Take 5

License Suspension for DUI Offenses Challenged in Pennsylvania Appeals Court

Appellant Jose L. Vellon contests the suspension of his driving privileges for multiple DUI convictions

In a legal battle over the suspension of driving privileges for DUI offenses, the Pennsylvania Appeals Court has reviewed the case of Jose L. Vellon (“Vellon”), who challenged the suspension of his license based on the interpretation of the state’s Vehicle Code. Vellon’s appeal centers on the definition of “prior offense” and its application to his multiple DUI convictions.

The facts of the case are as follows: On March 25, 2016, Vellon was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, a violation of Subsection 3802(a)(1) of the Vehicle Code, which constitutes an ungraded misdemeanor. Later that year, Vellon was accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) Program. However, on December 23, 2016, Vellon was charged with another DUI offense, this time under Subsection 3802(c) of the Vehicle Code, which involves the highest rate of alcohol.

Vellon pleaded guilty to both DUI offenses and received sentencing on October 19, 2017. For the first DUI, Vellon was sentenced to probation and alcohol monitoring, while the second DUI led to intermediate punishment, including house arrest and license surrender. The Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (PennDOT), informed Vellon of the suspension of his driving privileges for both offenses, as required by Section 3804 of the Vehicle Code.

Vellon filed a summary appeal, challenging the license suspension solely for the first DUI offense. He argued that under Section 3806(e)(2)(iii) of the Vehicle Code, his license should not have been suspended for the first offense since it was an ungraded misdemeanor and he had no prior offenses. PennDOT contended that the license suspension was valid because Vellon had been sentenced for two DUI offenses on the same day, making both offenses “prior offenses” according to Section 3806(b)(3) of the Vehicle Code.

The trial court initially dismissed Vellon’s appeal, but upon reconsideration, maintained that PennDOT had rightfully suspended his driving privileges. Vellon then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which affirmed the trial court’s decision. Vellon further appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which granted his petition for allowance of appeal.

In the appeal, Vellon argued that Section 3806(b)(3) should not permit his second DUI offense to be considered a prior offense of the first DUI since he had not yet been sentenced for the second offense when the suspension was imposed. He relied on the interpretation of the Vehicle Code in a previous Supreme Court case, Commonwealth v. Mock, and a Commonwealth Court case, Diveglia v. Department of Transportation, to support his position.

The Commonwealth Court acknowledged Vellon’s argument but concluded that Section 3806(b)(3) of the Vehicle Code, which states that offenses sentenced on the same day shall be considered prior offenses, should apply in his case. The court interpreted the statute as allowing the consideration of offenses as prior offenses, regardless of the order of sentencing.

Vellon’s petition for allowance of appeal was granted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to address the specific issue of whether the Commonwealth Court erred in affirming the denial of his appeal based on the interpretation of Section 3806(b)(3) of the Vehicle Code.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on this matter will have implications for the interpretation of the Vehicle Code regarding license suspensions for multiple DUI offenses.

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