Charged with 2 or More DUI General Impairment Counts in Pennsylvania? You Can Only Be Convicted of One Count

It has been a common policy for police and District Attorney's Offices to charge someone with multiple counts of DUI based upon a single incident. For example, a person who gets in an auto accident and refuses to take a blood or breath test may find himself charged with three separate counts of DUI General Impairment, with two separate counts based upon enhancements for the refusal and accident. 

The practice of charging multiple DUI General Impairment counts will now change thanks to a recent case law development. In Commonwealth vs. Farrow (168 A.3d 207), the defendant had crashed her vehicle while intoxicated, and refused to submit to chemical testing. The Commonwealth charged her with three separate DUI counts based upon three separate sentencing enhancements: (1) DUI General Impairment with Refusal (for refusing the chemical test), (2) DUI General Impairment with Accident, and (3) DUI General Impairment without additional enhancements. After being found guilty in a non-jury trial, the defendant was sentenced to 3-6 days of incarceration for the DUI Refusal offense, and was sentenced to no additional penalty at the Accident and General Impairment counts. She appealed her convictions of counts (2) and (3), claiming that the convictions violated the prohibition on Double Jeopardy. 

The issue put forth before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania was this: Whether a single criminal act can result in multiple sentences for violations of the same DUI provision. The Superior Court held that the trial court violated the defendant's double jeopardy protections by finding her guilty and imposing three separate sentences at three counts based upon one single DUI violation. 

The Superior Court provided further guidance on the proper method for filing DUI General Impairment charges: "In the future, where a single DUI offense is subject to enhancements, the Commonwealth should file a criminal information that sets forth a single count under § 3802. Enhancements under § 3804 may be added as subparts or subparagraphs, as appropriate. This will eliminate identical criminal conduct leading to multiple convictions and sentences under the same criminal statute and, simultaneously, supply the accused with the requisite notice required under Alleyne (case dealing with facts that trigger higher sentences or mandatory sentences). This method will also allow the factfinder to make the necessary findings with respect to § 3804 enhancements, as Alleyne also commands."

Summary: If you have refused chemical testing and are charged with DUI General Impairment with different sentencing enhancements, you can only be convicted of one count of DUI moving forward. Prosecutors should charge defendants with a single DUI charge, adding paragraphs to the formal charging document (criminal information) to cover any sentencing enhancements for chemical test refusals, accidents or scenarios where minors were present in the vehicle. 

Note: This DOES NOT impact cases where you submitted to chemical testing and your BAC exceeded the legal limit. You CAN still be charged with separate DUI offenses based upon your BAC level (.08-.10, .10-.159 and .16+) and a DUI General Impairment, because those two offenses carry different elements. The DUI BAC charge requires proof of a specific BAC, the DUI General Impairment does not.