Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon, and welcome to our show today. My name is Cindy Speaker, and I have with me today attorney Karen Byrnes-Noon of Michael J. O’Connor’s & Associates. Karen, thanks for being with us again.
Karen Noon: Okay, thank you.
Cindy Speaker: Nice to have you as always.
Karen Noon: Thank you. Nice to be here.
Cindy Speaker: Last time I talked with you, it was a little bit scary, but today’s even scarier because we’re going to talk about DUIs. I want you to tell us what to do if you’re pulled over for a DUI.
Karen Noon: Well, first of all, as being the mother of two teenagers, or at one point they were teenagers. Now they’re a little older. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever drive when you drink. That’s the reason why companies such as Uber, and Lyft, and other companies hopefully are thriving. Even if you just have one drink, everyone’s ability to metabolize alcohol is different. It’s just really important not to do it. If you’re going to have one drink and then have dinner, that might be something that’s okay, but it’s so much better to have a designated driver. But, that’s one of the things.
A lot of times people say, “What should I do when the officer pulls me over? Should I take the blood test?” I’m sure that there are people who disagree with this opinion, and you’re certainly entitled in the Law to disagree with people’s opinions, and we also live in the United States, ass I tell many people, but we believe that it is probably the best thing to do is to take the blood test. Because if you don’t take the blood test, the license suspension comes pretty much automatically. If you don’t take the blood test, you’re going to have a very difficult time at some later point in time getting that license suspension overturned.
It’s a very low level of evidence to have the officer turn in the form to PennDOT to say that you didn’t take the blood test. It’s difficult to get it overturned. And so we tell people, take the blood test. See what happens. We’ll go from there and deal with whatever comes your way. But as I said, if you don’t take the blood test, then you’re looking at a suspension. One of the things that there is numerous cases on in Pennsylvania is that it is not a right to drive in Pennsylvania. It’s a privilege. That’s the reason why so many people unfortunately say, “Well, I’m not going to take that blood test.” Then they get the license suspension, and it gets very, very difficult to defend. They might not get a DUI, or they might be acquitted later at some point in time, but they still have the license suspension to deal with, and that’s very, very tough.
Cindy Speaker: Let me ask you a question. I’ve heard a program called the ARD program. What does that refer to? Can you explain that to us, and is that relevant here?
Karen Noon: It is relevant here. We all know that people make mistakes. Everybody who’s, you know, as I said, it’s just the way life is, that people do make mistakes. The ARD program basically is set up for individuals who do make a mistake, but perhaps want to get their life back in order. It’s a program, and it is at the discretion of the district attorney of the particular county as to the different rules that apply for the ARD program. So, if you do get a DUI, it is important to get an attorney involved as soon as possible because every county has different rules about the ARD program.
There’s usually a variety of analysis’s that you have to go under, such as there’s called a CRN, which is a court reporting network that has to be completed at some point in time. Most counties want a full drug and alcohol evaluation to see whether or not you have a severe alcohol problem, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you want this program, which is so beneficial to a first time offender, then you will do what’s needed to be done. The reason that it’s so beneficial to a first time offender is because you can actually get the charges dismissed.
We’ve referenced it, but there is a little bit of a caveat which I want to talk about for a second, but you can get the offenses dismissed. But there’s a caveat, that you really cannot, like within a certain amount of years, you can’t get another DUI because if you get another DUI within that timeframe, then it can be considered a first arrest. So if you get another DUI, not only do you have to deal with the consequences of the second DUI, but now the first DUI that you … I mean obviously if you went through the ARD program, and you did everything properly, and you never get arrested again, then you can fill out a form on your employment and say, “I wasn’t convicted,” because an ARD is not a conviction. An ARD is not a conviction.
But if you get a second DUI, you’re looking at some problems. So at that point, I mean I would suggest that no matter what, you start thinking about getting an attorney as soon as you are pulled over and you get your paperwork in the mail, because this is not an easy process to go through by yourself. It really is not. There’s many things that have to be done. There’s deadlines, and other, and it obviously depends on the county. So you know, we look into that. We make sure that things are done properly, and so that’s why I think it’s just really important for someone to get an attorney as soon as possible.
Cindy Speaker: What kind of consequences are there for DUIs? I mean, is there jail time? Is there-
Karen Noon: Well, there definitely could be. There definitely could be jail time.
