In a recent State College Driving Under the Influence case, the person was charged with a few separate DUI charges. The most severe DUI charge, in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(b), alleged that the person was driving with a blood alcohol level of at least .10% but less than .16% within 2 hours of driving. A lesser DUI charge in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. 3802(a)(1), generally referred to as general impairment. A Pennsylvania general impairment DUI charge does not require a specific blood alcohol level but instead requires proof that the person had a sufficient amount of alcohol in the body that rendered the person incapable of safe driving.
Blood Alcohol Expert Called in Driving Under Influence Trial
In order to support the more severe DUI charge that required proof that the person's blood alcohol level was at least .10%, the Centre County District Attorney retained an expert witness to give an opinion about the defendant's blood alcohol level when she was driving, and the expert completed a few other tasks for the prosecution. After hearing all the evidence, the Centre County trial judge found the person not guilty of the most severe driving under the influence charge but guilty of the general impairment DUI.
Because the defendant was found guilty, the judge imposed a mandatory minimum DUI sentence that included jail time, a fine, license suspension, and payment of the costs of prosecution. Due to the testimony of the expert witness, the costs of prosecution exceeded $8,500.00. While the judge initially required payment of the expert fees, the State College DUI defense lawyer filed a Post-Sentence Motion and sought reconsideration of the sentence. In agreeing with the defense lawyer, the judge reversed his ruling and stated that the Centre County District Attorney would be required to pay their own expert fees because the defendant was found not guilty of the charge associated with the expert testimony.
Simply stated, the Centre County judge held that the district attorney must pay for their own experts when the defendant is found not guilty of the relevant charge for which the expert was retained. In this case, the expert was not needed to prove the DUI charge for which the defendant was convicted, so the expert's testimony was only be used to try and increase the penalty that the defendant was facing. The gamble didn't pay off for the prosecutor, so they are now left paying the bill, which means that tax payers are left paying the bill.