Everyone can make mistakes, but in the eyes of the law, driving under the influence cannot be dismissed with a simple slap on the wrist. Therefore, many states, including Pennsylvania, have come up with harsh ways to punish those convicted of DUI. These states hope that their harsh punishments will deter others from making the same decisions.
While the punishments for a first offense can be deemed somewhat extreme, the laws for subsequent convictions give more severe consequences. These laws are in place to keep people from becoming repeat offenders.
While these laws are meant to protect people, they can be exercised overzealously by prosecutors and judges. Certain people, some who are facing unfair charges or did not receive due process, may be treated in the same manner as those who have clearly committed an infraction. No matter the reason for your arrest, you have the right to hire an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to defend your rights.
Determining the Penalties for a DUI Conviction
In the state of Pennsylvania, DUI penalties are categorized according to the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of his or her arrest. While the BAC legal limit for a driver is 0.08%, a driver whose BAC is in excess of that level can face increasingly more severe consequences if convicted. More specifically, a BAC of between 0.08% and 0.09% constitutes General Impairment.
On the other hand, a person who drives with a BAC of between 0.10% and 0.159% commits an offense classified as High BAC, whereas a person who drives with a BAC of 0.16% and higher commits an offense classified as Highest BAC.
First DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania
Unfortunately, even a first-time DUI charge can have negative repercussions for an individual’s personal and professional life.
As law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania and nationwide have continued to increasingly crack down on DUI, even those individuals with no prior history of DUI or related offenses can face severe consequences.
We understand that good people are capable of making mistakes and that many first-time DUI charges are simply that – mistakes. Our goal at The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis is to calm your concerns by thoroughly preparing your case and taking an aggressive stance to defend your rights against the pending DUI charges.
Mr. Kellis has used his 25 years of jury trial experience and his dedication to exclusively defend clients against DUI charges to help them avoid the severe penalties of a first-time DUI offense. Contact Mr. Kellis for an immediate free consultation, and learn more about the strong defense that he can provide for you in your first-time DUI case.
Penalties of Your First DUI Offense
Pennsylvania uses a system for DUI penalties based on the amount of blood alcohol content (BAC) detected at the time of the arrest. Here are the general sentences offered in an average case, although they can be heavily modified to fit the circumstances.
- BAC 0.08-0.09% – Probation that does not exceed 6 months and fines of approximately $300
- BAC 0.10-0.159% – No less than 48 hours and up to 6 months in jail; fines of $500 to $5,000; license suspended for 12 months.
- BAC 0.16% and up – Minimum 72 hours to maximum 6 months in jail; fines of $1,000 to $5,000; license suspended for 12 months.
Again, keep in mind that these are only general guidelines and are not inclusive of court fees and other monetary charges.
Alternatives to a First-Time DUI Conviction
In some cases, a DUI conviction may be inevitable. However, there are options that may be available to first-time DUI offenders that can help keep your record clean.
Aside from the many defenses that may apply to your case, a first-time offender may qualify for a deferred verdict and a period of probation. If an individual successfully completes the probationary period, then the offense may be removed from the individual’s permanent criminal record.
Depending on your circumstances, you could qualify for Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which allows you to complete certain requirements, including alcohol education classes.
Again, if you successfully complete the program requirements, you will be able to have the offense wiped clean from your record.
Second DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, drivers need to be aware of the consequences if they are convicted of a second DUI within a 10-year period. Not only will you face a mandatory term of incarceration, but you are likely to face additional penalties, as well.
Because of this, you need the assistance of an experienced DUI defense attorney, especially if you have a prior DUI conviction your record.
Penalties for a Second DUI Offense
Essentially, the higher the BAC, the more severe your penalties are likely to be. For example, the amount of fines that you will be ordered to pay if convicted of DUI will vary depending on your BAC level:
- BAC 0.08-0.09% – Minimum of 5 days and up to 6 months in jail; $300 to $2,500 in fines; license suspended for 12 months.
