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Pittsburgh’s Mayor Believes PA Marijuana Legalization Is Inevitable

Full marijuana legalization in PA could soon be a reality. After the Commonwealth authorized the use of cannabis for medical purposes in 2016, more and more legislators are warming up to the idea for legalizing the sale and use of the plant for recreational purposes. Nationwide, trends are pointing towards total legalization. Nine states now allow the recreational use of cannabis, while 29 states permit its use as a medical treatment.

It is essential to understand that if you have been wrongly charged with a drug crime, you should contact a Pittsburgh drug attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC for help. To arrange a free, confidential consultation, call (412) 281-2146 today.

Pittsburgh’s Mayor Tweets in Support of Legalization

Mayor Bill Peduto made his position on recreational marijuana clear on Twitter. He believes that more state lawmakers around the nation will legalize and tax cannabis. Moreover, he stated that he wants Pennsylvania to take the lead in doing so

The Mayor retweeted Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, whose Twitter post claimed that marijuana legalization could bring in $350 million annually in state tax revenue. Mayor Peduto also argued that the criminal records for non-violent marijuana offenses unfairly limit employment and housing opportunities, especially in vulnerable communities.

Opponents of cannabis legalization argue that smoking the plant could encourage the use of other, more harmful psychoactive substances such as methamphetamine, heroin, or cocaine. But Mayor Peduto correctly pointed out that, “There has been no documented research to show that marijuana is a gateway drug.”

Will Pennsylvania Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also supports legalization, along with a growing group of left-leaning legislators such as Democratic Senator Daylin Leach, who has sponsored a bill that proposes to regulate adult marijuana use similar to alcohol. Senator Leach believes the Legislature could legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania as early as 2021.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

Pennsylvania will probably not legalize recreational marijuana in the immediate future. When and if legalization does occur, the state will also need to consider the rights of those people who already have criminal convictions for possession of cannabis.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to fighting for the rights of the accused. If you or a family member has been charged with a marijuana crime, contact us today at (412) 281-2146 for information about how we can defend your case during a free consultation.

New Opioid Legislation Approved by the House

This past June, the United States House of Representatives passed opioid legislation to combat a crisis that is tearing apart communities from coast to coast. The package of bills called the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act was approved in a 396-14 bipartisan vote.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers from across the political spectrum and their staffers’ lawmakers have stated that the crisis has become one of the most pressing issues they hear about from their constituents. In 2016, over 42,000 Americans overdosed on opiates with a daily average of 115 people dying from an opioid overdose in the United States.

If you or your loved one was charged with a drug crime, you have rights. Contact a Pittsburgh drug lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC for a free and confidential consultation today at (412) 281-2146.

New Opiate Legislation Set to Take Effect at Year’s End

Despite the urgency of the situation, the SUPPORT Act will not take effect immediately. The Senate and House versions of the bill need to be reconciled before heading to the President’s desk for a signature. The bill is set to take effect by the end of the year.

The final legislative package is expected to direct a wide range of government action to counter the opiate crisis. Specifically, the SUPPORT Act will put in place the following initiatives:

  • Authorize grants for states and municipalities to build laboratories for detecting fentanyl and other synthetic opiates.
  • Provide additional funding to increase the capacity to intercept fentanyl at mail facilities.
  • Allow Medicaid to pay for people’s treatment at mental health inpatient facilities for up to 30 days.
  • Restore Medicaid assistance for juveniles that have been incarcerated.
  • Give doctors guidelines for sharing information about their patients’ addiction history.
  • Reauthorize Poison Control Centers to provide free and confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Direct the Center for Disease Control to implement an initiative to improve education, surveillance, and treatment of injection drug-associated infections, such as hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Introduce measures to combat the overprescription of opiates to patients by their physicians.

Our Pittsburgh Drug Attorneys Are Here For You

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our legal team closely follows both national and local efforts to deal with the opioid crisis. If you or a loved one has been charged with the possession or trafficking of a controlled substance, a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer can help you during this challenging time. Contact us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free, no-obligation case consultation.

Fentanyl Is Now the Deadliest Drug in Pennsylvania

In 2016, more than 4,600 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdose. There was a 37 percent increase over 2015 and nearly 13 fatal overdoses each day. While heroin used to be the top killer in drug overdose cases, fentanyl has now taken its place.

