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Why Was I Charged with Two Counts of DUI?

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A lot of people who have been accused of DUI in Pennsylvania wonder why they end up being charged with not one, but two DUI offenses at once. This is because Pennsylvania law allows a driver to be charged with what I will call two “separate” DUI sub-offenses, or “counts.”Each charge can also stand independently of the other, as I’ll explain; but in the unfortunate event that you are found guilty of both counts as charged, the punishment will merge for the purposes of sentencing. Continue reading to learn how.Per Se DUI or Undetermined BACSince most people do not refuse the chemical blood-alcohol test when police tell them the penalty for such a refusal is an automatic license suspension, the majority of DUI cases come with breathalyzer or chemical BAC test evidence.However, some drivers are willing to refuse chemical tests, and there are also times when police might not chemically test a driver. In these instances, the DA can still attempt to support a chargeable offense; albeit with an undetermined BAC. Field sobriety tests and officer observations can support a DUI charge (and probable cause arrest) under the general impairment section of the DUI laws.Thus, the DUI / DWI laws provide for two pathways to conviction:1. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating a vehicle after voluntarily consuming enough alcohol to render you incapable of safely operating it, OR2. The government can prove that you were operating (or in physical control of) a vehicle AND your blood-alcohol content (BAC) within 2 hours of operation was at or above .08 This is called the Per Se DUI law which means you are considered impaired just by “virtue” of the BAC test result alone.Pennsylvania’s Three-Tier SystemUnder Pennsylvania’s three-tier system for DUI offenses and penalties, the first tier is General Impairment, within which the sub-offenses (counts) of Incapable of Safely Operating and Per Se BAC from .08 to .099 fall.So if you had a BAC result under .10, you were likely charged with the two, first-tier counts consisting of Incapable of Safely Operating due to alcohol consumption and DUI Per Se for your specific BAC result (less than .10%)Technically, the government is charging two counts under one ‘general impairment’ offense, and the punishment for a conviction on either count (or both) will wind up being the same.It should be noted that this First Tier offense law is a system for sweetening the prosecutor’s pot toward getting convictions against drivers who are low-level BACs, and/or who go untested for blood-alcohol concentrations.But you don’t need to allow yourself to become a default victim because there are skilled, experienced DUI defense lawyers in the Commonwealth who know exactly how to defend a case like yours. (You can call us at either office location if you need a DUI consult.)
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