will review their account of the DUI starting with hours before the traffic stop and continuing at least two hours past the traffic stop, as there are many issues outside the actual encounter with police that may lead to an acquittal or dismissal of DUI charges in Easton, Allentown & Bethlehem. We will review DUI Charging Documents for defects. Where appropriate, our DUI Lawyers will identify and interview witnesses to the alleged DUI and we will preserve evidence such as police dash cam footage and security cameras. We will strategize a plan to achieve the best outcome in a Lehigh Valley DUI case, whether that be via trial, alternative sentencing programs or ARD.
We will come to every Lehigh Valley DUI hearing fully prepared to put forward an aggressive defense. If ARD is not an option, or is unlikely, we will hold an in depth preliminary hearing where we will seek to discredit any implications that our client was incapable of safe driving. We will challenge the basis of the Lehigh Valley DUI stop itself. We will challenge the subjectivity of the field sobriety tests and the officer’s lack of training in conducting the tests. If the charges survive the preliminary hearing, our Easton DUI Lawyers may file motions to have evidence suppressed or argue that the District Judge erred in finding probable cause. And, we will eventually take the Lehigh Valley DUI case to trial when appropriate.
Client was charged with 2nd Offense DUI with a refusal enhancement and faced a mandatory minimum sentence of three (3) months. Through aggressive preliminary hearing representation and motion practice, the Commonwealth’s case was severely handicapped and the DUI charges were withdrawn on the eve of trial.
Client was charged with Hit & Run. After applying for ARD and being denied, pre-trial motions were filed which resulted in the case being dismissed in the Court of Common Pleas and all criminal charges being dropped.
Client was charged with 3rd Offense, High-Tier, DUI and faced a one-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Through pre-trial motions related to faulty O’Connell warnings, the charges were reduced to Low-Tier DUI charges and client spent 10 days in county work release rather than one year in state prison.
Client was charged with Fleeing and Eluding police. Aggressive representation at the preliminary hearing led to all criminal charges being dismissed before the case reach the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.
DUI Penalties & License Suspension in the Lehigh Valley, and Pennsylvania as a whole, vary greatly. DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania depend upon the blood alcohol content (BAC), the number of previous arrests in the past 10 years, whether a there was a refusal to submit to chemical testing and many other factors.
When Easton Police, Bethlehem Police, Allentown Police, The Pennsylvania State Police or any other local police department conducts a DUI stop, they often follow a certain set of standard DUI policy and procedures. Our Easton DUI Lawyers are well versed in this standard script. The stop should always begin with either a moving violation or an equipment violation, the basis for the stop will always be an important factor in a DUI case. The officer will then ask the driver for his documentation, license and registration. The officer will state that he smells drugs or alcohol and will ask the driver how much he or she has had to drink. Next, the police officer will have to driver exit the vehicle and ask them to perform DUI field sobriety tests (FSTs). The officer will often then administer a portable breathalyzer test, a PBT. If the officer believes there is probable cause for an arrest the will then transport the driver to the local DUI Testing Center in Easton, Allentown or Bethlehem.
All of the Field Sobriety Tests, FSTs for short, suffer from a number of problems undermining their accuracy. A skilled Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyer will take advantage of these flaws. The very first which is a lack of regular training of Easton, Allentown & Bethlehem police officers in administering DUI tests. All of the test are impacted by stress and external factors on the roadside. Finally, many police safety procedures are directly at odds with the DUI tests. For example, Lehigh Valley police are trained to always keep themselves between a suspect and their police vehicle. However, this same policy requires that the driver face the police vehicle, with its flashing lights, while taking the FSTs. The reliability of the DUI arrest is diminished due to the distractions created by these lights.
For an overview of the common Field Sobriety Tests administered by Lehigh Valley Police in DUI arrest, read below.
First and foremost, the HGN test is not admissible in a DUI trial in Easton, Allentown & Bethlehem. Nonetheless, Lehigh Valley police continue to use this supposed test. A skilled Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyer will not allow the HGN test to be used at trial.
Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyes. Nystagmus can be brought on by alcohol but also has numerous other causes. For the test to have any value, both the police officer and the test individual must be qualified for the test. With the rare exception of a police officer with a medical degree, police are not qualified to give this test. The person administering the test must also qualify the person being test. As the vast majority of police are not qualified to give the test, they are unqualified to qualify the tested individual.
