Penalties for a first-time DUI offense in Pennsylvania

All people, no matter how good they may be, make mistakes throughout their lives. One such mistake may be a DUI charge. Unfortunately, even a first-offense DUI penalty in PA can negatively affect an individual’s personal and professional life.

As law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania and nationwide have continued to crack down on DUI increasingly, even those individuals with no prior history of DUI or related offenses can face severe consequences.

We understand that good people can make 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 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.

pa dui first offense penalties

Determining penalties for a PA first-time DUI conviction

Without a Pennsylvania DUI attorney, the chances of a judge giving you the maximum punishment for a first-time DUI are high. They want to ensure you don’t repeat the same mistake or want to make an example out of you as a deterrent to other people.

A charge isn’t a conviction. Your case can be won in court, but with such strict DUI first-offense penalties in PA, an experienced lawyer offers your best chance of a good outcome.

First DUI offense penalties in PA

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. You can learn more about the consequences of DUI in Pennsylvania here: What are the consequences for someone arrested for their first DUI in Pennsylvania?

Aggravating factors for a first-time DUI

Aggravating factors in a DUI are the opposite of mitigating factors. They’re reasons why a judge will sentence you with the maximum penalties. These include:

  • You had a minor child as a passenger when you were pulled over
  • Your DUI charge was because you caused an accident
  • Your BAC was higher than 0.16%
  • You refused to take a breath or chemical test
  • You were aggressive and combative during the stop and arrest
  • You have past traffic convictions or moving violations
  • You were driving on a suspended license

Mitigating factors for a first-time DUI conviction

A mitigating factor is a reason why your charges shouldn’t be as severe or a reason why your penalty should be lighter. We ask a judge to evaluate particular circumstances about your case in a motion to reduce your charges or consider your character and personal situation before sentencing.

Mitigating factors in PA first offense DUI penalties include:

  • How you behaved during the traffic stop (i.e. non-aggressive, cooperative)
  • You voluntarily participate in a drug or alcohol abuse program
  • You weren’t driving recklessly when stopped
  • Your charges weren’t assessed after a car accident
  • You have a clean criminal record and are a contributing member of your community
  • Your military service

Defending against first-time DUI charges

Mr. Kellis structures your DUI defense around your unique circumstances. People are often charged with a DUI based solely on the results of a field sobriety test or a breath test, which are notoriously unreliable. Challenging the validity of the tests is one of our most common defenses, using the following arguments:

  • The field sobriety test was improperly administered
  • You were given field sobriety tests that aren’t NHSTA-approved
  • The breathalyzer was defective

Remember, you’re presumed innocent. So if we can prove that the test results were probably inaccurate, your charges could be dismissed.

Maybe you shouldn’t have even been stopped in the first place! We may also argue that the arresting officer didn’t have probable cause for a DUI stop. If your civil rights were violated with an unlawful stop, everything that follows could be dismissed, including your arrest and charges.

Alternatives to a first-time DUI conviction

In some cases, a DUI conviction may be inevitable. However, some options 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 probation period. If an individual completes the probationary period, 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 specific requirements, including alcohol education classes.

Again, if you complete the program requirements, you can have the offense wiped clean from your record.

Ignition interlock devices

Pennsylvania law requires all first-time DUI convictions with a high blood alcohol level to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. This device consists of a breathalyzer connected to the car’s starter. You blow into it, and if the equipment detects alcohol, then the car won’t start. Even if your BAC is low, if your charge had aggravating factors, then part of your penalty is an interlock device.

Importance of seeking legal representation

A first-time DUI charge can lead to prison time, a suspended license, and up to thousands of dollars in fines and fees. If your charges have aggravating factors, you could potentially end up with a permanent felony record. Don’t risk your future by navigating the criminal justice courts alone. Choose a skilled, tenacious Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer to advocate for you.

Why hire The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis

When facing DUI felony charges, legal expertise, and experience matter. Your lawyer makes the difference between walking free and months or years behind bars. Steven E. Kellis and his legal team focus on DUI defense, and we know which arguments to use when defending you before a judge. Our track record of proven successes speaks for itself – we’re ready to fight even the toughest DUI cases.

Frequently asked questions about Pennsylvania 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 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 refuse 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 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 avoid jail time for a DUI in Pennsylvania is to build a solid defense that causes your case to be thrown out.

Our Pennsylvania DUI lawyer is ready to help

You don’t have to face a PA first-offense DUI penalty alone. Contact The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis today at (215) 977-4183 to schedule your free case evaluation.

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