Not all DUIs are created equally. A 35 year old State College woman’s recent misfortune provides a tutorial on just about every conceivable aggravating factor, which can be associated with a DUI, short of homicide while DUI or aggravated assault while DUI. The defendant was supposed to be in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas for sentencing on May 10, 2013. Not only did she fail to appear for sentencing, but she managed to get arrested by the Pennsylvania State Police in Perry County for a second DUI later that day. Obviously, had she begun serving her weekend in jail like she was supposed to, she would not have received a second DUI.
To make matters worse, the defendant was involved in a hit and run accident at the Newport McDonald’s shortly before DUI number two. Naturally, judges and prosecutors look with disdain upon DUI drivers who flee the scene of an accident. To make matters worse, such conduct also triggers an additional charge of accidents involving attended vehicles or property, graded as a third degree misdemeanor, and often resulting a $2,500 fine.
And yet, getting a second DUI within hours of skipping sentencing for the first DUI is not the worst of the aggravating factors. When police activated their flashing lights, the defendant failed to pull over, and led the police on a high speed chase. Failing to pull over for a traffic stop constitutes the crime of “fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.” A lot of times, this offense is graded a second degree misdemeanor, however, when the driver is also charged with DUI, then the charge is upgraded to a third degree felony.
Believe it or not, the aggravating factors keep on coming. The defendant had two passengers in the car, a 23 year old man and a one year old baby. This led to two additional charges of recklessly endangering another person, as the two passengers were allegedly placed in danger by a drunk driver, driving at a high rate of speed. The defendant is also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a first degree misdemeanor, for driving both drunk and recklessly with a baby in the car.
Obviously, this case could have turned out even worse for both the defendant and her passengers. If she caused a DUI accidents resulting in death, she would have faced consecutive mandatory minimum sentences of three to six years for each person she killed. Given the other aggravating factors in this case, a judge could be inclined to sentence her above the mandatory minimum.
I think it’s safe to assume that the defendant simply panicked when the police tried to pull her over, because she knew she already had a bench warrant for failing to appear at sentencing. Being drunk would have further impaired her judgment. I am sure that this defendant would greatly benefit from inpatient drug and alcohol treatment. Sadly, people often do not get treatment until after their substance abuse leads to criminal charges.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA with extensive experience in DUI defense. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/DUI-Defense.shtml