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What is a DUI in Pennsylvania?

DUI (Driving under the influence) is a common type of driving offenses related to alcohol or drug abuse. According to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code (75 Pa.C.S. § 3802), both terms are used together to denote the same thing. However, the law divided DUI crimes into three tiers based on the Basic Alcohol Content (BAC) of offenders. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is responsible for penalizing and charging a DUI offender to court.

In most cases, DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol, though it can refer to driving while impaired by drugs and other substances. In Pennsylvania, all forms of driving crimes associated with substance and alcohol abuse are known as DUI. Regardless of the particular acronym that might be used, DUI crimes in Pennsylvania are divided into three tiers based on the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). These are:

  • General impairment or low BAC (0.08% - 0.099%)
  • High BAC (0.10% - 0.159%)
  • Highest BAC (

Note that other terms like OUI (operating under the influence) and OWI (operating while intoxicated) exist outside the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. However, these terms refer to the same DUI laws in the state.

What happens when you get a DUI for the First Time in Pennsylvania?

According to 75 Pa.C.S. § 1547, alleged offenders must undergo breath and chemical testing. The field sobriety test will determine if an offender is guilty or not. As recommended by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), officers can perform these tests by:

  • Checking the movements of the offender
  • Using a device known as breathalyzer to perform a breath test.

Refusing to take the tests may lead to stiffer penalties such as automatic conviction of the DUI offense and suspension of driver's license for a year. Once a probable cause has been established, the offender will be apprehended temporarily so that an official BAC test can be carried out. If the offender's BAC test is above 0.08%, a court summons will be issued. The location and time for the first hearing will be included in the summons. At this stage, it is essential to hire an expert legal counsel. The lawyer can provide experienced and informed advice based on BAC evidence.

Generally, DUI's are costly regardless of whether an offender chooses to plead guilty or not guilty in court. A first time offender who decides to plead guilty may end up losing between $5000 and $10000. Other fines and penalties will be given based on the severity of the DUI offense. Offenders who plead not guilty and decide to go to court stand the risk of getting severe punishments.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, DUI penalties increase after the first offense. Therefore, it is very likely that a second or third-time offender will get harsher sentences, including jail time. Also, the severity of the penalty depends on the BAC level. For instance, a second offense for general impairment may result in two days to six months jail sentence while a third offense may lead to two years imprisonment. For high BAC level (0.1 - 0.159), a second offense may result in two or six months at the county jail while a third offense may result in one to five years at the state prison. A second and third offense for the highest BAC level may lead to five years of incarceration.

Based on the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program in Pennsylvania, a DUI offense is renewed after ten years from the date the first offense was filed. This implies that the first offense will be cleared from the driver's record after ten years of no DUI convictions. Also, some counties in the state provide a DUI Court, which allows second and third-time offenders to serve some of their jail time as house arrests. During such a period, offenders may continue working but will be closely monitored and supervised.

What are the Typical Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Pennsylvania?

Penalties and fines are given to convicted motorists based on the type of DUI offense. Offenses, fines, and penalties are listed below.

  • General impairment (0.08-0.099): In this level, first and second-time offenses are classified as ungraded misdemeanors, while subsequent convictions will be treated as a second-degree misdemeanor. First-time offenders may get a $300 fine, serve close to six months in probation, and go to an Alcohol Highway Safety School located in the county. Second-time offenders stand the risk of getting five days to six months jail sentence and suspension of driver's license for one year. The fine for this offense varies from $300 to $2500. Further convictions can lead to a one-year suspension of driver's license, $500 to $5000 fine, and 12 months ignition interlock.
  • High-level BAC (0.1-0.159): First and second offense are ungraded misdemeanors. Offenders under this tier may get a fine between $500 to $5000. Other penalties include a one-year suspension of driver's license and 30 days to six months prison sentence. Motorists with repeated convictions are given severe punishments such as one to five years incarceration, a minimum of $1500 fine, and 18 months suspension of driver's license.
  • Highest level BAC ( One-year license suspension, 12 months ignition interlock, and AHSS (Alcohol Highway Safety School) enrollment are basic penalties for being convicted under this DUI tier. The minimum fine for first and second offenders is $1500. Jail sentences range from 72 hours to five years. Further convictions may result in a minimum fine of $2500 and a prison sentence of one to five years.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Pennsylvania?

A DUI offense can remain on record for ten years, provided the offender is eligible for ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition). According to section 75 Pa.C.S. § 3807 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, a motorist is eligible if:

  • The last DUI offense was committed ten years ago
  • No death was recorded in the last offense
  • No underaged persons witnessed the last offense

Contrary to these conditions, the offense may remain on the record forever.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Pennsylvania?

The legality of DUI checkpoints in Pennsylvania is very controversial. Many proponents believe that DUI checkpoints are quickly identifiable measures to stop driving under the influence. On the other hand, critics argue that "suspicionless" stop is a breach of constitutional rights. Nevertheless, section 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 6308 of the PA Vehicle Code has legalized the operation of DUI checkpoints in the state. Being a secret traffic stop, the location of DUI checkpoints are always changing. Interested persons can search PA's DUI checkpoints on the internet to find their location.

What is an Aggravated DUI in Pennsylvania?

Aggravated DUI in Pennsylvania refers to the intensity of the crime committed while driving under the influence. A DUI conviction can be aggravated or increased if:

  • The BAC level is beyond the first tier
  • It is the second or third offense.
  • The offense recorded severe injuries or deaths
  • An underaged person is in the vehicle

One aggravated DUI conviction may result in prison time, a lifetime criminal record, total suspension of a business driver's license, additional insurance rates and trouble searching for jobs.

What Happens When You Get a DUI in Pennsylvania?

DUI crimes are the same in Pennsylvania. As stated earlier, the offender will be taken into custody after the field sobriety tests. Afterward, the offender is expected to appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty.

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