If you’ve been involved in a drug crime related to fentanyl or any other type of drug in Pittsburgh, it is in your best interest to consult our experienced drug crime attorney. Call us today at (412) 281-2146.

What is Fentanyl?

According to research by the University of Pittsburgh and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in Pennsylvania. It was developed as a prescription pain medication for cancer patients but is now being made illegally and sold on the street.

There are a variety of signs and symptoms an individual who may be overdosing on fentanyl may display. Some of these signs and symptoms include weak muscles, pinpoint pupils, confusion, dizziness, loss of consciousness, low blood pressure, slowed or stopped breathing, and a slowed heartbeat.

Fentanyl is a Problem in Pennsylvania

Sadly, Fentanyl was the drug found in 52 percent of the victims who died of drug overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2016. The 2,395 deaths that were correlated to fentanyl represented an increase of 130 percent from 2015.

Fentanyl was found in 32 percent of fatalities in January 2016 but by December, that number rose significantly to 73 percent. The greatest increase of fentanyl use was found in victims who were between the ages of 15 to 24.

The Drug Enforcement Administration explains that fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous substitute for heroin because it is more potent and often leads to regular overdose that may eventually result in depression or death.

When this drug made its initial debut on the streets in Pennsylvania, many drug users believed it was heroin. It was attractive to drug dealers because it was less expensive than heroin and boosted their profits. These days, drug dealers are promoting fentanyl to drug users rather than disguising it.

Police officers in the state explain that they can’t “arrest” their way out of this Fentanyl overdose problem and may not be able to treat it either. A culture change is what will be necessary to put it to an end.

Governor Tom Wolf stated that the amount of overdose deaths in 2016 coupled with how many deaths fentanyl has caused reinforce the fact that the state of Pennsylvania and the federal government should continue to put resources into drug addiction treatment and expand education and prevention programs.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Today

If you have been charged with a drug crime related to fentanyl, heroin, or any other drug, you should reach out to our Pittsburgh drug crime lawyers. Our firm may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped through a solid defense so that you can avoid the harsh consequences of a drug conviction. Call us today at (412) 281-2146.

New Bill Proposes Mandatory Treatment for Drug Overdose Victims

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has proposed a new bill that would order individuals who have suffered a drug overdose and survived to submit to mandatory drug treatment or otherwise face prosecution on a drug charge, which if resulting in a conviction, could result in jail time and heavy fines.

Pennsylvania currently protects overdose survivors from prosecution through something called the ‘Good Samaritan’ law. However, many believe that the current law doesn’t do enough to help prevent these individuals from overdosing again.

If you are facing charges on drug possession or even worse, you need dependable legal representation to fight for the best possible outcome in your case. The team of Pittsburgh drug lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC has experience defending clients for more than 10 years.

Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or send us a message online to request a free case evaluation.

The Proposed Drug Treatment Law

The new Pennsylvania bill introduced by Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria County) stipulates that drug overdose victims may not be charged with the crime and shall be exempt from prosecution if they enter a drug treatment program within 30 days.

Burns introduced the legislation feeling that there was a need for overdose victims to face consequences for their actions – that there was a level of responsibility they must take for overdosing on drugs. The proposal also stems from the fact that the lives of not only the victim are adversely affected due to an overdose, but also the lives of loved ones, friends, and potentially others.

Representative Burns stated that under the law, surviving drug overdose victims would be monitored as to whether they attended drug rehab. If they failed to do so, a warrant would be handed out for their arrest, and they would be arrested.

Who Will Pay for the Mandatory Drug Treatment?

In February of this year, Rep. Burns sent letters to Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro requesting that they take legal action against all pharmaceutical companies that bear responsibility for the current opioid crisis in the Commonwealth.

Burns wrote, “I urge you to file a lawsuit against any and all pharmaceutical companies responsible for this crisis because of their negligence in informing consumers of the dangers of these types of drugs and their ruthless promotion of their use.”

He further wrote, “’Big Pharma’ is lining its pockets and the wallets of doctors who prescribe these medications, while the number of people addicted and affected in the commonwealth continues to rise.”

In fact, the Attorney General is currently investigating possible practices of these companies which may be unlawful regarding the promotion and sale of opioids. Based on the news that the Attorney General along with other experienced state prosecutors are investigating the role of drug manufacturers in the states opioid crisis, Rep. Burns hopes that the results of the investigation will produce a lawsuit against these companies.

