DUI is an offense which is not restricted by socio-economic class, ethnicity, age or gender. It can “happen” to anyone who drinks and miscalculates how much he or she had to drink, or those who know they are drunk, but nevertheless decide to take the risk. Usual excuses include “my place is just a mile away” or “it’s too cold to walk,” or “there are no cabs because it’s a home football weekend” or “I need my car first thing in the morning to go to work” or “I’ve been drinking for 20 years and weigh 250 pounds, so I can handle more than most people” or “I am (insert ethnic group known for drinking, all Germanic, Slavic and Celtic peoples fit the bill), so my genes allow me to drink more than other people.” And of course, all of these people will drive slowly and carefully to compensate for their condition, because the people who get DUIs are not just drunk, but driving carelessly. Or at least that is what they tell themselves. This rationalization process is what leads otherwise responsible, law-abiding people to get behind the wheel after drinking. Thus, DUI is a crime, which is not the exclusive domain of hardened criminals and bad asses.
We need look no further than supermarket tabloid headlines for anecdotal evidence that DUI can happen to anyone. Of course, there is no surprise when certain celebrities are charged with DUI, but for every Lindsay Lohan and Scott Weiland, there is an Al Michaels and Sam Donaldson. Michaels was 68 at the time of his recent DUI arrest, while Sam Donaldson was 78. Not only are these two men far older than the typical criminal defendant, they are both highly respected in their fields. Michaels, of the “do you believe in miracles?!” fame, is one of the best play-by-play announcers in the history of televised sports, while Donaldson has been a mainstay at ABC News since 1967. Michaels and Donaldson are not anomalies, because DUI is not restricted to the criminal underclass. It can happen to anyone.
For every Sam Donaldson or Al Michaels charged with DUI, there are thousands of lesser known, prominent people, who are well respected in their own, local communities. Judges, attorneys, physicians, nurses, accountants, school principals, professors, teachers, and even police officers have been charged with DUI. In some cases, just being charged with DUI can be a career ender, while more often than not, such professionals can keep their jobs as long as they are not actually convicted of DUI.
If you have no prior record, there is a good chance that you will qualify for the ARD program, which stands for “accelerated rehabilitative disposition.” I often say that ARD is for people who commit a crime, but are not “real criminals.” Every county in Pennsylvania has a version of the ARD program for DUI, and the ARD conditions vary from county to county. The one thing that all ARD programs have in common is that if you successfully complete the program, your attorney can file a motion to have the charges dismissed and your record expunged. if you are arrested for DUI, you should contact an experienced, local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Matt McClenahen is a State College, PA attorney with extensive experience in DUI defense. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/DUI-Defense.shtml