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Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Legal Blog

Checkpoint arrests thrown out, not legal, Supreme Court rules

In an important moment for Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made a ruling that changed the way DUI checkpoints would be used in the state.

With sobriety checkpoints, there are usually DUI task forces that help stop drivers and take those who are intoxicated off the road. However, there's a catch. If that DUI task force isn't authorized, it can't be used.

Are breath tests enough to lead to an arrest?

Breath tests are often talked about as if they're infallible. There's a good reason for that, though: Most are accurate if they're given correctly and when calibrated to recognize alcohol well.

Most people who have to deal with a breath test have been pulled over or stopped because of unusual actions. For instance, you might have been speeding and weaving in traffic, or you might have braked suddenly. Making a driving error gives the officer a reason to pull you over, and from there, they can decide what to do next.

What are the penalties for general impairment in Pennsylvania?

If you have not kept up on changes in the law, you might not know that the legal limit in Pennsylvania is lower than it was in the past. Since 2003, Act 24 has required the state legal limit of alcohol to be .08% instead of .10%.

On top of this, there were three tiers of DUIs created by the act that are dependent on your blood alcohol content (BAC). These include general impairment, high BAC and highest BAC. General impairment runs from .08% to .099%, high BAC runs from .10 to .159% and highest BAC goes from .16% upward.

Alcohol changes you: Here's how

Driving while you're intoxicated is one of the riskiest things you can do on the road. Alcohol can cause many changes in your body, and while you may believe you're sober, the reality could be that you're not.

Some people feel completely fine even when they're well over the .08% limit. Others feel the effects strongly at a much lower amount. Regardless of which situation you're in, the truth is that it's dangerous to drive while you're intoxicated.

Drowsy driving can look like drunk driving

Sudden swerving, drifting out of a lane and delayed reactions are surefire signs of a drunk driver, right? That’s not always the case. Drowsy driving symptoms are remarkably similar to drunk driving. A lack of sleep has significant effects on your body’s ability to drive just like alcohol.

The National Sleep Foundation says that driving after being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05, more than half of the legal limit. Similarly, pulling an all-nighter and being awake for 24-straight hours has the same effect as a BAC of .10.

Breath test errors: Possible due to medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can cause breath tests to read incorrectly, which is bad news if you're being tested by the police. Even if you say you haven't been drinking, a reading showing intoxication can quickly land you with an arrest.

In one recent story, a man blew a breath test for the authorities and had it come back well above the limit, even though he hadn't been drinking and seemed otherwise fine. Interestingly, the case ended up being dropped, because the man was in ketosis at the time of the test. Being in great shape, the fact that he was in ketosis actually caused the breath test to give a false positive. Why? Ketosis causes the liver to break down fat for fuel, creating acetone. Some of that acetone is released as isopropyl alcohol in your breath.

Get the right help after you're arrested for a DUI

If you are someone who makes the mistake of drunk driving and getting caught, you should be aware that your freedoms are at risk. You could have your license suspended, have to use an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) or face other penalties.

The reason that driving under the influence is taken so seriously is because of how dangerous it is. Did you know that one person is killed approximately every half-hour as a result of drunk driving? On top of that, one person is hurt every 60 seconds due to an alcohol-related collision.

Don't let a DUI affect your life: Fight back

Drunk driving is easy to avoid, but there is a chance that you could make the mistake of getting behind the wheel while knowing that you shouldn't. Drinking lowers your inhibitions, and something you'd never do while sober might seem like a good idea when you're intoxicated.

As someone who has been arrested for driving under the influence, it is important that you take the time to look into your rights. You should reach out to your attorney before speaking to the police during the police interview. You should also exercise your right to silence when possible.

Holiday DUI stops can last for weeks

March has arrived, which means it’s only a matter of time before people start dying their food green and seeing if there are any Irish-themed festivities in their towns. St. Patrick’s Day may not last as long as Christmas or New Year’s, but some cities in Pennsylvania help make it a holiday plenty of people enjoy celebrating.

Unfortunately, some people celebrate a bit too much. According to WalletHub, March 17 has the third highest drinking rate of the year. With such a significant portion of the nation finding excuses to guzzle down as much alcohol as they can, cops are beginning to prepare their shifts and DUI stops to minimize damage over St. Paddy’s Day. However, recent reports suggest that you should take precautions not just in the few days leading to March 17, but potentially weeks leading up to and after the holiday.

Criminal defense: Medical marijuana and driving in Pennsylvania

Medical marijuana use has been legal in Pennsylvania for more than a year now. Police and criminal defense lawyers say that it's high time DUI laws in the state reflect the changes in authorized marijuana use. Some users are unaware of how severely the drug can impact their motor skills and need to be reminded not to operate a vehicle after having used pot. 

Pennsylvania residents who use medical marijuana are required to carry cards and these people, some say, should be treated similarly by law enforcement officials to those who take other drugs that are legally prescribed. As it stands, the law considers any level of THC in a person's bloodstream while operating a motor vehicle to be illegal. What needs to change, officials say, is setting a limit on what would constitute impairment.

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