DUI During COVID – How Laws have Changed in 2020
The uncertainty and challenges of the pandemic have resulted in an increase in mental health problems in the U.S. More people are using antidepressant and antianxiety medications, while others are turning to alcohol to alleviate stress, relax or escape from life.
"New data shows that during the COVID-19 crisis, American adults have sharply increased their consumption of alcohol, drinking on more days per month, and to greater excess. Heavy drinking among women especially has soared," stated an ABC News report on a study by the RAND corporation and National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) released in September 2020.
The increase in alcohol and medication use isn’t just happening at home. Despite lower traffic levels and bar and restaurant restrictions during the pandemic, DUI arrests have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels during the summer of 2020.
If you are charged with an alcohol-related driving offense, the expertise and insight of an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. Attorney George Lepley, Jr. and his staff have fought for the rights of individuals charged with DUIs in thousands of cases. Contact Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk today to discuss your case.
Choose to Handle Stressors Wisely
While drinking alcohol is not wrong, drinking too much alcohol and driving under the influence can have serious consequences. In addition to health problems, poor decision-making, and social and familial harm that overindulging can cause, climbing behind the wheel may lead to accidents, arrest, criminal charges, jail time, fines, or even death. Nearly 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania are related to alcohol. If you make a mistake and get a DUI, learn what an attorney can do for you.
The best way to prevent a DUI is to intentionally choose not to drink and drive. Making new, healthy habits to manage stress in your life will help as well. Some healthy choices to cope with stress include increasing physical activity (outdoors, if possible), listening to music at least 20 minutes a day, keeping a gratitude journal, helping other people, tending to your soul, getting enough sleep and reaching out for help if you are self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Be Safe PA – Don't Drive Impaired
Changes to PA Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Laws
In September 2003, the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Law - Act 24 - was passed. The law lowered Pennsylvania's legal blood alcohol content level from .10 to 08 and created a tiered approach toward DUI treatment and penalties. This law focuses on treatment for first-time offenders, not just punishments and suspensions. This chart from the DMV summarizes penalties for the three levels of DUIs: General Impairment (0.08 to 0.099% BAC), High BAC (0.10 to 0.159% BAC) and Highest BAC (0.16% and higher). BAC thresholds are lower for minors, commercial drivers and school or bus drivers, subjecting them to higher BAC penalties. Offenders in accidents that cause injury to people or property may be subject to higher BAC penalties as well. Those who refuse testing may be subject to the highest penalties.
PA lawmakers significantly toughened Pennsylvania DUI laws with Senate Bill 961, in December 2018, by increasing penalties for repeat offenders, motorists who cause the death of another person while DUI, and those driving while under suspension for a prior DUI. With this change, DUI offenders will receive felony charges if on their third conviction their BAC is 0.16 or higher or if they are under the influence of a controlled substance. A fourth offense DUI will also be considered a felony, regardless of BAC or substance.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in May 2020 that participation in Pennsylvania's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for a DUI does not constitute a prior offense under the DUI statute. This is a significant decision that essentially allows a person who was previously charged with a DUI and chose to complete the ARD program to be treated as a first-time offender, substantially lessening the potential criminal liability they may face.
There are benefits of accepting ARD. ARD is a rehabilitative program that all Pennsylvania counties offer for individuals with limited or no criminal record and a minor, non-violent offense. Participating in ARD prevents a person from being convicted of a crime and allows faster restoration of driving privileges. After fulfilling requirements and completing the ARD program, normally people are able to have all DUI charges dismissed and records expunged within 30 days after completion. Completing ARD does not automatically expunge charges. Experienced DUI attorneys generally take care of expungement for their clients.
Driving Under the Influence Cases are Not Open and Shut
Remember, a drunk driving arrest is not a conviction. Like any crime, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. If you have received a DUI, contact a DUI defense attorney who has the experience and expertise to make a positive impact on your case. George Lepley, Jr. of Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC, has handled thousands of DUI and criminal offense cases and won acquittals at jury trials. We will fight for your rights.
If you receive a DUI, contact us immediately. We want to discuss the events leading to your DUI while they are fresh in your mind, so we can help you identify options and mount a strong defense.