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Driving Without a License in PA: Penalties & Consequences

From leaving the house without your ID to losing your wallet, there are various ways to wind up behind the wheel without a license. If you are driving without your license in Pennsylvania and subsequently stopped, you could be charged with a summary offense.

Drivers charged with driving without a license in Pennsylvania face up to $200 in fines for a first offense. But, if you have a valid license, can produce it within 15 days, or prove that you were licensed at the time, you likely won’t be convicted.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we’ve helped countless individuals deal with driving without a license situations correctly. Our Pittsburgh defense lawyers know traffic offenses can complicate your life, and what it takes to fix these issues.

If you’ve been charged with driving without a license, call one us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consult. We can help reinstate your license, handle PennDot issues, and ensure a summary offense doesn’t hurt your driving record or increase your insurance premiums.

Is Driving Without A License Illegal?

Under Pennsylvania law, no person “shall drive any motor vehicle unless the person has a driver’s license […].”

When someone violates this law, he or she may be charged with driving without a license. This is a summary offense, punishable by $25 to $200.

Most drivers who are charged with driving without a license fall into one of two categories:

Not carrying your license

In cases where you simply forgot your license or it was recently lost or stolen, you likely won’t face any criminal charges if you produce your license to a Magisterial District Court within 15 days, or if you provide evidence that you were licensed at the time. In these cases, you will still have to pay a $25 fine.

Driving without a license

In cases where you drove without a license and you did not have a license because it was revoked, you may be charged and face up to $200 in fines. It’s a smart idea to contact an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney if you fall into this category.

How Our Experienced Pittsburgh Attorneys Can Help

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we know that driving is a necessity in Pennsylvania. Whether you’ve just been charged with driving without a license or have been charged multiple times, contact us for help getting back behind the wheel.

Driving without a license in Pittsburgh should not be taken lightly, and it can lead to a lot more than a $200 fine. A summary offense is a permanent mark on your criminal record, and damaging your driving record can affect your job and raise your insurance rates.

Our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys have helped numerous individuals deal with driving without a license issues the right way. For a free, initial consultation, call us at (412) 281-2146 today.

Can I Refuse to Sign a Traffic Ticket?

Everyone gets a little nervous when they’re pulled over for a traffic violation. This is a normal reaction even if you have done nothing wrong. Unfortunately, many people get especially anxious about dealing with the police even regarding simple traffic violations.

If you are issued a ticket in Pittsburgh, you can deal with it the right way by contacting a criminal defense attorney at our firm. Call (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. This could be the difference in paying an expensive fine and keeping points off your license.

CAN REFUSING TO SIGN A TRAFFIC CITATION LEAD TO CRIMINAL CHARGES?

Nobody wants to incriminate himself or herself. For this reason, many people try to avoid signing traffic tickets. This is not necessary, though.

Signing a traffic citation is not an admission of guilt. It simply acknowledges that you have received the citation and know that you must appear in court and deal with the ticket or face serious penalties.

Generally, if a police officer asks you to sign a traffic citation, they will tell you that you are required by law to sign it. This is true.

It is a misdemeanor to refuse to sign a traffic citation. Although very rare, you can be subject to criminal charges for refusing to sign. Furthermore, if you are belligerent about refusing to sign the ticket, you could face further charges, like obstruction of justice or resisting arrest.

What happens you refuse to sign a traffic ticket?

If you refuse to sign a traffic citation, you can be arrested and subjected to the criminal process.

When you arrive at the station, you will still get the traffic citation and compelled to sign. You could even be arrested and put in jail, though this is not common.

For civil or administrative traffic offenses, the common approach is for the officer to simply issue you the ticket and mark it “Refused.” Contrary to some traffic myths, this does not invalidate the ticket. You still must pay any fines or appear in court on the assigned date.

Case law in Pennsylvania shows that judges do not dismiss charges simply because a person has refused to sign a ticket. Sometimes this is viewed more harshly, as it can be considered an indication that you may have been acting in a reckless or confrontational manner. Usually, nothing is gained by not signing. You may even get yourself arrested or face other penalties. Even if you are sure of your innocence, it is better to sign your citation and contest it in court.