- BAC 0.10-0.159% – 30 days to 6 months jail time; $750-$5,000 fines; license suspended 12 months.
- BAC 0.16% and up – 90 days to 5 years imprisonment; $1,500 – $10,000 fines; license suspended for 18 months.
- All BACs – Ignition interlock device installed for 1 year; up to 150 hours community service; Alcohol Highway Safety School enrollment; Alcohol and drug treatment program.
Defending Against Second-Time DUI Charges
Many times, it will appear that the state’s case against you is fully supported by the evidence; in these cases, some lawyers may advise you to simply plead guilty to the charges and accept the punishment that you receive.
Steven E. Kellis, who has more than 25 years of experience in DUI-related cases, knows that pleading guilty is not always the only option. Rather, Mr. Kellis wants you to know that many DUI charges are quite defensible, based on the evidence surrounding your charges and any missteps that may have been made by law enforcement authorities along the way.
For instance, some successful DUI charges have involved disputing the reliability of breathalyzer results, challenging the appropriateness of a traffic stop, and defects in the administration of field sobriety tests. Any shortcomings by police and prosecutors could lead to reduced penalties or charges being dismissed altogether.
Third DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania
If you have been convicted of two prior DUIs in the past 10 years, the next offense could become your third conviction. Depending on your BAC level at the time of arrest, you may face consequences that include:
- BAC 0.08-0.09% – 2nd degree misdemeanor charges; 10 days to 2 years incarceration; 12 month license suspension; $500 to $5,000 in fines.
- BAC 0.10-0.159% – 1st degree misdemeanor charge; 18 month license suspension; 1-5 years in prison; fines between $1,500 and $10,000.
- BAC 0.16% and up – 1st degree misdemeanor charges and penalties similar to above.
- All BACs – Drug and alcohol treatment; Alcohol Highway Safety School enrollment; ignition interlock device installed for minimum of 1 year.
In addition to the punishments imposed by the court, a person convicted of a DUI will see a rise in their insurance premiums, and they may find that holding a professional license is prohibited in certain situations.
Frequently Asked Questions About PA DUI Penalties
How many drinks does it take to be impaired?
It’s never a good idea to drink and drive, but you can get an approximation of what your BAC may be using an online calculator. The tools use factors like your gender, how many drinks you’ve consumed, how long you’ve been drinking, and your weight to calculate your projected BAC level.
However, no chart or calculator can truly determine your BAC level, and you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to drink and drive. Always plan to have a designated driver or to use a rideshare app to get home after drinking.
What happens if I refused to take a chemical test?
According to Pennsylvania’s “Implied Consent” law, refusing to take a chemical test after the field sobriety test could result in additional penalties.
As a driver on the state’s roadways, it is implied that you agree to submit to a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine if an officer suspects you have drugs or alcohol in your system.
If this is your first DUI offense and you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you may face a one-year license suspension. For your second or third offense, you could receive an 18-month suspension.
How can I avoid jail time for my DUI offense?
Whether you go to jail for your DUI arrest depends on 1) your BAC level, 2) if you have any priors, and 2) if you’re actually convicted. If your BAC was 0.08-0.09% and this is your first offense, you may not face jail time. However, if your BAC was 0.10% or higher, or if you have a prior DUI conviction, you could be looking at serving 48 hours to five years in jail.
Consequently, the only way to truly avoid jail time for a DUI in Pennsylvania is to build a solid defense that causes your case to be thrown out.
How An Experienced Attorney Can Help You
When you are charged with DUI in Pennsylvania, you are facing harsh consequences that could very well disrupt your life for the foreseeable future. It is never a good idea to fight this battle alone. Don’t let a poor decision or mistake ruin your life. Our office is here to offer you the assistance you need and deserve.
Call us today to speak with a member of our team and schedule your free case evaluation. We will review the details of your unique situation and advise you of the best steps moving forward. You are not alone — call our team now.