The proposal offered by Burns would have any funds received from a successful lawsuit against the pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay for the mandatory drug treatment called for in the new Pennsylvania bill. The state representative’s position is that it would not be right to ask the taxpayers to cover the cost of the bill’s proposed drug treatment since the taxpayers did not create the opioid problem in the first place. He believes that the drug companies have misled the public on the true addictive nature of these drugs.

Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh Drug Crimes Attorney

If you currently find yourself in legal jeopardy due to a drug crime charge filed against you, don’t hesitate to get the legal help you need. The experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC are here to fight for your rights.

Call us today at (412) 281-2146 to set up a free consultation about your case.

New Report Emphasizes the Dangers of Drugged Driving

Although the number of drunk driving incidents has declined in recent years, a new and equally dangerous, and often more complex problem now poses a significant threat to the driving public – drugged driving, also referred to as driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). This is the conclusion drawn from a recent report put together by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, entitled Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States, 2017.

According to these organizations, with more states opting to legalize marijuana and drug overdoses due to the opioid epidemic hitting record rates, concerns over the issue of drug impaired driving and the resulting risks it poses for public safety has risen sharply.

If you’re facing a DUI charge in Pennsylvania, it’s important to take action quickly to speak with a highly skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorney from our team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC. We know what it takes to build a vigorous defense on your behalf and fight to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Call us today at (412) 281-2146 or use our online contact form to request a free, no obligation consultation.

Major Statistics from the GHSA Report

GHSA report provides statistical information fatal crashes across the U.S. A major finding of the report is that among those drivers who were fatally injured and had known test results, the year 2015 was the first time that drug use outnumbered alcohol use.

Specifically, the report states that:

  • Among those drivers killed in fatal auto accidents, 43 percent had a positive test for drugs in their systems. On the other hand, about 38 percent of drivers who lost their lives in vehicle crashes tested positive for alcohol.
  • Marijuana was the most common drug detected – it was found in nearly 37 percent of the drivers testing positive for drugs.
  • Amphetamines were the next most frequently detected drug, found in about 9 percent of these motorists.

The opioid epidemic has been plaguing our society in recent years with the abuse of heroin and prescription drugs on the rise. In 2015 alone, more than 33,000 fatal overdoses occurred due to opioid use. This number almost matches the more than 35,000 people fatally injured in all traffic accidents that same year.

Many individuals are now putting together two or more substances, creating a very dangerous opioid combination that puts the lives of the drug user and others at serious risk. Drugged driving is one of these dangerous risks unfortunately on the rise.

Another angle on the statistic mentioned above is that the number of fatally injured drivers testing positive for drugs increased from nearly 28 percent in 2005 to 43 percent in 2015. This represents a significant and alarming increase within a single decade.

Reasons Drugged Driving Is a Bigger Problem than Drunk Driving

As is obvious from the statistics provided above, the increase in driving under the influence of drugs is a major problem facing our society. However, an additional issue is the fact that drugged driving is a more complex problem to address than drunk driving. According to the GHSA:

  1. Hundreds of different drugs exist that can have varying effects on drivers. This is in contrast to alcohol which produces effects that are widely known and understood. As such, detecting the presence of drugs in the systems of drivers is much more difficult.
  2. Determining when a driver is legally impaired by drugs is much more difficult due to the fact that there are no legal limits currently set for drugs in a person’s system as there are for alcohol.
  3. No standardized roadside test exists for driving under the influence of drugs as opposed to driving under the influence of alcohol.

Police face a significant challenge with enforcing laws against drugged driving due to the lack of training available for these officers to identify and detect drivers under the influence of drugs. As well, some presence of certain drugs in a person’s system may dissipate before testing takes place to measure the presence of these drugs in the driver system.

Contact a Highly Skilled Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues severe punishments for those convicted of a DUI charge. However, with an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney from our team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC on your side, you can get the legal help you need to achieve an optimal outcome in your case.

Let’s go over your case and your options together. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 to request a free evaluation.

Selling Drugs to Minors in Pennsylvania

Since the war on drugs was declared in 1971, drug crimes have received punishments that are normally assigned for serious felonies. This is especially true for specialized drug crimes, such as selling drugs to minors and drug crimes that take place within a drug-free zone. Penalties for these crimes can include massive fines and years spent in state or federal prison.