Hire a Pittsburgh Traffic Lawyer

The best way to avoid increased insurance premiums, points on your license, possible license suspension, and fines is to work with a lawyer who knows the PA traffic code, and how it can be used for your benefit. Refusing to sign a ticket is typically more trouble than it’s worth.

If you have been issued a Pittsburgh traffic ticket or you refused to sign a citation, contact a Pittsburgh traffic ticket lawyer at Worgul, Sarna, and Ness for a free consultation.

We are available 24/7 when you call (412) 281-2146.

Pittsburgh Hit & Runs: When You Can Be Charged

The term is self-explanatory. A hit and run describes situations where you’re involved in an accident, but you don’t stick around long enough to fulfill your obligations after a crash.

Some jurisdictions refer to the situation as fleeing or leaving the scene of an accident. The requirements vary according to where the accident happens and the nature of the collision, but a Pittsburgh hit and run exposes you to possible jail, fines, and a suspended license.

It’s understandable that you may be scared after a collision or want to avoid the hassle, particularly if no one was injured. However, the smart move is to obey the law if you’re involved in an accident. But you do have legal options if you already left the scene. The first step is to contact an experienced traffic lawyer. At Worgul. Sarna & Ness Criminal Defense Attorneys, we know what you’re dealing with and how to help. Let us review the situation and advise you about your rights.

Call (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free initial consultation.

Criminal Hit and Run Charges

Fleeing the scene isn’t grounded in the fact that you were in an accident. Getting into a crash isn’t a crime in itself, though there may be some legal consequences if you were driving drunk, on a suspended license, or engaged in other criminal activity at the time. Instead, hit and run charges are focused on your conduct in the moments after the collision.

Every US state has legal requirements for motorists, which typically include:

  • Exchanging contact information with other drivers;
  • Getting help for someone who’s hurt;
  • Notifying police or calling 911;
  • Leaving a note for an unattended vehicle that was damaged; and,
  • Completing a report, either at the scene or within a specific time period afterward.

Your legal obligations may also vary depending on the circumstances of the collision. For instance, the dollar value of the property damage may trigger certain requirements if no one was hurt. However, in every jurisdiction, you’re expected to remain at the scene, call for help, and fulfill other statutory duties if someone was injured or killed.

Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident

At a minimum, you can expect a civil citation or traffic ticket for failure to comply with reporting requirements. The fine may not seem to be a big deal, but keep in mind that there could be implications for your driving privileges in states that operate on a points system. It may be possible to avoid accumulating points by attending a driver’s safety course, but these classes can cost hundreds of dollars in some cases.

For leaving the scene under severe circumstances, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. Typically, a conviction could result in less than one-year incarceration, fines, and/or probation. Still, it will be reflected on your criminal record. If you flee the site of a fatal accident, it’s likely you’ll face felony charges. If convicted, a judge could issue a sentence involving:

  • Imprisonment of one year or more;
  • A fine that could run in the thousands;
  • Restitution, which means paying victims for their losses; and,
  • Many other penalties, depending on state law.

As with a misdemeanor, your criminal record will reflect a felony conviction. You could have trouble finding employment, lose a professional license, and suffer other collateral consequences.

How a Traffic Lawyer Can Help

If you’ve already left the scene and the time to report has expired, it might be wise to turn yourself in before the police come after you. Cooperation may lead to leniency in some situations. However, you should not take action without first talking to an attorney. Your lawyer can advise you on what to do based upon your unique circumstances.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today

If you’re facing criminal charges stemming from a hit and run accident in Pittsburgh, time is of the essence. An experienced lawyer can review your circumstances and determine the best strategy for fighting the charges.

You have a better chance of obtaining a positive result when you get a lawyer involved as early as possible.

To learn more about your rights, contact a traffic violations attorney to set up a consultation today.

FAQ About Ignition Interlock Systems in PA

Like many other Pennsylvania drivers, you’re probably aware that a drunk driving conviction carries hefty penalties. A first time DUI could lead to six months’ probation and a $300 fine. The punishments increase for higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels and prior arrests. What you may not know is the law on ignition interlock systems in PA. Under certain circumstances, a court could order you to install a device on your vehicle that prevents the engine from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our lawyers understand that an ignition interlock device (IID) can severely limit your driving privileges and personal freedoms. Still, an arrest doesn’t equal a conviction, whether it’s your first time facing DUI charges or were previously involved in a drunk driving case. Please contact our firm at (412) 281-2146 to set up a no-cost consultation with a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer today. Meanwhile, you may find it useful to review answers to frequently asked questions about ignition interlock systems in PA.

