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On October 20th, 2014, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a law changing the way courts handle prior drunk driving (DUI) convictions at sentencing.

In Pennsylvania, you face harsher punishments if you have prior DUI convictions.  Before the change, prior DUI convictions only led to an increased punishment if the defendant was convicted of the prior DUI before committing the new offense.  With the change in the law, any DUI conviction that exists at the time of sentencing will lead to an increased punishment.  By changing the law, the General Assembly invalidated the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in Commonwealth v. Haag.  Governor Tom Corbett approved the law, which took effect immediately, on October 27th, 2014.

For more information, go to:

Senate Bill 1239 of 2014: “An Act amending Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in licensing of drivers, further providing for occupational limited license; in driving after imbibing alcohol or utilizing drugs, further providing for grading and for prior offenses; and, in enforcement, further providing for reports by courts.”

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Yesterday, thousands were at Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh leg of Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes Nation” Tour.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, during a law enforcement sweep of the Heinz Field parking lots, 43 individuals were cited for underage drinking and related offenses.  WPXI noted that, in addition to the underage drinking citations, five people were arrested.

For more information, go to :

Dozens cited for underage drinking at Chesney concert (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Massive clean-up begins following Kenny Chesney concert (WPXI)

Kenny Chesney Fans Pack North Shore For Concert (KDKA)

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The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the limit for blood alcohol levels for drivers be lowered to 0.05.  The NTSB has also recommended that measures be taken to encourage broader use of interlock devices. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the American Automobile Association have not yet endorsed the NTSB’s recommendations.

In its report, the NTSB renewed its recommendation that all DUI/DWI offenders be required to install an interlock device on their vehicles.  The NTSB also reiterated its support of pre-conviction license confiscation and recommended that those charged, yet not convicted of DUI, be required to have an interlock device installed before having their licenses returned (administrative license suspension/administrative license revocation).

*Note: Pennsylvania most recently lowered the legal limit for blood alcohol to 0.08 in 2003.  In Pennsylvania, you can be convicted of driving under the influence with any amount of alcohol in your system if your level of impairment renders you incapable of safe driving.

For more information, go to:

“Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving”-National Transportation Safety Board

“Safety Board Recommends Defining Legally Drunk With Lower Blood Alcohol Level”-Time Magazine 05/15/2013

“Could Lower DUI Standards Be Decades Away in PA, NJ?”-Philly.com

Changing drunken driving threshold from .08 blood alcohol level to .05 recommended-RGJ.com

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Bickerton and Bickerton attorney Lea T. Bickerton has been named a Rising Star in the 2010 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine.  According to SuperLawyers.com, “no more than 2.5 percent [of Pennsylvania attorneys] are named to the Rising Stars list.”

For more information, go to:

http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html

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Commonwealth v. Patrick A. Haag, Sr  J-41-2009 (10/23/2009)

Topic: DUI – Prior Offenses

Summary: For a DUI offense to be a second or subsequent conviction for sentencing purposes, the offender must be convicted of the prior offense before committing the second or subsequent offense.

http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-41-2009mo.pdf

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From Friday, August 21, 2009 through Monday, September 7, 2009 local police will be joining a national effort to crackdown on drunk driving. Over the period, law enforcement agencies will be conducting DUI checkpoints and roving patrols. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that public service announcements will target female drivers. Studies have shown that incident rates for female drivers committing DUIs have increased in recent years.

For more information, go to:

http://kdka.com/local/DUI.crackdown.Labor.2.1136982.html
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09232/992110-147.stm

For information on local taxi companies, go to:

http://www.yellowpages.com/Pittsburgh-PA/Taxis

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Commonwealth v. Michelle Necole Griffith 2009 PA Super 120 (7/02/2009)

Topic: DUI 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3802(d) – Prescription Drugs – Sufficiency of the Evidence

Summary: For a defendant to be convicted of driving under the influence of a prescription drug, the prosecutor must present expert testimony on the intoxicating effect of the drug.

http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/s14030_09.pdf

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Commonwealth v. Gregory Philip Kendall 2009 PA Super 100 (5/29/2009)

Topic: Reasonable Suspicion – Automobile Stop – Officer’s Duty to Aid

Summary: Where an officer approaches a vehicle to render aid, the incident is a mere encounter and reasonable suspicion is not necessary.

Illustration: While driving on a desolate road in the middle of the night, Defendant pulled over. Although the officer was following Defendant for a few minutes, no motor vehicle violations were observed. The police officer asserted that he pulled over to see if everything was ok. The police do not need reasonable suspicion when they are acting on their duty to render aid. Therefore, the Superior Court found that this was not an investigative detention/stop and reasonable suspicion was not needed.

http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/S01024_09.pdf

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Commonwealth v. Daniel J. Schmohl 2009 PA Super 97 (5/26/2009)

Topic: DUI – Merger of Offenses

Summary: Driving Under the Influence (DUI) with a high rate of alcohol is a lesser included offense of Aggravated Assault while Driving Under the Influence. Therefore, the offenses merge for sentencing purposes.

http://www.pacourts.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/A06009_09.pdf

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