Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer George Heym 

FORMER ALLEGHENY COUNTY DUI PROSECUTOR!

Pittsburgh DUI Attorney George Heym
The DUI Stop
The Law Offices of George Heym 564 Forbes Ave, Suite 810 Pittsburgh, PA 15219 412-521-2628

Q.

Did the Police Officer have the right to stop me and if not what will happen

to my DUI case?

A. First, and most importantly, if the officer alleges that he observed you commit a violation of the PA Motor Vehicle Code (MVC) he has an absolute right to pull you over. By violation of the MVC I mean a specific offense for which you can be cited. For example, failing to stop at a stop sign or driving the wrong way on a one way street. A DUI stop is more uncertain when the officer alleges that he observed you engaging in driving behavior which made him suspect that you were under the influence but you did not commit a violation of a specific MVC statute. Examples of this type of driving would be weaving within your lane, driving too slowly or crossing the fog line. In such a situation the officer must have a legal basis or “reasonable suspicion”  that you are committing a criminal offense – in this case a DUI. There is no specific type of driving which an officer must see before he can stop you for DUI. Rather, PA Courts have ruled whether the specific facts in certain cases are enough for an officer to stop a motorist for DUI. The legality of the DUI stop will be judged on the totality of all of the driving behaviors that the police officer observed. For example, how many times you may have crossed the center and/or fog lines over a certain distance. Only after an exhaustive review of all of the facts in a particular case can an experienced DUI Attorney make a determination as to whether a particular DUI stop may have been invalid. If a Judge rules that a stop was invalid all of the evidence that the officer gathered as a result of the stop will be suppressed and it cannot be used to prosecute you. This would include signs of intoxication observed by the officer, field sobriety test results and even blood or breath test results. When a DUI stop is suppressed it will almost always result in the DUI charges being dismissed or withdrawn.

Q.

The Officer did not read me my rights – will the charges be thrown out?

A. Miranda Warnings only need to be given to you if you are in custody and are being interrogated. Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that asking a motorist questions during a DUI stop (for example, “have you been drinking tonight?”) is investigatory in nature and does not require Miranda warnings. Further, performing field sobriety tests and submitting to a blood test are actions  as opposed to statements and also do not require Miranda warnings. Finally, once you were in custody, if you made a confession without being read your rights it does not generally result in the whole case being dismissed. Instead, only those statements made without Miranda warnings would be suppressed and could not be used against you.

Q.

Why did the officer give me a breath test on the side of the road and then

require me to submit to another breath or blood test?

A. The device that officers use to test your BAC on the roadside is known as a Portable Breath Tester (PBT). Pennsylvania Law states that PBT’s are not accurate enough for the results to be used in Court. However, officers are allowed to use them as an investigatory tool to get an idea of what your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is at the time. Therefore, the officer must take you for additional testing either on a more accurate Breath Testing Device or by having your blood drawn and tested.

Q.

What are Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) and how are they graded?

A. FST’s are tests that Police Officers have you perform, or administer to you, to look for clues of intoxication. The results of these tests can form the legal basis (probable cause) for an officer to take you into custody for DUI. Most FST’s are made up of two parts: 1) the instruction phase; and 2) the performance phase. During the instruction phase the officer will watch to see if you are paying attention and/or showing common signs of intoxication. For example, swaying on your feet, inability to focus on the instructions and/or interrupting the instructions. Below is an example of a standardized FST scoring sheet that officers use when administering FST’s. I will examine a few of the most common FST’s and how police officers grade them. First, the Walk and Turn Test. This test requires you to walk heel to toe for nine steps on a straight line, pivot in place and walk back the same way. Police officers look for many signs while administering this test. The following are the most common: Whether you begin the test before being instructed to do so; losing your balance during the instructions or while pivoting; stopping while walking to regain balance or not walking heel to toe; and using your arms to balance or taking the wrong number of steps. Next, is the Finger to Nose Test. This FST requires you to stand upright tilt your head back and extend your arms. With your eyes closed you are to touch the tip of your nose with your index finger. The following are some of the signs that officers look for: Whether you touch the tip of your nose; whether you keep your eyes closed; whether you keep your head tilted back; and whether you sway or lose your balance. Finally, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN). During this test the officer will have you keep your head still and follow an object like a pen with only your eyes. This test measures rapid uncontrollable eye movements. Officers look for the following as signs of intoxication: Your eyes bouncing as they move from side to side instead of tracking smoothly; jerking of your eye when it is moved as far to the side as possible (maximum deviation on above FST chart); and your eye jerking before it has reached 45 degrees to the side. Contact lenses or glasses may not be worn during this test as they will affect the results.  The admissibility of this test in PA Courts is complicated. At a minimum, the Commonwealth must establish a scientific basis for its reliability.  This would mean testimony from a scientific expert as to its scientific basis and reliability. Most legal professionals believe that HGN results are not admissible in Pennsylvania Courts under any circumstances. For this reason, even though it is used by many Police Departments in Pennsylvania, the results are not used in Court.