Why would an ignition interlock technology be required in a drunk driving case?

There are multiple situations that may trigger the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. An IID is mandatory for:

  • All offenders who have a prior DUI offense;
  • Anyone whose driver’s license is suspended because of a refusal to submit to a chemical test to measure BAC; and,
  • A person who’s required to have an IID and is seeking restoration of driving privileges pursuant to a restricted license.

How long will I need the IID installed on my vehicle?

In most cases, you’ll need to have the ignition interlock system on your vehicle for one year. That time period could be extended if you tamper with the IID or are caught operating a vehicle that doesn’t have one installed.

What is a prior DUI for purposes of the IID?

A “prior” offense extends to many different legal scenarios and outcomes in a drunk driving case, including:

  • A conviction for DUI;
  • Order regarding delinquency or juvenile consent decree, which applies if you’re under age 18 years old;
  • Your assent to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, a type of probation where DUI charges are dismissed subject to completing the conditions ordered by the judge;

To qualify as a prior offense, the lookback period is 10 years from the date you were arrested or being sentenced for the current drunk driving charges.

How much does a PA ignition interlock system cost?

There are various factors that impact the cost of a IID, including the length of time you’re required to have one installed and the features you must purchase. For instance, a court may require you to implement a GPS, real-time reporting, a camera, or other features. On average, an ignition interlock system costs around $900 to $1,300 per year, which you pay to an IID vendor as a rental arrangement. There are also fees for initial installation of the device and regular calibration of the technology.

What’s the application process for an IID?

Once you’ve determined your vendor for the IID, you must fill out an application for an Ignition Interlock License application and pay the following fees to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT):

  • A $67 non-refundable petition fee;
  • The duplicate license fee in the amount of $30.50 ($35.50 for motorcyclists)
  • A restoration fee which may range from $25 to $100; and,
  • An additional one-half of the restoration fee amount, if you’re required to install an IID because of a refusal to submit to chemical testing.

Does the ignition interlock requirement affect my PA driver’s license?

Yes, when you apply for an IID according to the requirements above, PennDOT will issue you an Ignition Interlock Limited License. Your driver’s license will include a red banner behind the word “Pennsylvania,” the term “Limited License,” and a stamp indicating “Ignition Interlock.” These notations are meant to alert officials about your status if you’re pulled over while driving.

A Pittsburgh DUI Attorney Can Answer Additional Questions

Hopefully, this information provides a helpful overview of ignition interlock systems in PA. Still, you’ll need more details and experienced representation to obtain a favorable outcome in a DUI case. To speak with a member of our team, please contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC You can schedule your free consultation by calling (412) 281-2146 or our online contact form.

What to Do If You Leave the Scene of an Accident

It can be very tempting to leave the scene of an accident in Pennsylvania, especially if no one was hurt and property damage was minimal. Many drivers simply don’t want to deal with the hassles of police paperwork when the crash seems to be nothing more than a fender bender. Some motorists might want to avoid other legal entanglements associated with the collision, such as driving drunk or on a suspended license. Regardless of the underlying circumstances, driving away from an accident is a serious offense. You could face fines and incarceration for a hit and run, which can be charged as a felony in some cases.

If you were involved in a collision and fled the scene, you might assume that your defense options are limited. However, there may be strategies to fight the charges. Our team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can advise you on the alternatives, so please call (412) 281-2146 to schedule a free case evaluation with a Pittsburgh traffic violations attorney. Some tips on what to do if you leave the scene of an accident may also be helpful.

Understand Your Duty Under Pennsylvania Law

At the outset, you should familiarize yourself with the legal requirements involved with a motor vehicle crash. Pennsylvania’s statute imposes a duty to provide information if the accident caused injury or death to any person, or if there was property damage to any vehicle. The law requires you to:

  • Give your name and contact information;
  • Offer your vehicle registration number;
  • Show your driver’s license; and,
  • Exhibit paperwork regarding financial responsibility.

