My Legal Opinion: Always Plead Not Guilty to a 1543(a) or 1543(b) Driving While Suspended Citations

Section 1543(a) of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code penalizes driving on a suspended license. Section 1543(b) penalizes driving on a suspended license because you were convicted of a DUI. Driving on a DUI suspended license carries a mandatory jail sentence of 60 to 90 days. If you get caught driving on a DUI suspended license and you are lucky, the police will cut you a break and write you a citation for a §1543(a) which carries no mandatory jail time, but an additional license suspension of one year. Many people are ecstatic about this because they avoid the jail time. However, when the novelty wears off, and they begin serving their one year license suspension, they are not as ecstatic. My advice is to always plead not guilty to these citations. The goal of a criminal lawyer in these type of cases is to have the case plead to 75 Pa.C.S. §1501 Driver's required to be licensed. My firm has had a lot of success having §1543(a) cases plead down to §1501. §1501 carries no license suspension and no points. If convicted of §1501, you will merely be required to pay a fine. Some of my clients get nervous when I tell them it is possible for the officer to amend his citation to a §1543(b) from a §1543(a) if they plead NOT guilty and request a hearing. Some clients do not want to go forward because of the risk involved. My advice is still the same: plead NOT guilty and do not worry about it. In my experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney, the police have never amended to a §1543(b) and even if they did, at that point you could probably back down and plead guilty to a §1543(a). Earlier this year I had a §1543(b) case plead down to §1501 and my client driving on a DUI suspended license for a third offense DUI. If you use finesse with police officers, they can be very accommodating. It is important to have an attorney that is good with people and has experience dealing with police officers. I worked with police officers on both sides of the aisle: as a defense attorney and as an Assistant District Attorney and I know it pays to be polite and appreciative.

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