Cindy Speaker: … Wow. Wow. For the first one? Only if there’s a second?
Karen Noon: Well, it depends. It depends with reference to a first DUI, if you’ve injured someone, if you’ve killed someone, it definitely can be a jail time. Hopefully that’s not the scenario. Hopefully it’s a scenario where you didn’t injure anyone. You didn’t give the police officer a hard time, and you’re going to be eligible for this ARD program, and then you can get the charges dismissed because that’s the goal. That’s the goal to say, “Okay, I messed up. Everybody does at one point in their life. I did what I supposed to do, and I got the charges dismissed.”
Then you don’t have to worry about this other times when you’re filling out job applications, because let’s face facts. We know that the job market, it can be competitive at times for certain jobs that people want. One of the ways that employers weed out people is if you have felony convictions, if you have a misdemeanor conviction. If you have, you had mentioned, we had talked earlier about consequences. Yeah, there’s a possibility you could go to jail, but there’s also consequences of license suspensions and points on your license. If you can’t get to work, you know, it’s a problem. It’s a problem.
Cindy Speaker: It sure is.
Karen Noon: Employers will look at that. It’s important that we see what we’re facing from the beginning and try to work out all of the different things that can happen to a person.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. I just want to go back to the ARD program for a moment. The ARD program, I understand in what you said, so basically it’s wiped out. You can put on your job application that you were not arrested.
Karen Noon: Were not convicted.
Cindy Speaker: Or convicted. Okay. Or convicted. But if you have a second offense, it all comes back as if it were never wiped out.
Karen Noon: It can. It can, depending on the amount of time between the first and the second DUI. So, that’s one of the things that we have to look at. When was the first DUI? When was the second DUI? And then we go from there. As I said, it’s one of those things where you would hope that, as I say, everybody makes mistakes the first time, but the second time, or the third time … In fact, Governor Wolf, not too long ago, signed the new law into effect that’s basically aimed at repeat offenders for DUI. The consequence, it’s actually a felony, depending on the number of DUIs you have. This is not something you want to face alone.
It’s not something that you can figure out and try to figure out by yourself. There are many, many consequences to this. All we were trying to do is work through it with you. I don’t want people to think that automatically we think you’re guilty of the DUI. I mean, there are many times that people are entitled to a trial, a non-jury trial in certain circumstances, and a jury trial in other circumstances. If it’s something that you feel that you can defend, then that’s another option. It’s not automatically, “Oh, you’re guilty, and let’s figure out what to do.” If the blood test comes back and there’s other problems with it, then you know, “Oh, we can look at those. We can look at all of those things.”
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. Well, I think you’re definitely establishing the case here that you just have to have an attorney in these situations. The consequences are too devastating.
Karen Noon: The consequences are devastating, and yes. We obviously would recommend that that person immediately calls an attorney. That’s correct.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. How much would it cost to get an attorney involved in this?
Karen Noon: Well initially, as you know, we offer free consultations. Many times people will, for a lot of different types of law, but also with DUIs, is that they send us the paperwork involved and said, “What am I facing here?” Then we can kind of get a better idea, and also talking to them, seeing whether or not they have previous convictions. Then it gives us an idea of, because certainly if it’s a first time DUI, the cost is going to be less. If it’s your third DUI, it’s going to be a little bit more because there’s going to be a lot of work involved in trying to figure out exactly what’s in your best interest along with what perhaps the police or the district attorney’s office wants in your particular case.
Karen Noon: … one of the great things about here is that we have intake individuals who are very … They get as much information from you as possible. Even perhaps your paperwork from the magisterial district judge’s office. Then we review it, and then we set up, and as you know, our initial consultation is free. So then we can kind of basically indicate to the person what they’re looking at, what they’re facing, and also ask them some questions about their prior record.
Cindy Speaker: Excellent. Well, Karen, thanks for being with us today.
Karen Noon: Thank you. I thank you for your time.
Cindy Speaker: Yes. To those of you watching, whether live or by replay, feel free to leave your questions and comments right on this page, and someone will get back to you. If you have questions, call our 800 number. And listen, thanks for being with us today. We know that life is busy and we appreciate you taking the time.
Karen Noon: Thank you.
Cindy Speaker: Bye everybody.