Our Pittsburgh drug crimes attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC know that these crimes are often punished unfairly. Perhaps you were falsely accused, or maybe you committed a crime that warrants a more lenient sentence. Regardless of the circumstance surrounding your case, you do not deserve to be taken advantage of by an unfair justice system.

To find out how you can avoid the harsh penalties associated with drug crimes, call (412) 281-2146 now.

Crimes Involving Selling Drugs to Minors

The crime of selling or distributing illegal substances to minors involves engaging in a drug transaction with someone under the age of 18. This crime has numerous outcomes, all of which depend on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Two of the most impactful contributing factors are the type of drug and the amount being sold or distributed.

Since minors are involved in this crime, additional laws also apply. According to both state and federal regulations, both fines and periods of incarceration are doubled when the recipient of a drug is a minor or when a minor is used for any other drug crime.

Penalties for Selling Drugs to Minors

At a minimum, you will face one year in prison if you are convicted of distributing controlled substances to a minor. You will face an additional minimum sentence of two years confinement if you did any of the following:

  • Promoted the habitual use of the controlled substance
  • Intended to engage the minor in the trafficking, sale, transport, delivery, manufacturing, or conveyance of the controlled substance
  • Committed the offense within 1,000 feet of a school or other drug-free zone
  • Committed the offense on a school bus or within 500 feet of a school bus stop

Selling or distributing drugs to minors have sentences that include, but are not limited to:

  • Mandatory incarceration
  • Fines and court fees
  • Probation
  • A permanent criminal record
  • Loss or denial of a professional license
  • Negative effects on immigration
  • Inability to find affordable and safe housing
  • Difficulty finding a good job
  • Ineligibility for student financial aid

Drug-Free Zones

According to state and federal lawmakers, there are certain areas that need to be specially protected from drug crimes. Drug-free zones (DFZs), otherwise known as drug-free school zones, are areas in which penalties are doubled for any and all drug crimes. Penalties for a drug offense will be increased if it occurs within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, arcade, daycare, youth center, or any other area where children might be present. For some protected areas, the crime radius is only 100 feet.

How Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Can Fight for Your Rights

The consequences of a drug conviction can be devastating, especially if the crime involved children. If you have been charged with selling drugs to minors or any other drug crime, you may be worried about how your life will be affected if you are convicted. Finding a job might be all but impossible, as few employers jump at the chance to hire someone with a conviction history. It might also be difficult to continue your education with your criminal history only a simple search away.

The Pittsburgh drug crimes attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC realize that a criminal conviction can turn your life upside down. Our team knows that the best way to avoid the consequences of a conviction is to prevent a guilty verdict in court. With years of experience in criminal law, our lawyers have the knowledge and resources to give your case the best possible chance of success. We will pursue every option, leaving no stone unturned.

Call (412) 281-2146 today to see how you can get your life back on track.

Pennsylvania Pharmacies Must Now Report Drug Sales

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we understand the effects of controlled substances on a person’s life and on the effects of being charged with possession of a controlled substance. If you were found to be in possession of a controlled drug in Pennsylvania and have since been charged with a drug crime, contact a drug lawyer from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today.

Pennsylvania pharmacies have new reporting requirements as of last month. Now all Pennsylvania medical dispensers, excluding wholesalers and veterinarians, must report drug sales of schedule II, III, IV, or V drugs. These schedules of drugs cover many types of common prescription drugs including painkillers like Vicodin and codeine-containing cough suppressants such as Rubitussin-AC.

Those in favor of required reporting see these new requirements as preventing potential drug abuse and fraud by patients who have historically been prescribed a controlled substance. Those opposed, on the other hand, feel that increased government monitoring will only drive those same patients away from prescription medications and toward acquiring controlled substances through illegal means.

What Drugs Are Being Reported?

The drugs affected by last month’s requirement include schedule II, III, IV, and IV drugs. These drugs are classified according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (USDEA) criteria as follows:

  • Schedule II — Schedule II drugs are drugs, substances, or chemicals with high potential for abuse, such as Adderall, methamphetamine, methadone, OxyContin, Ritalin, and Vicodin.
  • Schedule III — Schedule II drugs include drugs with moderate to low potential for abuse. Substances of this category include anabolic steroids, ketamine, testosterone, and Tylenol with codeine.
  • Schedule IV — Schedule IV drugs have low potential for abuse. Drugs in this category include prescription drugs such as Ambien, Ativan, Soma, Tramadol, Valium, and Xanax.
  • Schedule V — Schedule V drugs are made up of chemical substances with the lowest potential for abuse. Schedule V drugs include many common prescription drugs, including some antidiarrheals, cough suppressants, and pain medications such as Robitussin AC, Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, and Parepectolin.

