Pennsylvania DUI Laws

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a common criminal charge in Pennsylvania. It also is one of the most strictly enforced laws. Each state handles drunk driving charges differently. It is important to understand your options after a drunk driving arrest and a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney can help resolve your case.

Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Laws

Pennsylvania law prohibits driving or being in the actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol if rendered incapable of driving safely or having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more. The BAC limit is .04% for commercial drivers and .02% for bus drivers or drivers younger than 21 years of age.

There are three tiers of DUI offenses based on BAC level in Pennsylvania:

  • General impairment: BAC of .08% but less than .10%
  • High rate: BAC of .10% to .159%
  • Highest rate: BAC of .16% or more

Implied Consent: Yes

Enhanced Penalties: a higher BAC level; driving while under the influence with a child in the vehicle; an accident causing serious bodily injury or death; prior convictions

Generally, Pennsylvania treats a first-time DUI as a misdemeanor and bases the penalties on the number of previous convictions and the driver’s alcohol level.

A general first-time, impairment offense is a misdemeanor and comes with penalties including:

  • Up to 6 months imprisonment
  • A $300 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety program attendance
  • Alcohol treatment

A second general impairment offense is a second-degree misdemeanor and penalties include:

  • Not less than 5 days imprisonment
  • $300 nor more than $2,500 fine
  • One-year license suspension
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) for one year
  • Alcohol highway safety program attendance
  • Alcohol treatment

A third, general impairment offense is a 3rd-degree felony, with penalties including:

  • Imprisonment of not less than 10 days
  • A fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000
  • Alcohol treatment
  • One-year license suspension
  • One-year IID

In 2018, Pennsylvania passed a new law that established that a DUI may be treated as a felony offense under circumstances, such as:

  • Three or more convictions within the past 10 years
  • Two or more convictions within the past 10 years and having a minor in the vehicle
  • Causing serious injury or the death of another person

DUI Diversion Program to Avoid a Conviction

First-time offenders may be eligible for a pre-trial driving under the influence diversionary program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). To be eligible, the driver cannot have any previous convictions within the past 10 years, not be currently facing an offense involving an accident, or have a child under 14 years old in the vehicle at the time of the drunk driving offense. The court can dismiss the DUI charge if the driver completes:

  • Alcohol evaluation and treatment
  • Alcohol highway safety program
  • Six to 12 months of court supervision
  • A short license suspension with an ignition interlock device

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

Your driver’s license serves as your consent to BAC testing if you are pulled over by police for a suspected DUI. This falls under Pennsylvania’s implied consent law. If you are arrested for a DUI, 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 criminal DUI charge.

Why Should I Hire a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney?

An experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney can help you avoid a criminal conviction and DUI sentencing. By building a strong defense against the charges, you will have a better chance at a positive outcome. In many cases, your lawyer could also negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce penalties with a plea deal.

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