DUI charges are not limited to those who drive motor vehicles on public roads. In fact, a Pennsylvania Amish teen recently learned the hard that you can get a DUI operating ANY vehicle on a public roadway, including a horse-drawn buggy. Pennsylvania State Police recently filed charges of DUI and underage drinking against an 18 year old Amish man in Indiana County. The police pulled over the buggy when they saw two young men riding on the roof. All four buggy passengers were under 21 and were charged with underage drinking.
In Pennsylvania, DUI charges can be filed against sober young people, as a teen recently found out the hard way in Northampton County. Over Labor Day weekend this year, a 19 year old male was stopped at a DUI checkpoint. His SUV was packed with nine other students, whom he was ferrying back to DeSales University after the group had attended a party at nearby Lehigh University. The over-packed car was a Motor Vehicle Code violation in and of itself, made immeasurably worse by the fact that the designated driver had consumed a modest amount of alcohol. According to police, the designated driver's BAC was a mere .02. Although this suggests he had only one drink or had quit drinking hours ago, it is still enough to trigger a DUI in Pennsylvania if the driver is less than 21 years of age.
A Pennsylvania school bus driver has been charged with DUI, recklessly endangering another person, careless driving and reckless driving, after police allege she operated her school bus while under the influence of alcohol. Jennifer Watson of Columbia County is accused of being so disoriented on March 20, 2014, that she picked up students after school, and then eventually turned around and started driving her morning bus route to school. Students on the bus reported that Ms. Watson was both swearing and swerving. When met by police back at the school, Ms. Watson denied drinking, but admitted to eating rum soaked raisins to deal with headaches.
Pretty much anyone in the bar business across the United States can tell you that Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest bar night of the year. As a criminal defense attorney practicing in Centre, Mifflin, Juniata and Huntingdon Counties, I can tell you the same thing. The biggest bar night of the year also means a big night for DUI arrests. Every year, I seem to pick up at least one client who managed to ruin the holiday by getting a DUI on Thanksgiving Eve.
I have been a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania long enough to have noticed certain patterns in the Centre County criminal justice system. One such pattern is that a Penn State student is far more likely to be charged with DUI during his or her senior year than at any other time. The downside is that this is the worst possible time in a student's academic career to be charged with a crime, because it coincides with job searches and grad school applications.
Underpaid McDonald's workers seeking a living-wage have a stronger argument, at least in Halifax, Pennsylvania, where McDonald's employees recently made a "citizens arrest" of an intoxicated man who had driven to the fast food joint with his minor child in tow. In fact, given how many people drive drunk to McDonald's locations around the world, perhaps detaining DUI suspects should become a standard part of McDonald's training. The Mickey D's employees acted out of a concern for the safety of the child, and called police after detaining 32 year old Nicholas Apostolopoulos. And because a child was in the car, Apostolopoulos faces charges in addition to DUI.
People charged with a third DUI are a dime a dozen; they tend to simply be alcoholics who are extremely careless and who do not live within walking distance of where they drink. What is noteworthy, however, is a Pennsylvania woman who not only is on her third DUI, but also had a child in the car during her last two DUI arrests. When Joanna S. Smith was arrested in York County on May 27, 2013, she allegedly had a .22 BAC. To make matters far worse, she also had a six year old boy in the back seat.
Lost in the debate about lowering the legal limit for DUI to .05 is one simple fact. You can ALREADY be charged with DUI under Pennsylvania law, even if your BAC is below .08. The Pennsylvania DUI law does not only criminalize driving after imbibing enough alcohol to raise one's BAC above .08 within two hours of driving, it also makes it illegal to drive drunk period.
When it comes to DUI in Pennsylvania, not everyone is held to the same standard. The legal BAC threshold in Pennsylvania is .08, however, the legal limit for those under the age of 21 is a mere .02. This .02 legal limit for minors has been in effect in Pennsylvania since 1996, as part of a zero tolerance approach to underage drinking and driving. A legal limit of .02 is the lowest possible threshold realistically possible, while taking into account the margin of error of any chemical tests.
For a long time, the legal limit for DUI in most states was a BAC of .10. By 2004, every state had lowered its DUI threshold to .08. Now, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that all states lower their BAC thresholds to .05. Not surprisingly, bar and restaurant owners associations are in an uproar, while Mother's Against Drunk Driving is praising the recommendation.