You’re obligated to provide these details to anyone involved in the crash and to a police officer responding to the incident. In addition, you also have a duty to render assistance to individuals who suffered injuries, such as seeking medical care for the victim.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to obey the law may lead to criminal charges, but the exact nature of the case depends on the circumstances of the accident. If you fled in a crash involving only property damage, you could be arrested for a Third Degree Misdemeanor. For a conviction, a court may order one year incarceration, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both. However, the charges and potential punishment increase for more severe collisions.

  • Failure to remain at the scene, offer information, and render assistance is a First Degree Misdemeanor if someone was hurt. The penalties for a conviction include up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.
  • If the victim suffers serious bodily injury, you could face Third Degree Felony charges for leaving the scene. Mandatory minimums apply, so a judge must order 90 days’ incarceration and a fine no less than $1,000.
  • When the accident involves a fatality, a violation of the law is a Second Degree Felony. You could be sentenced to a minimum of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least $2,500.

Get Legal Assistance Right Away

You might assume the damage is done if you’ve already left the scene of an accident, but that’s not always the case. It may be possible to avoid the harsh consequences, but it’s critical to work with an experienced attorney. Your lawyer can determine whether your situation falls under an exception to the legal duties after an accident. For instance, you can leave the scene to head to a police station to file a report if:

  • None of the other motorists involved in the crash are in a condition to accept the information you were willing to provide; or,
  • The accident resulted in property damage to a vehicle that was unattended, so you were unable to fulfill your legal obligation.

In addition, a lawyer may be able to assist with other options for addressing hit and run charges. Under certain circumstances, it may be advisable to contact police before they reach out to you. Cooperation is often a positive factor when it comes to criminal charges and sentencing. Plus, you could have a defense to leaving the scene allegations. You should trust your attorney to handle the complex legal issues and protect your rights.

Consult with a Pittsburgh Traffic Violations Lawyer About Hit and Run Accidents

It may be a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident, but you may have options to resolve the charges with quick action and skilled legal representation. For more information, please contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 or use our online contact form. We can set up a no-cost consultation to review your situation and determine the best way to proceed.

Radar Enforcement in Pennsylvania: Will a New Law Lead to Increased Speeding Tickets?

The Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved last month a bill to allow local police departments to use radar in speed traps. Senate Bill 607 passed by a 49-1 vote on June 25, signaling almost unanimous support for the measure. Now the bill heads to the House of Representatives, where it is also likely to succeed. It seems that in a few months, Pennsylvania will no longer be the only state in the country to prohibit local police departments from using speed radar. The question is: will Senate Bill 607 increase road safety, or is it just a way to fill the coffers of municipal governments with revenue from additional speeding tickets?

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we have successfully defended against traffic tickets supported by radar evidence, as well as traffic cases from local police departments, which usually are supported by the testimony of the officer who issued the citation. In both scenarios, we have been able to effectively dismantle the case against our clients and help them avoid the consequences of a Pennsylvania speeding ticket. If you’ve been charged with speeding, call us today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.

Why Did Pennsylvania Wait So Long to Give Speed Radars to Local Cops?

Speed radar isn’t exactly new technology. First used by the military during World War II to track the speed of landing planes, radar guns were in the hands of police departments in Connecticut and New York by the late Forties. Since then, millions of traffic tickets have been issued by radar wielding police officers. While Pennsylvania’s State Police have long used speed radars, concerns about inconsistent training and policies have kept the legislature from expanding their use to local police departments.

Operating a speed radar is not exactly easy. The devices have a limited range, and their signal is subject to dispersion, which makes it hard for an untrained users on busy roads to determine which vehicle’s speed is being reported. Furthermore, roadside operators must understand the principle of triangulation, because the speed detected by a radar placed above or to the side of the road is never the actual speed of the targeted vehicle. This means that the police need to estimate the car’s speed based on the radar gun’s reading.

A good defense lawyer can easily defeat a traffic ticket case supported by radar evidence collected by a poorly trained officer. Under cross examination, the officer may admit to not understanding the radar gun’s limitations, and the need to interpret the speed reading. For these reasons, the government of Pennsylvania thought it wise to focus on training and equipping its state police with radars, and letting the rest give out speeding tickets the old fashioned way.

Don’t Expect a Huge Increase in Speeding Tickets

Should Senate Bill 607 become law, any police officer will need to undergo training before they can use a speed gun, and then repeat the training again every three years. One common aspect of speed gun training is about estimating speeds in favor of the driver. For example, if an officer estimates a vehicle’s actual speed to be between 33 and 37 mph, the officer should assume the vehicle is travelling at 33mph.

