Driving while impaired (DUI) in Pennsylvania is a crime which is taken very seriously by law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors. This is because DUI can have real consequences, leading to 9,380 alcohol-related accidents in Pennsylvania in 2019 that resulted in the deaths of 299 people. Because of these potentially-severe consequences of impaired driving, the justice system treats DUIs very seriously. In fact, it is one of the only-remaining criminal charges for which there are mandatory sentences. If you are facing charges of drunk driving in Pennsylvania, you could lose your license, be sentenced to jail, or be forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines. A DUI charge can completely derail the life of not only the driver, but his or her family as well. These potential penalties should make finding a good DUI defense lawyer a priority. We are prepared to fight for your rights while defending you against DUI charges.
What Are the Penalties for A DUI in Pennsylvania?
The penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania range from severe fines, license suspensions, and probation all the way to weeks, months, or even years of incarceration in a county jail or state prison. The penalties you may face depend on a wide variety of factors, such as:
1. Your blood alcohol content at the time of driving;
2. Whether any drugs were present in your system;
3. The presence of dangerous or reckless driving while intoxicated;
4. Whether anyone else was in the vehicle (especially children);
5. Whether the DUI resulted in an accident or damage to any property;
6. Whether anyone was injured during the DUI;
7. Whether you have any prior DUIs or other criminal convictions;
8. The strength of the evidence possessed by the Commonwealth; and
9. If all stops, searches, and seizures by the police were conducted in accordance with the Constitutions of the United States and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
General Impairment DUI Penalties
You may be charged with “general impairment” DUI in one of two ways: (1) if you drink enough alcohol to be impaired while driving a motor vehicle; or (2) if you operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of 0.08% to 0.099%. If your BAC is less than 0.08%, you can still be charged and convicted of a DUI if any amount of alcohol was in your system and impaired your driving.
For a first-offense general impairment DUI, you can be sentenced to serve a minimum of six (6) months of probation, be assessed a $300 fine, and be mandated to attend an alcohol highway safety school. In the judge’s discretion, you might also be ordered to attend alcohol treatment.
If you have a prior DUI conviction, you can face a sentence of five (5) days to six (6) months in jail, receive a 12-month suspension of your driver’s license, be assessed a fine of $300 to $2,500, be mandated to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for one (1) year, be ordered to attend an alcohol highway safety program, and be ordered to attend alcohol treatment.
If you have two (2) prior DUI convictions, the third conviction for a general impairment DUI can result in a prison sentence of 10 days to two (2) years, a 12-month suspension of your driver’s license, mandatory treatment, a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000, and a one-year mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
If you have three (3) prior DUI convictions, a fourth conviction is a third-degree felony. If you are convicted of a third-degree felony DUI, you will face between one (1) and seven (7) years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, an 18-month driver’s license suspension, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for one (1) year.
High BAC DUI Penalties
If your BAC at the time of your arrest was 0.10% to 0.159%, you can be charged with a “high tier” DUI. For a first conviction, you may face a 12-month suspension of your driver’s license, be sentenced to incarceration ranging from 48 hours to six (6) months, and be assessed a fine of $500 to $5,000. You may also face additional requirements such as mandatory highway safety courses and drug or alcohol evaluations, with the requirement of fulfilling any treatments that are recommended.
If you have one (1) prior DUI conviction, you may face a 12-month suspension of your driver’s license. You may be ordered to spend from 30 days to six (6) months in prison, pay a fine of $750 to $5,000, attend an alcohol highway safety school, attend alcohol treatment, and install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for one (1) year.
If you have two (2) prior DUI convictions, you may face an 18-month suspension of your driver’s license and be ordered to serve from 90 days to five (5) years in prison, pay a fine of $1,500 to $10,000, and install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for one (1) year, and you also may be ordered to attend alcohol treatment.
A fourth conviction is a third-degree felony. You may be sentenced to serve from one (1) to (7) seven years in prison, face an 18-month suspension of your driver’s license, pay a fine of $1,500 to $10,000, be ordered to attend alcohol treatment, and be ordered to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for one (1) year.
Highest BAC DUI Penalties
You can be convicted of the “highest tier” DUI in Pennsylvania if you have a BAC of 0.16% or higher, have any amount of a controlled substance (or even a metabolite of a controlled substance) in your system, or refuse chemical testing when requested by police. A conviction for the highest BAC DUI comes with the most-severe DUI penalties.
For a first conviction, you will have your driver’s license suspended for 12 months and can be sentenced to serve from 72 hours to six (6) months in prison. You will also be fined from $1,000 to $5,000 and might be ordered to attend an alcohol highway safety school and alcohol treatment.
A second DUI conviction for the highest BAC DUI can result in a 12-month suspension of your driver’s license. You can also be ordered to spend from 90 days to five (5) years in prison and be fined from $1,500 to $10,000. The judge might require you to attend an alcohol highway safety school and attend treatment. Finally, you will have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for one (1) year.
If you have two (2) prior DUI convictions, a third conviction for the highest BAC DUI will result in a prison sentence from one (1) to seven (7) years. You will face an 18-month driver’s license suspension, and you may be ordered to pay a fine from $2,500 to $15,000. The judge can order you to attend alcohol treatment, and you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
Why It is Important to Hire an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney
The potential penalties for a DUI charges in Pennsylvania are severe, and quickly escalate based upon a prior criminal record, prior DUI convictions, the level of intoxication, and the unique facts of the case. Unlike many criminal offenses in Pennsylvania, these penalties are largely dictated by mandatory sentences, fines, and other conditions over which a judge has very little control.
Mandatory sentences therefore reduce the discretion of a judge or prosecutor in making sentencing recommendations, and even then, other serious effects of a DUI charge or conviction are not even dealt with through the traditional criminal justice system – for example, license suspensions are nearly universal penalties for someone convicted of a DUI, and that is handled exclusively by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Because of these consequences, your only realistic choice may be to fight the charges rather than “make a deal.” Having a defense attorney by your side who understands what evidence can be legally used against you, how that evidence must be obtained in order to be admissible, and what weaknesses in the case result from that evidence can make all the difference in avoiding a conviction for DUI.
The knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorneys at the law offices of Perna & Abracht, LLC know how a DUI charge can affect your life and even the lives of your family. Your right to drive, your job, and even your freedom are instantly at stake when you are pulled-over by police. We also know the multitude of ways in which the most-serious effects of a DUI charge can be mitigated, reduced, or avoided entirely. Unlike many attorneys, we are not afraid to litigate a case or take it all the way to trial if it best serves the interests of our clients. When the most important parts of your life are threatened by a criminal charge, you cannot settle for anything less than the best defense available. The police and prosecutors will not hold anything back – why should you?
During his career as a prosecutor, Ryan Borchik successfully investigated, tried before a jury, and convicted numerous individuals for murder of the first and third degrees, including Andre Smith, Tyrell Jacobs, and Timothy Jacobs, and he never lost a jury trial. Ryan now brings and uses his knowledge, training, and years of experience on the prosecution side of the criminal justice system to his vigorous defense of individuals charged with all kinds of crimes, including homicide. Knowing how prosecutors approach, work-up, and bring to trial different criminal cases gives Ryan valuable advantages as a defense attorney, and his clients an invaluable advantage.