Knowledgeable Somerset DUI Lawyer Provides Skilled Defense and Sage Advice
What to do if you’re charged with DUI in Pennsylvania
In 2022 alone, Pennsylvania police made 42,409 arrests for driving under the influence (DUI), roughly one arrest for every 300 Pennsylvanians. If you have been charged with DUI, you’re probably feeling scared, frustrated and angry. If convicted, you face stiff penalties, which might include probation or jail time, a fine and suspension of your driver’s license. Working with an experienced DUI attorney can help make the legal process less intimidating. Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law has been representing clients charged with DUI in Somerset and neighboring counties since 1997. I know how the system works and can personally guide you step-by-step through the options available to you based on your circumstances.
How is DUI assessed?
Once you’re stopped, the police should go through a three-step process before arresting you for DUI. First, they will evaluate you and your behavior for signs of intoxication. Secondly, they will give you a field sobriety test, which is a series of physical exercises to test your coordination. Finally, they will ask you to blow into a breathalyzer, which gives a preliminary reading of your blood alcohol content (BAC). If they arrest you for DUI, they will ask you to give a blood test. I can explain the adverse consequences of refusing in more detail and challenge the results in court, if necessary.
DUI penalties and consequences
Pennsylvania’s tiered approach toward DUI enforcement and treatment takes into consideration your BAC level at the time it’s measured:
- General impairment (.08 to .099 percent BAC)
- High BAC (.10 to .159 percent)
- Highest BAC (.16 percent and higher)
Each category is then broken into three sub-categories based on whether you have zero, one or at least two prior DUI offenses. Penalties range from up to six months of probation and a $300 fine for general impairment with no prior DUI offenses to 1-5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines for highest BAC with two or more prior DUI offenses. Minors, commercial drivers, school vehicle or bus drivers and those involved in accidents that injure someone or cause property damage may be subject to penalties related to the high BAC category even if their BACs are under the threshold. Individuals who decline breath or chemical testing may be subject to the highest BAC penalties available as well.
Your driver’s license will be suspended for 12 or 18 months if you have a high BAC or prior offenses, and it will cost you anywhere from $500-$2,000 to reinstate it. You may also be required to install an interlock ignition system in your car, which prevents you from driving if it detects alcohol on your breath. I can explain these penalties and consequences in more detail, getting to work immediately on building a strong case on your behalf.
Somerset DUI lawyer can explain accelerated rehabilitative disposition
For some clients charged with DUI, Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is an option. ARD isn’t a conviction, doesn’t require you to serve what would have been a mandatory jail sentence and allows your related criminal record to be expunged. To be eligible for ARD you must:
- Be a first-time offender
- Not have been involved in an accident where someone other than yourself was seriously injured
- Not have left the scene of an accident
- Not have had a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle that you were operating
- Have a valid license at the time of offense
You also may have to pay fines and complete educational and treatment programs. Somerset DUI attorney Matthew R. Zatko will know whether you’re eligible for ARD and how best to proceed with the case.
Why hire a DUI lawyer?
If you are charged with DUI, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney to represent you. If circumstances permit, I may be able to challenge the legality of your arrest and the evidence against you if there’s proof that the field sobriety test was administered incorrectly or the stop that led to your arrest was unlawful. Even if I can’t get the evidence suppressed, I will strive to create a reasonable doubt of your guilt at trial. Even if the police and prosecution seemingly have you dead to rights and you don’t qualify for ARD, I will try to negotiate a plea deal that will avoid the worst consequences of your arrest.
Contact me today for aggressive DUI representation
DUI charges are serious, but they don’t have to define you. If you’ve been charged with DUI in or near Somerset County, call Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law at 814-443-1631 or contact me online for a free consultation. I serve clients throughout Somerset, Bedford, Cambria and Indiana counties.