While not all drugs in schedules II through V can be legally prescribed, many can be. To check to see if any of your prescribed medications belong to schedules II through V, have a look at USDEA’s alphabetical listing, here.

How an Experienced Drug Lawyer From Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Can Help You

Drug crimes in Pennsylvania can result in severe penalties including jail time and fines. Even being charged with possession of a controlled substance in schedule V, for example, the category of drug least likely to lead to abuse, can result in up to a year of incarceration and up to $5,000 in crimes. If you’ve been charged with possession of a controlled substance of any schedule, contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to speak with one of our skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys through a free, consultation today.

We’ve helped numerous individuals face and successfully fight their drug-related crime. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime or want to know more about Pennsylvania’s reporting requirements, call us at (412) 281-2146 today.

What Happens if Police Arrest Me for a DUI and I Am Under 21?

While teenage and college years are frequently a time of social and recreational exploration, sometimes involving drugs, alcohol, and motor vehicles, these years can lead to devastating consequences when underage drinking and driving occur together.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s 2014 statistics on Pennsylvania crashes, drinking drivers under the age of 21 accounted for more than 650 crashes in 2014 alone. As the state recognizes that reducing incidents of drinking and driving is an essential step toward reducing overall fatalities, special attention is made to identify drinking drivers who might be underage—and to prevent them from endangering their own lives and the lives of others.

Pennsylvania DUI Laws

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol—without exception. Pennsylvania’s underage drinking laws carry through to all sorts of activities, including driving under the influence, an offense involving minors who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 or greater while operating a motor vehicle. If you’ve been pulled over for a DUI and are under the age of 21, you could be charged with an underage DUI.

What Are the Consequences of an Underage DUI in Pennsylvania?

Penalties for underage DUIs are severe and can result in incarceration time, hundreds of dollars in fines, and license suspension. If you’ve pulled over and arrested for an underage DUI, you could face:

  • Jail time — for a first underage DUI, incarceration can be up to 90 days; for a second underage DUI, incarceration can be between 5 days and 6 months
  • Hefty fines — fines start at $300 for a first underage DUI and can rise to as much as $2,500 for a second offense
  • License suspension — if your BAC is above .10 on a first offense, you could face 12 months license suspension; if charged with a second underage DUI, you could face 1-year suspension
  • A criminal record — if you’re charged with an underage DUI and convicted, you’ll have a record of criminal conduct which could affect future job prospects, employment opportunities, and rental applications
  • Academic consequences — many schools have internal regulations focused on students’ underage drinking; an underage DUI conviction could land you in academic or institutional trouble

How Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Can Help You

If you’ve been stopped and arrested for a DUI and were underage at the time of your arrest, you may be feeling scared, angry, or confused. To help you understand the charges being brought against you and to take the first steps toward defending your case, contact an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer today.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we have helped numerous individuals under the age of 21 to fight their underage drinking case. We are familiar with Pennsylvania underage drinking laws and can build you a strategic defense that’s based on proving that you weren’t drinking, that you weren’t driving, or that a police officer didn’t have probable cause to stop you. To speak with one of our skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorneys today, call us at (412) 281-2146.

When Should a DUI Go To Trial?

With the help of a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer, knowing when to take your case to trial could make the difference between facing a harsher sentence and getting your penalties reduced—or even dismissed.

DUI cases can go any number of ways, often without ending in a DUI trial. A prosecutor may drop the charges brought against a defendant, or a defendant may enter into a plea agreement, whereby he or she agrees to admit guilt in exchange for a lighter sentence. However, some cases do make it to trial. Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, these DUI trials can often help a defendant.

The Prosecution’s Evidence is Faulty

If there are obvious holes in a prosecution’s argument, such as faulty evidence or factual inaccuracies, it may make sense to bring your case to trail—so that it can be dismissed. Oftentimes, a prosecution relies on subjective measures of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol on a person’s breath or of inflammation in a person’s eyes. While these signs can be symptoms of alcohol consumption, they are not necessarily directly caused by alcohol. Knowing that there are flaws in a prosecution’s case could propel your case to go to a DUI trial.

Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Was Less Than .08

Because the legal limit for BAC in Pennsylvania is .08, it is difficult for a prosecution to prove that you were driving under the influence of alcohol if your BAC was under that amount. While BAC isn’t the only measure a prosecutor can use to prove intoxication, it is one of the most commonly used. As such, going to a DUI trial with a BAC recorded at less than .08 could help to call your case into question.

You Don’t Have Any Prior DUI Convictions

While not having a prior DUI conviction isn’t enough, in itself, to rationalize going to trial, it can be a useful factor when considering whether or not to bring your case to a DUI trial. Having a prior conviction, or multiple prior convictions could jeopardize your chances of doing well at trial, as a jury or judge will have knowledge of your criminal record. If you’ve been convicted of a DUI in the past, it may make sense to enter into a plea bargain instead. But if this is your first DUI offense, it may make sense to bring your case to a DUI trial.

The Effects of a Possible Conviction Are Severe

Weighing whether to take your case to a DUI trial or not should always be weighed against the effects of a possible conviction. If the effects could be severe, and if you have a good chance of winning at trial, it may make sense to bring your case to a DUI trial in order to avoid the worst possible penalties. For help in deciding whether or not to take your case to trial, contact a skilled Pittsburgh DUI lawyer who can review the details of your case and help you determine whether the effects of a possible conviction warrant bringing your case to trial.

How an Experienced Pittsburgh DUI Lawyer Can Help You

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we have experience helping clients avoid the worst of their DUI penalties and have done so by taking many of our clients’ cases to trial. If you’ve been charged with a DUI and are wondering whether it makes sense to take your case to a DUI trial, contact a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer for a free, initial consultation at (412) 281-2146.

Should I Plead Nolo Contendere to DUI Charges?

Nolo Contendere is Latin for “I do not contest.” Often abbreviated as “nolo,” entering a plea of nolo contendere in a criminal trial means that you do not admit your guilt, but recognize that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove your guilt. Although there are few benefits to pleading nolo, many people charged with DUI do just that.

As a result of pleading nolo to your DUI charges, you will usually receive the same punishment as if you were found guilty, which means fines, possible jail time, a suspended license, and the obligation to attend substance abuse programs. The only difference is that you are not officially admitting guilt, and your criminal record will reflect that you did not contest the charges—instead of stating that you were guilty of the charges.

Does Pleading Nolo Contendere to DUI Charges Make Sense?

The only time a defendant should plead nolo to DUI charges is if the prosecution’s evidence is so strong that defending the case would not only be hopeless, it would be a waste of the defendant’s time and money. But most people do not have the legal expertise to determine whether their DUI case is hopeless or not. For that reason, you should consult with a reputable criminal defense attorney before considering a nolo plea.

Just because prosecutors have evidence against you does not mean that they can use necessarily use it at trial. All evidence used in criminal trials must meet the standards of the rules of evidence, and many DUI defendants are surprised to learn how willing some prosecutors are to bend these rules. A skilled attorney can keep this from happening.

Similarly, a lawyer can file a motion to suppress a prosecutor’s evidence that was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights to due process and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. For example, the police must have a reasonable suspicion to pull you over. They must also have probable cause to give you a breathalyzer test or to search your car. And they must administer field sobriety, blood, and urine tests by the book.

Are There Any Benefits to Pleading Nolo?

The only benefit from pleading nolo contendere to a DUI charge is that you are not making an admission of guilt. Your criminal record will not show that you are guilty of DUI—it will just show that you pleaded no contest. That being said, it is likely that people doing background checks will give an uncontested DUI the same weight as a guilty verdict.

The real difference comes in situations where your drunk driving has caused injury to others. The victims would probably try to sue you in civil court, and if they could include evidence of your DUI conviction into their case, they would stand a good chance at winning. But since a nolo plea is not an admission of guilt, the injured parties will not be able to use your criminal record as evidence of your civil liability.

Every legal situation and every person is different. Depending on your charges and the circumstances in which your alleged offense occurred, different legal strategies may be available to you, If you are facing DUI charges and want a free and confidential consultation of your case, you can call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146.

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