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 devised 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 DUI penalties 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 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.
Pennsylvania’s new DUI law
In 2022, the Pennsylvania Legislature voted to amend the state’s laws for drinking and driving under Act 59, or “Deana’s Law.” The law imposes felony charges for third and fourth DUIs, if the person charged refuses breathalyzer testing, records a high blood alcohol content, or drugs are found in their system.
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 over 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.
Second DUI offense 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 on your record.
Penalties for a second DUI offense
Essentially, the higher the BAC, the more severe your DUI penalties will likely 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 you receive.
Steven E. Kellis, who has over 25 years of experience in DUI-related cases, knows that pleading guilty is not always the only option. Instead, 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 administering field sobriety tests. Any shortcomings by police and prosecutors could lead to reduced penalties or charges being dismissed altogether.
Third DUI offense in Pennsylvania
Post-Deana’s Law, expect harsh DUI penalties if you’re convicted of a third DUI charge in Pennsylvania.
Penalties for a third DUI offense
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 two 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 at least one 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.
Possible defenses against third-time DUI charge
The penalty you face for a third-time DUI largely depends on your BAC during your arrest. Breathalyzer tests are notoriously unreliable, so our first defense will be challenging the results of the alcohol breath test.
Some of the arguments we may make for this include:
- Your BAC test results were inaccurate
- The BAC sample was compromised and, therefore, unreliable
- The protocol to administer the BAC test wasn’t followed correctly
- The testing equipment was faulty
We may also argue that there was no probable cause for a suspicion of DUI stop in the first place. Our approach will be designed to get the best outcome for your charges.
Aggravating and mitigating factors of DUI
Just as mitigating factors may lessen your charge or DUI penalties, aggravating factors trigger stiffer sentencing and charges, like:
- You caused an accident or injuries
- There were minor children in the car when you were pulled over
- You had a BAC higher than 0.16%
- You have prior DUI convictions
- You were driving on a suspended license
- You were driving recklessly or excessively speeding
- Refusal to take a BAC test
Mitigating factors minimize the severity of your charges, leading to a lesser penalty for the DUI conviction, such as:
- You voluntarily participate in drug or alcohol addiction recovery
- You weren’t engaged in dangerous driving
- The way you behaved during the stop and arrest
- Your situation, including criminal record, background, and employment
- Military service
- Having insurance if you were in an accident
Ignition interlock devices
Pennsylvania law requires an ignition interlock device for all repeat DUI offenders. First-time DUI offenders with a high BAC and those whose arrest had aggravating factors may also be required to install the device.
The device requires the driver to blow into a breath-testing mechanism. If the device detects alcohol on your breath, it won’t start. You can learn more about how these machines work from PennDOT’s fact sheet.
Importance of seeking legal representation
You have much to lose if you’re charged with a second or third DUI in Pennsylvania. You’re facing years in jail, thousands of dollars in fines, and a permanent felony charge on your criminal record. With so much at stake, why take your chances in court alone? Instead, choose a dedicated Pennsylvania DUI lawyer to advocate for you and protect your freedom.
Why hire The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis
In a felony case, legal experience, and expertise matter. That’s what Steven E. Kellis delivers. He and his legal team know the local courts well and know which arguments to make to secure the best possible outcome in your case. We have a track record of proven successes, and we’re ready to fight even the toughest DUI charges.
Our Pennsylvania DUI lawyer is ready to help
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.
Contact The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis 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.