Q.

I refused to submit to the breath or blood test – what are the consequences

of this?

A. There are two major consequences to refusing a blood or breath test. First, Pennsylvania law provides a civil penalty of a one year driver’s license suspension for this refusal.  This is separate from, and in addition to, any suspension that you may receive for conviction of the DUI charge. Second, in Pennsylvania, Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is used to calculate mandatory sentences for a DUI conviction. BAC levels are broken down into three tiers; Tier I is .08% to .099%; Tier II is .10% to .159%; and Tier III is .16% or higher.  When you refuse a blood or breath test your mandatory sentence will be calculated using Tier III. This will result in a longer mandatory sentence and driver’s license suspension.

Q.

Why did the Police Officer release me instead of taking me to jail?

A. Pennsylvania Law allows the Police to release you rather than transporting you to jail when you are to be charged with DUI. The decision whether to release you or take you to jail is left at the discretion of each police department. Many police departments will release those stopped for DUI as this allows the officer to continue to work rather than having to transport you to the county jail.
Pennsylvania Field Sobriety Test Scoring Sheet Pittsburgh DUI Stop Portable Breath Tester (PBT) Walk and Turn Test Finger to Nose Test Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) Pittsburgh DUI Attorney George Heym will fight to keep you out of jail T.O.C. next page prev page
Call or Text me on my Cell Phone 24/7 at 412-216-4984
Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer George Heym accepts all credit cards
Free DUI Consultation
The DUI Stop
The Law Offices of George Heym 564 Forbes Ave, Suite 810 Pittsburgh, PA 15219 412-521-2628

Q.

Did the Police Officer have the

right to stop me and if not what will

happen to my DUI case?

A. First, and most importantly, if the officer alleges that he observed you commit a violation of the PA Motor Vehicle Code (MVC) he has an absolute right to pull you over. By violation of the MVC I mean a specific offense for which you can be cited. For example, failing to stop at a stop sign or driving the wrong way on a one way street. A DUI stop is more uncertain when the officer alleges that he observed you engaging in driving behavior which made him suspect that you were under the influence but you did not commit a violation of a specific MVC statute. Examples of this type of driving would be weaving within your lane, driving too slowly or crossing the fog line. In such a situation the officer must have a legal basis or “reasonable suspicion”  that you are committing a criminal offense – in this case a DUI. There is no specific type of driving which an officer must see before he can stop you for DUI. Rather, PA Courts have ruled whether the specific facts in certain cases are enough for an officer to stop a motorist for DUI. The legality of the DUI stop will be judged on the totality of all of the driving behaviors that the police officer observed. For example, how many times you may have crossed the center and/or fog lines over a certain distance. Only after an exhaustive review of all of the facts in a particular case can an experienced DUI Attorney make a determination as to whether a particular DUI stop may have been invalid. If a Judge rules that a stop was invalid all of the evidence that the officer gathered as a result of the stop will be suppressed and it cannot be used to prosecute you. This would include signs of intoxication observed by the officer, field sobriety test results and even blood or breath test results. When a DUI stop is suppressed it will almost always result in the DUI charges being dismissed or withdrawn.

Q.

The Officer did not read me my

rights – will the charges be thrown

out?

A. Miranda Warnings only need to be given to you if you are in custody and are being interrogated. Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that asking a motorist questions during a DUI stop (for example, “have you been drinking tonight?”) is investigatory in nature and does not require Miranda warnings. Further, performing field sobriety tests and submitting to a blood test are actions  as opposed to statements and also do not require Miranda warnings. Finally, once you were in custody, if you made a confession without being read your rights it does not generally result in the whole case being dismissed. Instead, only those statements made without Miranda warnings would be suppressed and could not be used against you.

