Driving under the influence, or DUI, is one of the most common crimes charged across the state of Pennsylvania. It is a very serious charge that can come with serious penalties including large fines, the suspension of your driving privileges, and jail time. Those arrested on suspicion of drunk driving may wonder how long Philadelphia police and the prosecutor’s office have to choose whether or not to file charges against them. The answer to this question depends on whether you are being held in jail or not. Below, our experienced Philadelphia DUI lawyers at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain how a DUI arrest typically works, how long the prosecutors have to file charges after your arrest, and what we can do to help get the charges downgraded or dismissed if the case proceeds.
What is a Philadelphia DUI Charge?
Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated on alcohol or illegal drugs. For alcohol, anyone whose blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured at above 0.08% can be charged with DUI. If your BAC was never measured, however, whether due to technical problems, your refusal, or something else, you can still be charge with and convicted of DUI based on the observations of the officer and any other witnesses, as well as other evidence like video of your driving. As pertains to drugged driving charges in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania, any amount of metabolite of the drug being found in your system is enough to charge you with DUI. Be aware that the penalties for first-time drug possession in Pennsylvania or other first-time drug offense leading to your DUI may be less severe than if you were a repeat offender.
A DUI stop will typically be initiated when a police officer sees someone driving erratically or violating a traffic law. They will note whether you are slurring your words or if your breath smells like alcohol or marijuana, and will ask you where you have been and what you have had to drink. You do not have to answer their questions, but it is best to be polite. You also are not required to take any roadside sobriety tests they may request, like standing on one leg. However, you are required to take a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test back at the station, and if you do not consent, you can be charged with the separate crime of DUI test refusal. The penalties you can face for a DUI charge will depend on how high you BAC was when it was measured after your arrest and whether you have been previously convicted of DUI. Depending on these factors, you could face lengthy jail sentences, high fines, and long driver’s license suspensions.
How Long Does the Prosecutor Have to File a DUI Charge in Pennsylvania?
If you are arrested and held in jail, the prosecutor will have 48 hours to review the police report and the results of any tests and decide whether or not there is probable cause to charge you with DUI. In some cases, prosecutors may request an extension of this deadline, and if they have a legitimate reason this is usually granted. If they fail to release you within 48 hours or ask for an extension, our skilled Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers can file a motion to have any charges subsequently filed against you dismissed as a violation of your constitutional right to a speedy trial.
If the police release you within 48 hours, however, the only law governing how long the prosecutor has to press charges stemming from the matter is the statute of limitations for DUI cases. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitation to bring DUI charges is 2 years after the initial incident. After 2 years have passed, the prosecutor will be barred from bringing DUI charges stemming from the incident against you.
How Can a Philadelphia Defense Lawyer Help Me If I Am Charged with DUI?
If the prosecutor chooses to file charges and files them in a timely manner, the next step will be your initial appearance and bail hearing. At the bail hearing, the judge will make a decision about whether you can be released on your own recognizance, released with bail that they set, or if you must remain in jail until your case is resolved. At the initial appearance, which occurs at or around the same time as the bail hearing, the charges against you will be read and the judge will explain your rights during the criminal process, including your right to counsel. In misdemeanor cases, you will also be asked to enter an initial plea, while in felony cases, this will take place later in the process.
You will want an experienced Philadelphia bail hearing lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long to represent you at this proceeding, where we can argue for you to be released on no or minimal bail based on such factors as your criminal record, the nature and severity of the charges against you, and your ties and contributions to the local community. At your arraignment, we will likely advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we collect all the evidence and assess the strength of the prosecution’s case against you.
From there, we can work to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. If you are facing penalties for a first-time DUI in Pennsylvania, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow you into the Pennsylvania ARD program. If you complete this pre-trial diversion program successfully, the charges will be dropped. Other possible deals include a potential downgrading of the charges to something less serious, such as reckless driving, or the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence to the judge. If you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers ready and able to fight your case at trial.
If You Have Been Arrested for DUI, Call Our Experienced Philadelphia Defense Lawyers Today
Driving under the influence charges can be filed anytime within 2 years of the arrest, so long as you are not held in jail during this time. Anytime you have been arrested for DUI, the first call you or a loved one should make is to a battle tested Philadelphia DUI defense attorney and DUI defense lawyers for UPenn students and college students like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. We can work to protect your constitutional rights and file a motion to dismiss the case if they are not respected. If the case proceeds, we will fight to negotiate the best possible deal to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. Our attorneys are also experienced in other vehicle-related crimes, including driving without a license in Philadelphia. For a free consultation, call us today at (215) 302-0171.