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Central Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Legal Blog

How fast does your body metabolize alcohol?

Imagine that while driving through York, you are stopped by a law enforcement officer. You did have a drink a few hours past, yet felt as though you waited a sufficient amount of time for it to not affect your judgment or your driving abilities. When asked to take a breathalyzer test, however, you register a blood-alcohol content reading of 0.08 percent, which you know is enough to be arrested for DUI. Yet an hour later, a blood test is administered which shows your BAC to be 0.02. You see this as proof that the earlier test was wrong. Your arresting officer, however, says that your body has just metabolized the alcohol in that time. Is that possible? 

To answer this question, you need to understand how alcohol interacts with your body's system. According to information shared by Brown University, when you consume alcohol, 20 percent of its content is absorbed by your stomach, with the rest being absorbed by the small intestine. It is them metabolized by the liver, which can process roughly one ounce of alcohol per hour. The rest accumulates in your body tissues as well as your bloodstream waiting to be metabolized. To reach the 0.08 threshold, it may take an average 175-lb person about three drinks. 

What distinguishes criminal law from civil law?

The differences between the criminal law and civil law in Pennsylvania are manifest in at least two major ways: the consequences flowing from a violation of either type and the parties involved in each case. A civil case, for example, involves private parties who have a dispute over a matter. The person initiating the lawsuit is called the “plaintiff” and the person against whom relief is sought is called the “defendant.” At stake in a civil case are injunctive relief or damages. Injunctive relief means that a court may force a party to do something or prevent a party from doing another. Damages are the money compensation that are awarded by a court to the party who has suffered a harm or deprivation attributable to the other. In a civil case, one party does not ask the court to incarcerate or arrest the other party. Civil law can be laid down in a state statute or can be found in common law. Common law is the body of law adopted from English law and developed over time in Pennsylvania through the precedent of court rulings. A “tort” is the general term used to define a civil wrong for which a remedy may be allowed. However, contract law, property law, family law, and probate law also fall under the civil law.

Criminal law, on the other hand, is a creature of statute. Pennsylvania legislators decide whether certain conduct is prohibited by law. In Pennsylvania, the crimes and offenses are enumerated in Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Code. “Crimes” are those acts that constitute violations of the criminal code. The criminal law or code also prescribes punishments and sentencing guidelines. The parties in a criminal case are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, on the one hand, and the alleged criminal called the “defendant,” on the other. The consequences under criminal law are more often considered more severe because they include incarceration.

What is a plea negotiation?

After a criminal complaint has been filed against a defendant, a prosecutor representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and an attorney representing the defendant begin communicating over the terms of the defendant’s pending criminal case. A criminal complaint outlines the criminal charges against the defendant. This process of communication is referred to as plea negotiation or plea bargaining and concerns the content of the criminal complaint and the sentencing guidelines that would typically apply. Subject to negotiation are the defendant’s plea, alterations to the original charges, and the resultant sentencing and punishment to be recommended to the court.

Similar to negotiations in the civil context, communications between opposing sides revolve around terms with which each party must agree. In a criminal case, however, the defendant brings to the table his or her ability to submit a plea other than “not guilty,” and effectively save the cost, time, and burden associated with a criminal trial. The prosecutor brings to the table the ability to reduce or drop charges, and recommend a diversion program, other alternative or shorter sentence to the judge.

Field sobriety tests not 100 percent accurate

If you are driving in Pennsylvania and are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, youmay be asked to submit to a breath test or a blood test to determine if there is any alcohol in your system and, if so, what amount of alcohol is detected. However, prior to that, you may be asked to submit to field sobriety tests. These tests are not used to identify whether or not you are actually intoxicated. Instead these tests are used by officers to provide enough support that backs their decision to place you under arrest for suspected drunk driving.

As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, there are three different tests that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved for use in these situations. None of these tests are actually stated to be accurate in all cases. Of the three tests, the one with the highest rate of accuracy is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test which measures an involuntary jerking of your eye. This test is said to be accurate 77 percent of the time.

Police attacked responding to domestic dispute in York County

Cases involving domestic violence are often quick to stir up emotions amongst people in Pennsylvania, as such news often conjures up thoughts of enraged assailants (more often than not, men) beating up helpless victims. While this may be a somewhat accurate depiction in some cases, there are also incidents where the women in relationships are the agressors in violent attacks. As difficult as it may be for some to believe, oftentimes law enforcement officers may arrive at the scene of an alleged domestic dispute expecting to take the man involved into custody, only to find themselves having to arrest (and in some cases, subdue) a female attacker. 

Officers responding to one such call in York County may have encountered a little more than they bargained for. In an altercation which resulted in one officer sustaining a hard kick to the groin and another to the chest, police emerged carrying a woman with a prior warrant out for her arrest. Officials had initially arrived to find her outside of a home complaining that she had broken her hand during a fight with the man inside. The man confirmed that there had been an incident, but stated that the woman had attacked him. It was during their conversation when the arrest warrant was discovered. The woman reportedly became enraged upon hearing that she was under arrest. She immediately began kicking at officers and throwing obscenities their way. Eventually, the officers had no choice but to subdue and restrain her with hand and ankle cuffs. 

Carrying a firearm without proper licensing may be a felony

Weapons crimes are taken very seriously in Pennsylvania. However, as noted by the Pennsylvania State Police, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania maintains laws governing the right of an individual to lawfully carry a concealed firearm on his body or in a vehicle. A weapons charge for violation of the relevant law can result in a conviction of a felony of the third degree. A primary way to comply with this weapons law is to secure a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms, often referred to as a concealed carry permit.

Generally, applications are obtained from and the licenses are issued by the Sheriff in the county where the applicant resides. There are many exceptions to the requirement to secure this particular license, including reference to individuals within certain law enforcement occupations and on-duty active military members. Members of other occupations may also enjoy circumstantial exception, as do licensed hunters.

Drug Companies’ Connection to the Lethal Opioid Epidemic

Drug addiction and even deaths have been an ongoing tragedy in Pennsylvania as well as the rest of the United States. However, a newer realization is that much of the problem originates with prescription drugs manufactured by drug companies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 50 percent of fatal overdoses of opioids are the result of prescription medications manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Prescription opioid fatalities have increased four-fold in less than twenty years. The CDC urges Pennsylvania and other states to utilize a tracking database to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of opioid medications. It has also provided guidelines for the medical community that focuses on the treatment of chronic pain with safer, more effective chronic pain treatment than opioid prescribing.

Incidences of drugged driving spike

As people across Pennsylvania hit the roads for summer vacation, it is important to be aware that more drivers than ever are under the influence of drugs, both prescribed and illegal. This issue recently came to a head for the famed golfer, Tiger Woods, who was arrested near his home in Florida.

As CBS Philly reports, Woods was arrested for a suspected DUI. In a statement given by the champion golfer, however, he states that alcohol was not involved, but that he was taking prescription drugs at the time of his arrest and had "an unexpected reaction" to the medication.

Decisions to make if you are stopped on the Fourth

If you’re into celebrating the Fourth of July holiday at a lake or campsite, chances are there is going to be alcohol involved. After all, what’s a barbeque on a hot summer day without a cold one. Also what’s a fireworks show without a nice glass of wine. Indeed, many people who enjoy the holiday will have a drink or two, but what happens when it is time to go home?

It’s no secret that additional drunk driving enforcement will be in effect next weekend. The Independence Day holiday is one of the dangerous times for drivers during the year (with New Year’s Eve being the deadliest). Because of that, law enforcement agencies across Pennsylvania will be out in force to look for drunk drivers. If you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, you will have some important choices to make. 

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