Furthermore, the bill clarifies that a conviction based on radar evidence can only occur if:

  • The recorded speed is 10 or more mph over the speed limit on a highway
  • The recorded speed is 6 or more on an interstate or freeway with a posted speed limit of 70 mph
  • The exception is work or school zones, where any excess of speed may result in a conviction

Motorists will have fair warning when entering a community that uses radards, because the bill mandates the posting of “Radar Enforced” under speed limit signs in places where the local police choose to equip their speed traps with radars. The bill also removes some of the financial incentives for local governments to overuse speed traps, because they are only allowed to keep the equivalent of 20% of their budget’s worth of speeding fines. The rest must be transferred to a state run fund.

If House Bill 607 becomes law, the number of speeding tickets given out in Pennsylvania could increase to some extent–but it is unlikely to be a huge increase. At worst, Pennsylvania drivers will be at the same risk of getting a ticket as in other states with no limits on radar use.

When you get a speeding ticket, a lawyer may be able to reduce your fines or beat the charges. The Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC stand ready to assist you today. Call us now at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation about your case.

What You Need to Know About DUI Trials

If you’re like most people pulled over for drunk driving, your case will not go to trial. Instead, your case will probably get resolved in the early stages of the criminal justice process through a plea arrangement. But, if you’re in the minority, the DUI trial is where your fate will be decided. The trial has high stakes because it means that both the defense and the prosecution believe that the facts are in their favor and that it’s worth investing the time and money to litigate. Of course, this belief cannot be true for both camps, so the outcome often depends on the raw skill of the opposing attorneys.

If you are facing a DUI charge, contact a skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorney to take your case. You will want someone with experience negotiating with prosecutors as well as a trial veteran. Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 or use our online contact form.

What is the Pretrial Process in a DUI Case?

After your arrest for DUI, you may either stay in custody or get released on bail or on your own recognizance. When you’re in custody, you must be arraigned within two to three days, but if you get released, the arraignment may take place later. The arraignment may be your first appearance in court, but in some cases you may be asked to participate by video-call from your jail cell. In either scenario, at the initial arraignment the magistrate will inform you of the charges against you and your rights as a criminal defendant. At this point, you may be able to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

If you plead not-guilty, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled – usually within one to two months of your arrest date. At this hearing, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving that there is sufficient evidence to connect you with the crime. At this juncture, the prosecutor may also offer you a plea agreement, under which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence or a conviction for a lesser crime, like reckless driving.

It’s essential for you to have a good lawyer at the preliminary hearing. It’s the first opportunity to challenge the charges against you, and to make pretrial motions. Motions are a mechanism for asking the court to take action, such as rejecting illegally obtained evidence, ordering the police to produce the personnel file on the officers who arrested, you or even dismissing the charges against you where there is evidence of wrongdoing on the police’s part.

What Are the Alternatives to a DUI Trial?

By having a Pittsburgh DUI lawyer at the preliminary hearing, you may be able to resolve your case without going to trial. One good option could be a beneficial plea deal. A prosecutor’s first offer is almost never their last, and experienced attorneys know how to negotiate the best plea deal possible for their clients. In some cases, the charges may even get dismissed at the preliminary hearing if your lawyer spots a significant weakness in the prosecutor’s case.

Another alternative to a DUI trial is Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD. If you are a first-time offender who hasn’t caused any injuries, and you plead guilty, you can opt in to two year program of treatment and community service. If you successfully complete the program, your DUI conviction will be removed from your criminal record. The requirements for ARD vary from county to county, so you should ask your defense lawyer if enrolling in your local program is possible and beneficial to your case.

Taking a DUI Case to Trial

If you refuse to plead guilty, and the prosecutor convinces the judge magistrate that there is enough legitimate evidence against you, your DUI case will proceed to trial. To the surprise of many defendants, there is no right to a jury trial in most Pennsylvania DUI cases. This is because a DUI is classified as a petty offense (despite the severe penalties), and the United States and Pennsylvania constitutions have been interpreted as guaranteeing jury trials only for serious crimes.

