Pennsylvania DUI Laws

Have you or someone you love been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common criminal charge in Pennsylvania. It also is one of the most strictly enforced laws.

What Is the Legal Blood Alcohol Limit in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania signed Act 24 into law in 2003, lowering the state’s legal blood alcohol level (BAC) from .10 to .08. This law focuses on getting DUI first-time offenders treatment instead of only focusing on punishment and penalties. Being pulled over by police officers for drinking and driving also could result in license suspension, difficulties in job searches, and more.

The updated law also created three DUI levels, which include, which are broken up by BAC ranges.

General Impairment = (.08 to .099%)

High BAC = (.10 to .159%)

Highest BAC = (.16 and higher)

Penalties for Driving Drunk

The penalties for drinking and driving depend on the charge and the level of impairment. The penalties depend on whether this is your first, second or third offense.

If you are found to be in the range of .08 to .099%, then General Impairment penalties apply. Penalties for General Impairment first offenses may include:

  • Treatment for drugs and alcohol
  • A potential fine of $300
  • Probation for six months
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school

A higher blood alcohol content level will result in more severe penalties. For a first offense with a High BAC (.10 to .159%) the following penalties may be imposed:

  • Jail time of approximately two days to six months
  • A fine between $500 to $5,000
  • One-year license suspension
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment for drugs and alcohol

If you are found to have a blood alcohol content at the Highest BAC (0.16% or greater) or if you have been accused of using a controlled substance, the penalties are even stiffer. For a first offense, penalties may include:

  • A one-year license suspension
  • Potential jail time of three days to six months
  • Fine in the range of $1,000 to $5,000
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment for drugs and alcohol

For second, third, fourth or a greater number of offenses, potential penalties increase and include longer driver’s license suspensions, steeper fines, more serious jail time, and other more severe repercussions.

What Happens If I Refuse a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test?

Your driver’s license serves as your consent to submit to BAC testing if you are pulled over by police for a suspected DUI. This falls under Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent law.

So, what happens if you refuse?

Your driver’s license may be suspended for one year for 1 year for a first-time refusal to take a blood, breath, or urine test – even if you are found not guilty of a DUI. Refusal to test and a DUI conviction may lead to an 18-month license suspension. If you refuse testing and have a prior DUI conviction or a prior BAC testing refusal, penalties include a three-year driver’s license suspension.

What Is the ARD Program?

First-time DUI offenders are eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program. If accepted into the program, convicted first-time drunk drivers will:

  • Lose their license for up to 90 days for ARD
  • Remain under court supervision for 6 months
  • Pay a fine of between $300 and $5,000 (plus related fees and other costs)
  • Undergo alcohol and drug evaluation and rehabilitation
  • Participate in 12.5 hours of Alcohol Highway Safety School.

Drunk Driving Resources

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drinking and driving resulted in over 10,000 deaths in 2018. That breaks down to 50 people per day, or one death every 30 minutes. Because of this, Pennsylvania takes drunk driving seriously and includes a zero-tolerance policy for minors.