The HGN test has been found to be 77% accurate if performed by a qualified medical professional. As it is the most accurate FST, if performed correctly, this explains why it is still regularly used despite being inadmissible in court.
For a much more in depth overview of the HGN test look at our sample HGN cross examination from a real DUI case.
During the walk and turn test the police officer asks the driver to take 9 heel-to-toe steps in one direction, turn and take 9 more heel-to-toe steps back to the starting position. The officer then looks for 8 clues, or indicators of intoxication during a Lehigh Valley DUI stop:
There are a number of problems with the Walk-And-Turn DUI test. It should be administered on level, hard, dry ground and rarely is. The individual accused of DUI must be wearing comfortable footwear. (If I had a dollar for each time an officer administered this test to a poor woman in heels I would retire already). The alleged DUI driver must also be under 60 years of age and moderately physically, and mentally, fit for the test to have any value.
Government funded studies have found that, even when performed under perfect conditions, the walk-and-turn test is only 68% accurate.
For a more detailed explanation of the problems with this test, see our sample walk-and-turn cross-examination from an actual DUI case conducted by our Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyers.
When conducting the one-leg stand test during a DUI stop, Lehigh Valley police instruct the alleged DUI driver to stand with one foot approximately sex inches off the ground and count aloud until the officer tells them they can stop. (which should happen in 30 seconds). The One-Leg-Stand-Test has four clues, or indicia of intoxication:
Problems with the one-leg-stand test include: unsuitable surface conditions, a lack of physical or mental fitness in the DUI suspect, improper footwear, improper timing by the police officer and any movement by the police officer can cause imbalance in the tested individual.
The federal government has found that, even when conducted under perfect conditions, the one-leg-stand test is only 65% accurate.
Read our Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyers’ actual cross-examination on the one-leg-stand test from an actual DUI case for more information.
Northampton County makes ARD available for many first offense DUIs in Easton, Wilson, Forks, Palmer, Bethlehem, Bangor, Northampton and the surrounding areas. Northampton County has no centralized DUI Court and may deny ARD for DUIs involving accidents, minors in the vehicle, and certain BAC concentrations. Application to the Northampton County ARD program must be made via a formal Northampton County DUI ARD application prior to Formal Arraignment.
Lehigh County makes ARD available for first time offenders in Allentown, Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. Lehigh County has a centralized DUI Court where case may be routed for ARD. All DUI preliminary hearings are held at the Lehigh County Courthouse before a magisterial district judge who rotates each week. While the application process is more formal in Lehigh County, court dates typically last longer than in Northampton County. Judge Maria Dantos has the final determination on ARD acceptance in Lehigh County DUI cases.
Northampton County offers the Alternative Sentencing Program, commonly known as DUI ASP, for second offense DUIs in Easton, Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. There are certain requirements for the Northampton County DUI ASP program for second offenses, but acceptance in the ASP program can greatly reduce mandatory minimum incarceration in Northampton County Prison. However, the program does not eliminate jail time altogether but rather reduces it through a combination of work release and house arrest.
Lehigh County has no formal second offenders program for DUI offenses. However, Lehigh County is more liberal with grants of house arrest and work release than surrounding counties. While a conviction for second offense DUI in Northampton County can almost never avoid incarceration completely, Lehigh County will allow the entire sentence to be served via house arrest in many cases. However, if you elect to take advantage of house arrest, Lehigh County will often double the period of supervision.
Pennsylvania has recently made restoring your license after a DUI easier through increased availability of ignition interlock as well changing the way time calculations are done. However, failing to restore, or reinstate, your drivers license after a DUI Suspension can have harsh consequences.
Once a Driver’s License is suspended due to a DUI in the Lehigh Valley, that suspension remains “DUI related” until it is restored. So, ever if the Lehigh Valley DUI carries only a 30 day suspension, if the driver is pulled over 60 days later without restoring his or her license, the driver will be subject to the harsh driving under DUI suspension penalties.
1543(b) – First Offense
A First Offense 1543(b) carries a $500 fine, an additional one (1) year license suspension and a mandatory 60 day prison sentence.
1543(b) – Second Offense
Carries a $1000 fine, (1) year of additional license suspension and a mandatory 90 day prison sentence.