So, unless your DUI case is being charged as a felony, such as when you kill someone or you have several prior offenses, your case will be heard and decided by a judge. Each side will present evidence, examine witnesses, and attempt to argue from established facts whether there is reasonable doubt that you drove while under the influence. If the judge accepts your defense teams’ arguments, you will be acquitted. If not, you will be convicted and sentenced.

Contact a DUI Lawyer If You’ve Been Charged

At every stage of the criminal justice process, the advocacy of a legal professional can greatly enhance your chances of obtaining a good case outcome. From the moment you are arrested, you can count on Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC to defend your rights. If you are looking for a DUI defense lawyer with experience and determination, call (412) 281-2146 today for a free consultation or use our online contact form.

Pittsburgh Sobriety Checkpoints and Speed Traps – What To Watch

In an effort to reduce incidents of drunk driving and speeding, Pennsylvania State Police and local police departments use a variety of techniques including sobriety checkpoints, and speed traps. Both of these techniques are legal, even if they’re not tied to specific suspicious activity, and they result in countless numbers of arrests each year.

If you’ve been stopped for speeding, drunk driving (DUI), or driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), you’re probably feeling scared, confused, or angry. Sobriety checkpoints and speed traps are by design meant to catch people unaware. But at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we know these preventative techniques aren’t foolproof. In fact, they’re frequently faulty. If you’ve been stopped at a checkpoint or speed trap and are seeking representation, call the experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today.

What are Sobriety Checkpoints?

Pennsylvania police are legally allowed to stop drivers in an effort to prevent drunk driving at designated checkpoints, known as sobriety checkpoints, mobile checkpoints, or simply roadblocks. Normally, under Pennsylvania law, a state trooper must have probable cause to stop a driver from operating his or her vehicle. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 an exemption exists for sobriety checkpoints, which, they argued, pose a low degree of intrusion relative to other forms of search and seizure.

While sobriety checkpoint locations often seem random, Pennsylvania police are required to announce their locations in advance of setting them up. If you’re heading out and about, especially during the holidays, and want to avoid the headache of a sobriety checkpoint on your way home, be sure to check out the publicized location ahead of time online.

Ways To Avoid A Speed Trap

Speed traps, like sobriety checkpoints, are designed to stop drivers who are breaking the law, specifically those who are speeding. Unlike sobriety checkpoints, they are far less transparent. In a speed trap, a state trooper will try to detect the speed of a vehicle while hiding from view. Typically using radar, VASCAR, or the ENRADD system, he or she will monitor unsuspecting motorists from a distance.

To avoid getting a speeding ticket as a result of a speed trap, follow these tips:

  • Watch for drops in speed limit—Officers often “trap” motorists right after a speed limit has suddenly dropped. Pay attention to changes in speed, especially just after a posted speed limit sign.
  • Keep an eye on overpasses—State troopers frequently spring from on-ramps to surprise alleged speeding motorists. As on-ramps often connect to overpasses, double check your speed when nearing one.
  • Monitor your surroundings—Speed traps can take many forms and, sometimes, state troopers and police officers are in plain sight. The best way to avoid a speed trap is to maintain situational awareness while driving. Some tools, such as the crowdsourcing phone app, Waze, can help drivers alert one another to upcoming traffic, hazards, and even speed traps.

How the Experienced Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

Both checkpoints and speed traps can act as a deterrent to those who might otherwise choose to drive under the influence of alcohol or speed. However, at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC we know they’re both imperfect methods of prevention. Our experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorneys have seen countless cases of faulty sobriety checkpoints and malfunctioning police or state trooper speedometers. If you were charged with a DUI at a sobriety checkpoint or were caught speeding in a speed trap, call us for a free, initial consultation at (412) 281-2146 today.

Can Texting While Driving Lead to a Murder Charge

Distracted driving in Pennsylvania can have serious negative repercussions. Whether a driver is found to be texting while driving, calling a friend, or looking up directions on his or her cellphone, the penalties for distracted driving are severe and can result in hefty court fees and fines. When an accident due to distracted driving results in harm to other people or even death, a distracted driver can face some of the toughest penalties in Pennsylvania, punishable by years of incarceration and thousands of dollars in fines.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we’ve represented numerous clients who have been charged with distracted driving or who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in a homicide by vehicle charge. Our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys know how to fight these types of charges and are skilled at defending our clients in distracted driving and homicide by vehicle cases.

