Legal Guide

Everything You Need to Know About A DUI in Pennsylvania

Penalties for drivers convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania are serious and can vary based on intoxication level and whether the DUI was a first offense.

What Constitutes a DUI in Pennsylvania?

You can be charged with DUI in Pennsylvania based on impairment, blood alcohol level, or both. Pennsylvania considers a driver impaired if they are unable to drive safely because of alcohol or drug consumption. Per se DUIs are based on BAC levels. The legal limit is .08 for most drivers, .04 for commercial drivers, and .02 for drivers young than 21 or who are driving buses. You can be charged with DUI based on a BAC test regardless of your actual driving behavior. You can also be charged if you seem to be intoxicated, even if you drank less than the legal limit.

What Are the Penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania?

The consequences for being convicted of DUI can range from a $300 fine and required highway safety school to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The two main variables that will affect the seriousness of the penalties you're facing are whether this was your first offense and how much alcohol you had in your system. Pennsylvania has three different DUI tiers depending on blood alcohol level:

  • General impairment, or .08 to .099 BAC
  • High BAC, or .10 to .159 BAC
  • Highest BAC, or .16 BAC and higher

Pennsylvania has an implied consent law, which means that drivers need to agree to a breathalyzer test when a police officer wants to perform one. Refusing a test means you can be charged with DUI at the highest BAC level, regardless of your actual BAC. Drivers under 21, bus and commercial drivers, and anyone who causes an accident that causes injuries or property damage can be charged at the high BAC level even if they were in the general impairment category. You can also face additional penalties if you had an underage passenger when you were stopped for DUI. This is usually a $1000 fine and 100 hours of community service for a first offense.

If you're convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania, penalties can include fines and jail time, as well as other consequences.

Fines and Jail Time

For a first offense, you can face up to:

  • A $300 fine and six months of probation for general impairment
  • Two days to six months in prison and a $500 to $5000 fine for high BAC
  • Three days to six months in prison and a $1000 to $5000 fine for highest BAC

For a second offense, you could face:

  • Five days to six months in jail and a $300 to $2500 fine for general impairment
  • 30 days to six months in prison and a $750 to $5000 fine for high BAC
  • 90 days to five years in prison and a $1500 to $10,000 fine

Penalties will increase further for subsequent offenses.

Driver's License Suspension

If it's your first DUI and you were convicted at the general impairment level, your license won't be suspended. Otherwise, you'll be facing a suspension of either one year or 18 months, depending on your DUI history and intoxication level. In some cases, you can apply for an Occupational Limited License after completing a portion of your suspension. This allows you to drive to work, school, or to receive healthcare.

Ignition Interlock Device

Pennsylvania requires drivers who have been convicted of a second DUI to install an ignition interlock device for one year. This period starts after the driver's license suspension has ended. An ignition interlock requires you to blow into the device and test negative for alcohol to start your car.

Alcohol Highway Safety School

Everyone convicted of their first or second DUI is required to attend alcohol highway safety school. This is a 12.5-hour class, usually run at the county level. The fee varies but is usually a few hundred dollars.

Charges for DUI in Pennsylvania are complex and depend heavily on your specific circumstances. This means that getting strong legal representation is critical for getting the best outcome.  We recommend visiting with Keith Emerick Law, a leading Washington Country Law Firm focused on criminal defense – their site provides a wealth of helpful information and FAQs that helps to bring transparency to the process, and actions to take if you have been charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania.

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