1543(b) – Third and Subsequent Offenses
Carries a $2,500 fine, one (1) year of additional license suspension and a mandatory prison sentence of 6 months.
1543(b)(1.1) – First Offense
A First Offense 1543(b) carries a $1000 fine, an additional one (1) year license suspension and a mandatory 90 day prison sentence.
1543(b)(1.1) – Second Offense
Carries a $2,500 fine, (1) year of additional license suspension and a mandatory prison sentence of six (6) months.
1543(b)(1.1) – Third and Subsequent Offenses
Carries a $5,000 fine, one (1) year of additional license suspension and a mandatory prison sentence of two (2) years.
First time offenders, or those whose first offense is over 10 years old, may be eligible for the DUI ARD program. ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition and the program has a number of benefits to those charged with first-offense DUIs.
The DUI ARD program can often greatly reduce the license suspension that may result from a Lehigh Valley DUI conviction and also an individual to completely avoid the mandatory minimum DUI prison sentences and jailtime. Ask our Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyers for more information.
Lehigh County, Monroe County and Northampton County all offer the DUI ARD program but the requirements in each county differ greatly. Some counties will not allow DUI ARD if your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is above a certain level while other counties may not allow ARD if you are charged with certain other offenses along with the DUI. In many cases, our Easton DUI Attorneys may be able to overcome the exceptions to ARD admission.
While DUI ARD is generally the best option in most cases, it is not always the best option for everyone. In certain, rare, cases you may actually be able to avoid a license suspension completely by not accepting DUI ARD. Speak with our Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyers in Easton, Pennsylvania for more details.
Whether or not House Arrest will be an option in your DUI case depends on a few factors, not least of which is whether the DUI occurred in Northampton County or Lehigh County. Lehigh County is fairly liberal in granting House Arrest but may often double the DUI sentence from what it would be without House Arrest. On the other hand, Northampton County very rarely offers House Arrest outside of its DUI ASP Program. Ask our Lehigh Valley DUI Attorneys in Easton for more information.
While ARD is the only method available to completely remove mandatory minimum sentences and convictions, many other programs exist to make sentences more tolerable. These programs and their availability may differ from Lehigh County to Northampton County.
• House Arrest – DUI House Arrest allows an individual to serve a sentence from the comfort of their residence. When on House arrest, you will be able to go to work, school and run errands but you may be required to operate on a set schedule approved by the DUI probation or parole department.
• Work Release – DUI Work Release allows an individual to maintain their employment and attend priority personal obligations but requires time not spend working or doing other pre-approved activities to be spent in a community corrections center. Some counties also allow individuals to take periods of up to 48 hours of furlough or “vacation” time to visit with family members and sleep at home.
• ASP – Northampton County typically does not permit a House Arrest only sentence but allows for a quick step-down program of a brief period in actual jail, followed by a period of Work Release and finally a period of House Arrest.
• TCAP – TCAP is a unique treatment program oriented towards those with serious drug and alcohol problems who have been charged with a third offense DUI. While TCAP may reduce a one (1) year mandatory minimum sentence to 90 days, the incarceration and intensive treatment makes maintenance of employment all but impossible. For this reason, given the choice, many defendants may opt for a long sentence that offers immediate work release.
Contact our Lehigh Valley DUI Lawyers in Easton for more information.
ASP stands for Alternative Sentencing Program and is available for many Second Offense DUIs in Northampton County DUI Court.
It allows a 30 day DUI sentence, that would otherwise be served in prison, to be structured with 7 days spent in the West Easton Work Release Detention Center and the remaining 23 days of the DUI sentence served on House Arrest.
DUI ASP also allows the 90 day mandatory minimum DUI sentence to be structured in such a way as to allow for 7 days spent in Northampton County Prison, 23 days spent in the West East DUI Treatment Center and the remaining 60 days to be spent in DUI House Arrest.
Speak with one of our Easton DUI Attorneys in the Lehigh Valley regarding your eligibility for the Northampton DUI ASP Program.
A Lehigh Valley DUI case, like a Lehigh Valley criminal case, begins with the filing of the charging paperwork in the MagisterialDistrict Court. The District Court serves as the gatekeeper for the Court or Common Pleas and does not decide guilt or innocence.
