The Connection Between COVID-19 and Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania

Stress and COVID

Many Pennsylvanians are experiencing high levels of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some deal with stress in a healthy and sustainable way, others are drinking heavily to numb their worries and fears. 

It’s common knowledge that stress and drinking go hand in hand. While a small amount of alcohol can help people relax in the short term, ongoing stress coupled with heavy alcohol use is a setup for disaster – especially if a person drinks and gets behind the wheel.

COVID and DUIs: Money

You should never drive drunk or under the influence of other substances. If you do, you’re not only putting yourself and others in danger, but you’re at risk of getting charged with a DUI offense. If you’re already struggling financially due to COVID-19, you’ll have even more trouble paying the bills, tickets, and fines related to a DUI.

Pennsylvania has a $300 minimum fine for first-time DUI offenders with a BAC threshold of 0.10. For a person who’s been drinking and decided to drive somewhere, the fine could be up to $5,000 for a BAC threshold over .16.

And those are only the court-ordered fines. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you’ll also have to pay court fees, which range from $150 to upwards of $1,000 and license restoration fees, which can cost nearly $100. If you choose to hire a lawyer, you can expect to add at least $2,500 to that total. Altogether, the financial cost of a DUI can be upwards of $10,000.

The repercussions of a DUI offense are even harsher if you lost your job because of the pandemic. Drinking and driving is never worth the trouble, especially now.

COVID and DUIs: Incarceration

Although an experienced DUI lawyer can help remove or shorten a jail sentence due to a DUI offense, some cases require jail time. Prison is the last place you should be during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because many incarcerated persons and staff are in close contact with each other, the virus has spread among hundreds of inmates across the state. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Inmate and Employee Testing document, which was updated on July 30, 2020, provides the following data:

  • 304 inmates in 13 locations tested positive for the virus
  • 10 inmates in 3 locations died from the virus
  • 378 inmates in 25 locations showed symptoms
  • 218 staff members in 17 locations tested positive
  • 1 staff member died from the virus

An individual can be jailed for a DUI. To avoid this or other severe consequences, hire an experienced DUI attorney who can help reduce or dismiss your DUI charges. Some scenarios where an individual can be jailed in Pennsylvania are:

  • If an individual is charged with a DUI offense for the first time, they can be imprisoned for no more than 6 months
  • If an individual has two prior DUI offenses they commit a second-degree misdemeanor, which can be 1-2 years in prison
  • An individual who has three or more prior offenses or has previously been convicted of homicide by vehicle while under the influence commits a third-degree felony, which can be 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000

Get Help With Your DUI During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There were 49,730 DUI arrests in the state of Pennsylvania in 2018 alone. Whether or not that number jumps in 2020 remains to be seen. During the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people are driving, but they are also drinking more due to higher stress levels.

Although it may be tempting to drink and drive because you assume fewer people are on the road, this is a serious and deadly mistake. Police are still making arrests for DUI offenses; the risks are higher than ever before, and you may not have the funds to pay for the fees associated with a DUI case.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense during the COVID pandemic, you don’t have to let it take over your life and determine your future. Contact the Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis today. You have legal rights, including the right to a DUI attorney.