In Pennsylvania, driving while under the influence of alcohol ( DUI / DWI ) is a criminal offense. When you are convicted of a DUI, you face stiff penalties and numerous negative effects on the quality of your life. When you get a DUI conviction, you face fines, jail time, driver’s license suspensions, and increased insurance costs. Aside from legal and financial costs, you also face the social stigmas associated with DUI and having a criminal conviction. If you have been charged with a DUI in Western Pennsylvania, you need to have an experienced lawyer to help defend against the charges.
When charged with driving under the influence, many tend to underestimate the serious nature of the charges. Some think that a DUI is a minor charge that is easy to fight. Although DUIs may have been handled with a slap on the wrist in the past, some DUIs are charged as felonies and many convictions now come with severe, mandatory penalties. It is even possible to be convicted of DUI when the only thing in your system is a prescription medication.
If you are charged with a DUI, you face possible jail time, fines, and driver license suspensions. This is why it is important to have an experienced DUI attorney. Attorneys with experience with drunk driving cases are familiar with the DUI laws, the tests and procedures police use, and the methods district attorneys use to prosecute drunk driving cases. This knowledge makes it possible for an experienced DUI attorney to get the best result possible for their clients.
During his years of practice, William R. Bickerton has successfully defended individuals charged with DUI. While with the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office, Attorney Bickerton served as the Office’s DUI Court Attorney. Attorney Bickerton also worked on a team that challenged the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s DUI statute.
Attorney Bickerton has had tremendous success in getting not guilty verdicts and negotiating plea deals that are fair to his clients.
If you have been charged with drunk driving, contact DUI Defense Attorney William R. Bickerton at (412) 596-8124 or complete the form below for a case evaluation.
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Frequently Asked Questions about DUI
DISCLAIMER: This section includes basic answers to questions frequently asked about driving under the influence. This information is for informational purposes and is not to be construed as legal advice. For information specific to your case, contact the DUI defense firm of Bickerton Law for a consultation.
What is DUI/DWI?
DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence while DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. Both offenses describe the crime of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a substance that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Is DUI only for driving under the influence of alcohol?
No. You can be charged with DUI for being under the influence of alcohol, drugs, narcotics, or any other substance that impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications.
What is the BAC limit for DUI?
In Pennsylvania, the law says that you are automatically DUI if your blood alcohol content (“BAC”) level is over 0.08%. However, you can be convicted of DUI if you consume any amount of alcohol that makes you unable to safely operate your vehicle.
How can a DUI attorney help?
Although many assume that there’s no point in hiring a lawyer for a DUI, an experienced attorney can help fight the charge or negotiate a better sentence.
To make a case for general impairment DUI, the burden is on the Commonwealth to prove: (1.) that you were under the influence of an intoxicating substance, (2.) that you were so intoxicated that you were incapable of safely operating a vehicle, (3.) and that you were actually in control of the motor vehicle while intoxicated.
To make a case for a tiered DUI, the Commonwealth will have to prove that you 1.) had the minimum amount of alcohol or a controlled substance in your system; and 2.) that the evidence they have of that substance being in your system was obtained properly and that the sample they obtained was valid.
An experienced attorney will review, analyze, and attack the evidence the Commonwealth will use when they try to prove that you were driving under the influence.
Does the car have to be moving for me to be charged with DUI?
No. You can still be charged with DUI if the police allege that you were in control of the motor vehicle while under the influence.
Does my vehicle have to be a car to be charged with DUI?
What do police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers on the highways?
- Making a wide turn
- Failing to maintain your lane (driving in the middle of the road, driving over the middle line, driving into opposing traffic)
- Failing to drive in a straight fashion (“weaving” or “swerving”)
- Almost hitting an object or person with your vehicle
- Driving off of the road
- Speed more than 10 mph below limit
- Stopping without a reason in a traffic lane
- Driving over the “fogline” (driving over the lines on the right side of your lane)
- Erratic braking
- Using the wrong signals or using no signals
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Turning illegally
- Quick accelerations or decelerations
- Driving without your headlights
If the police officer asks me if I have been drinking, how should I respond?
Whatever answer you give, you should never tell an officer how much you had been drinking without your lawyer present. So unless your attorney is with you in the car, you should politely evade the question by saying, “I think I should talk to my lawyer before answering questions like that.”
Do I have the constitutional right to speak to an attorney before I have to take a field sobriety test?
Should I refuse to submit to the field sobriety tests?
Since you are not legally required to submit to the field sobriety tests, you may want to politely refuse to take the field sobriety tests. Additionally, if you suffer from any type of medical condition that may interfere with your ability to successfully complete the tests, you will want to bring this to the officer’s attention.
What is the officer looking for during the initial detention at the scene?
Police officers routinely look for:
- Glassy, bloodshot eyes
- An unfixed gaze
- The odor of alcohol
- Slurred speech
- Disheveled clothing
- Poor coordination
- Slow movement
- Fumbling with items when retrieving license and registration
- Unsteady gait
- The inability to follow instructions
What happens if I didn’t submit to a breath, blood, or urine test?
You will be charged with what is called a DUI refusal and your driver’s license will be suspended.
Can you be charged with a DUI if you haven’t been tested?
Yes. You will be charged with a general impairment DUI and/or a DUI refusal.
Can I fight my loss of license?
Sometimes. It depends on the circumstances. In all likelihood, your best chance at success will be to get a limited license.
The officer never gave me a Miranda warning, can I get my case dismissed?
Bickerton Law is conveniently located in Ross Township near McCandless in the North Hills of Pittsburgh.