The Preliminary Arraignment is the first court date a defendant must attend in a Lehigh Valley DUI case. At the preliminary Arraignment the MDJ will set bail on the DUI charges. If an arrest warrant has issued, this will occur prior to the preliminary hearing. If a preliminary hearing was scheduled via summons, the Preliminary Arraignment will occur simultaneous to the Preliminary Hearing.
In a Lehigh Valley DUI Case, preliminary hearings are the first opportunity for the Defense to test the evidence the Commonwealth plans to bring against them. While the burden the Commonwealth must meet at this level is very low, it is a critical stage of the defense because it allows your DUI Attorney the opportunity to lay the strategic groundwork that may make or break a DUI defense in the upper courts. You should never waive a preliminary hearing without a DUI attorney.
Formal Arraignment is the first court appearance in the Court of Common Pleas during a Lehigh Valley DUI case. The purpose of the Formal Arraignment is to inform defendants of certain rights they have and deadlines in their case. If negotiations have led to a favorable plea agreement in your DUI case, a plea may be entered at this court date
Depending on the individual Lehigh Valley DUI case, any of the following types of court hearings may occur after formal arraignment but before a trial:
• Diversionary Program Hearing – Diversionary Programs allow defendants a path through the criminal justice system that does not risk the chance of conviction. First time offenders may be eligible for the DUI ARD program. Other defendant’s may be eligible for Mental Health Court regardless of whether they have prior convictions.
• Habeas Corpus Hearing – A Habeas Corpus hearing, like a preliminary hearing, may be held to contest the sufficiency of the Commonwealth’s DUI evidence prior to a trial.
• Suppression Hearing – A suppression hearing may be held to have evidence illegally obtained by the police ruled inadmissible at trial. This usually relates to the DUI stop itself or the blood draw in a Lehigh Valley DUI case.
• Guilty Plea – If the Commonwealth and the defendant agree upon the terms of a guilty plea in Lehigh Valley DUI case, a plea may occur at any time throughout the DUI court process
In many DUI trials, cases proceed in front of a jury. However, sometimes it may be best to opt for a non-jury trial. Non-jury trials are most often used when the nature of the crime is one that risks a jury finding someone guilty based upon emotion rather than facts.
If the case precedes as a jury trial the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will question potential jurors. Each side, without any justification, can eliminate a certain number of jurors. Another number of potential jurors can be eliminated based on a list of legal justifications. Eventually, through this process, a jury is reached and seated for trial.
After a jury is chosen, the trial begins with opening statements.
Because the government has the burden of proof, the prosecutor is allowed to make his opening statement first. The defense will then have the option of making an opening statement or waiting until after the prosecution rests its case.
Defense lawyers usually opt to deliver opening statements immediately after the prosecution so that jurors can examine the government’s evidence under the defense’s theory of the case.
After the opening statement(s), each side has the opportunity to present its case.
The prosecution must present its case first. During this time the government presents evidence and elicits testimony from its witnesses. The defense is entitled to cross-examine each witness that the government calls. The prosecution must establish each charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
When the prosecution rests, the defense presents evidence to the jury. If the prosecution’s case is weak, the defense may argue to have the case dismissed at this point. If the motion is denied the defense will go forwards with its case.
After the prosecution and criminal defense lawyer have rested their case, each side will have the opportunity to make a closing argument. The defense lawyer delivers the first argument and the prosecution follows him or her.
The defendant may testify as a witness in his or her defense. However, doing so opens the door for the prosecution to attempt to discredit the witness and in many cases allows the prosecution to bring up harmful information from the defendant’s past.
While the prosecution must establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense has no obligation to present a case. When advantageous the defense may rely solely upon raising a reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case.
After the closing arguments, the judge will read specific instructions to the jury outlining the legal standards necessary to decide if the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. The jury then leaves the courtroom to deliberate the case.
If all jurors cannot reach a unanimous decision, the jury is “hung,” and the case may be dismissed or it may be tried in front of a new jury.
Anyone currently serving an incarceration, work-release or house arrest portion of a DUI sentence. (other than first offense convictions)
Anyone convicted and sentenced of any of the following DUIs within the past year:
2nd Offense, High-Tier, >.16 BAC DUI
3rd Offense, Low-Tier, <.1 BAC DUI
3rd Offense, Mid-Tier, .1-.159 BAC DUI