Death & Distracted Driving — Is It Murder Or Homicide By Vehicle?

Murder and homicide by vehicle are two distinct but related charges in Pennsylvania that could, hypothetically, apply in a distracted driving case. When a person unlawfully kills someone with malice aforethought—i.e. the intention to kill or harm—or demonstrates extreme and reckless disregard for life, he or she may be committing murder. When a person unlawfully kills another person due to recklessness or gross negligence while driving and, at the same time, does not meet the criteria for murder, he or she may be committing homicide by vehicle, instead.

Lacking malice aforethought or extreme recklessness and disregard for life, i.e. the criteria for murder, most cases of death due to distracted driving would be classified as homicide by vehicle—not murder.

Can Texting While Driving Lead To A Homicide By Vehicle Charge?

Texting while driving can lead to a homicide charge in cases where a person is found to have caused the death of another person through recklessness or gross negligence while operating a motor vehicle. The charge of homicide by vehicle is classified as a third-degree felony and can have a large and lasting impact on a distracted driver’s life. It is punishable by up to:

  • 7 years incarceration
  • $15,000 in fines
  • 3 years license suspension

Additionally, a person convicted of homicide by vehicle could be sentenced to an additional term of up to 5 years incarceration if her offense occurred in an active work zone or if she violated her duty as a driver in an emergency response area.

How Our Experienced Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

Being charged with any traffic violation or motor vehicle offense can be a frightening experience, none more so than in cases where death occurs. The risks of having a felony conviction on your criminal record are grave, but with the help of a skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, you may be able to get your charges reduced.

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we’ve helped numerous clients fight their distracted driving charges, no matter the severity of their case. If you’ve been charged with distracted driving, vehicular homicide, or any type of Pittsburgh traffic violation, call us for a free, initial consultation at (412) 281-2146 today.

Is a DUI Hotel an Option for Me?

DUI hotels have grown in popularity in Pittsburgh due to their relative comfort—compared with living behind bars—and due to their shortened treatment program length—compared with weeklong treatment programs in jail. But barriers to entry prevent everyone from taking part in a DUI hotel. These include cost, location, type of DUI offense, and whether or not an individual is open to receiving drug and alcohol treatment.

In order to be eligible to participate in a DUI hotel, your offense and sentence needs to meet certain criteria. You may qualify if you were charged in Allegheny County, if you’re facing a first-time DUI offense, and if you’re eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program.

7 Ways to Qualify for a DUI Hotel

  1. First-time offense — In order to be eligible for a DUI hotel, you must be facing your first DUI offense. Multiple-DUI offenders cannot take part in a DUI hotel.

  2. Charged within Allegheny County — While other counties may soon offer DUI hotels, only Allegheny County currently offers DUI hotels as an option to first-time DUI offenders. Your case must be handled in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, in order for you to be eligible for a DUI hotel.

  3. No injuries — If you were involved in a DUI accident, no one must have been seriously injured in the crash. If a person was injured, your may face a harsher sentence which could make you ineligible to participate in a DUI hotel.

  4. No one under 14 years of age — If you were arrested for a DUI when a person under the age of 14 years of age was in your vehicle, your sentence may make you ineligible for a DUI hotel.

  5. Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) eligible — To qualify for a DUI hotel, you must be ARD eligible. While the criteria for the ARD program are strict, eligibility generally means that an offender is a first-time offender who is not likely to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol again. To find out if you meet all ARD requirements, consult with a Pittsburgh DUI attorney.

  6. Open to treatment — In order to take part in a DUI hotel, you must be open to receiving drug or alcohol treatment. This can involve chemical testing, substance use evaluations, counseling, and therapy.

  7. Pay $500 — The greatest barrier to participation in a DUI hotel is cost. For those who are able to pay the $500 minimum fee, participation may be possible.

How Our Experienced Pittsburgh DUI Lawyers Can Help You

Need help for your Pennsylvania DUI? To find out whether a DUI hotel is an option for you, contact one of our experienced Pittsburgh DUI lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys. We have experience helping clients who are facing all types of DUI charges. Depending on the particularities of your case, you may be eligible to take part in Allegheny’s DUI hotel program. For a free, initial consultation, call one of our skilled Pittsburgh DUI lawyers at (412) 281-2146 today.

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