New Bucks County DUI ARD procedure…

March 29, 2010

If you are offered ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or commonly known as the "First Offender's Program") for your Bucks County DUI offense, your deal may have just gotten sweeter. The new Bucks County District Attorney has made some changes to Bucks County criminal procedure. The change to the ARD-DUI procedure was much needed.

First, Bucks County ARD DUI cases are now being consolidated and are scheduled for court only two days per week now (usually Wednesday and Thursday) as opposed to five days per week. In addition, the DUI-ARD cases are now separated from the other Bucks County criminal cases, including DUI guilty pleas, DUI motion hearings, and DUI trials. DUI Court still meets at 9:00 a.m. For the first half hour or so the DUI defendants and their attorneys go over and sign the ARD Agreement. A judge will then take the bench and go through the ARD colloquy and soon enough the ARD procedure is over.

In my experience the first few weeks of this new Bucks County ARD procedure was not any more efficient than the "old" way. Now, the court and the Bucks County District Attorney's Office have got the procedure down. If we just had more judges, the remainder of the Bucks County DUI cases would also run efficiently. Hopefully the new DA will make some more changes!

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Can you really get a DUI without driving?

March 24, 2010

As we already know, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious traffic offense in New Jersey. In the state of Minnesota a DUI conviction was issued against a man who was not driving. Although he appealed the lower court's ruling, the Supreme Court of Minnesota upheld the DUI conviction.

Daryl Fleck of Minnesota was found by a neighbor to be asleep in his car with the driver's side door open. Mr. Fleck's car sat legally parked in the parking lot of his apartment building. The police who responded to the neighbor's call found that Fleck's car was not running and that the engine was cold. Furthermore, the keys were absent from the ignition and instead were found inside the center console.

Fleck, however, was proven to be intoxicated as his blood-alcohol level was .18 (Minnesota's legal blood-alcohol limit is .08). He also had a history of prior DUI convictions. Yet, there was no proof that he had driven on this given evening in 2007. It appeared only that he was "sleeping off" a night of drinking that had taken place in his home. Still, for this offense he received a felony conviction for DUI which landed him in jail for 48 months and required him to serve five years of probation.

Mr. Fleck appealed the court's decision all the way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The conviction was upheld by the high court, based upon a ruling from 1992 which applied the concept of "physical control", meaning that a person's ability to drive may be greatly affected but they still have control of the vehicle. The Court found Fleck to be in control of the vehicle because he was in a position to start up the engine and drive the car since the vehicle and keys were available to him. Intent to drive (or not drive) did not come into play, even though police were unable to get Fleck's car to start.

Pennsylvania DUI law also incorporates "physical control" language into its DUI statutes: "An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle." (PA code section 3802)

To some, a DUI conviction based upon the assumption that because car keys are available to a drunk person they are going to use them is absurd. In cases such as these, where a person takes shelter in his car and refrains from driving, does it seem the person was acting more responsibly than irresponsibly? With news of convictions such as Mr. Fleck's, people may just opt to drive if they know there is a chance they will be charged with DUI anyway for "waiting it out" in their car. How does that keep us any safer?

If you are facing a Bucks County, PA DUI charge of any sort, contact a lawyer with a vast amount of experience in Pennsylvania DUI matters. Call Michael L. Saile, Jr. for a free, in-office consultation.

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