Q.

Why did the officer give me a

breath test on the side of the road

and then require me to submit to

another breath or blood test?

A. The device that officers use to test your BAC on the roadside is known as a Portable Breath Tester (PBT). Pennsylvania Law states that PBT’s are not accurate enough for the results to be used in Court. However, officers are allowed to use them as an investigatory tool to get an idea of what your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is at the time. Therefore, the officer must take you for additional testing either on a more accurate Breath Testing Device or by having your blood drawn and tested.

Q.

What are Field Sobriety Tests

(FST’s) and how are they graded?

A. FST’s are tests that Police Officers have you perform, or administer to you, to look for clues of intoxication. The results of these tests can form the legal basis (probable cause) for an officer to take you into custody for DUI. Most FST’s are made up of two parts: 1) the instruction phase; and 2) the performance phase. During the instruction phase the officer will watch to see if you are paying attention and/or showing common signs of intoxication. For example, swaying on your feet, inability to focus on the instructions and/or interrupting the instructions. Below is an example of a standardized FST scoring sheet that officers use when administering FST’s. I will examine a few of the most common FST’s and how police officers grade them. First, the Walk and Turn Test. This test requires you to walk heel to toe for nine steps on a straight line, pivot in place and walk back the same way. Police officers look for many signs while administering this test. The following are the most common: Whether you begin the test before being instructed to do so; losing your balance during the instructions or while pivoting; stopping while walking to regain balance or not walking heel to toe; and using your arms to balance or taking the wrong number of steps. Next, is the Finger to Nose Test. This FST requires you to stand upright tilt your head back and extend your arms. With your eyes closed you are to touch the tip of your nose with your index finger. The following are some of the signs that officers look for: Whether you touch the tip of your nose; whether you keep your eyes closed; whether you keep your head tilted back; and whether you sway or lose your balance. Finally, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN). During this test the officer will have you keep your head still and follow an object like a pen with only your eyes. This test measures rapid uncontrollable eye movements. Officers look for the following as signs of intoxication: Your eyes bouncing as they move from side to side instead of tracking smoothly; jerking of your eye when it is moved as far to the side as possible (maximum deviation on above FST chart); and your eye jerking before it has reached 45 degrees to the side. Contact lenses or glasses may not be worn during this test as they will affect the results.  The admissibility of this test in PA Courts is complicated. At a minimum, the Commonwealth must establish a scientific basis for its reliability.  This would mean testimony from a scientific expert as to its scientific basis and reliability. Most legal professionals believe that HGN results are not admissible in Pennsylvania Courts under any circumstances. For this reason, even though it is used by many Police Departments in Pennsylvania, the results are not used in Court.

Q.

I refused to submit to the breath

or blood test – what are the

consequences of this?

A. There are two major consequences to refusing a blood or breath test. First, Pennsylvania law provides a civil penalty of a one year driver’s license suspension for this refusal.  This is separate from, and in addition to, any suspension that you may receive for conviction of the DUI charge. Second, in Pennsylvania, Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is used to calculate mandatory sentences for a DUI conviction. BAC levels are broken down into three tiers; Tier I is .08% to .099%; Tier II is .10% to .159%; and Tier III is .16% or higher.  When you refuse a blood or breath test your mandatory sentence will be calculated using Tier III. This will result in a longer mandatory sentence and driver’s license suspension.

Q.

Why did the Police Officer release

me instead of taking me to jail?

A. Pennsylvania Law allows the Police to release you rather than transporting you to jail when you are to be charged with DUI. The decision whether to release you or take you to jail is left at the discretion of each police department. Many police departments will release those stopped for DUI as this allows the officer to continue to work rather than having to transport you to the county jail.
Pennsylvania Field Sobriety Test Scoring Sheet Pittsburgh DUI Stop Portable Breath Tester (PBT) Walk and Turn Test Finger to Nose Test Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) Pittsburgh DUI Attorney George Heym will fight to keep you out of jail T.O.C. next page prev page
For a Free DUI Consultation Call or Text me on my Cell Phone 24/7  412-216-4984
Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer George Heym accepts all credit cards
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Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer George Heym 

Former DUI Prosecutor!

Exclusively Defending DUI Cases!