DUI Laws

General Impairment

This is the basic DUI charge and relates to a person that showed mental and physical symptoms at the time of driving or at the traffic stop that allegedly showed he or she was under the effects of alcohol and was likely impaired at the time of driving. This charge is often based on law enforcement observations of intoxication. This charge does not require a BAC result, but a conviction will still constitute a DUI conviction.

Per se Law

The DUI per se law refers to driving a motor vehicle with a specified level of alcohol and/or drugs in your blood stream or in your breath. Pennsylvania has determined that it is illegal to drive with .08% or greater alcohol to blood concentration (BAC). The legislature has deemed this amount to be the BAC at which an average person would be rendered unfit to drive safely.

Per Se underage

In Pennsylvania, the per se BAC limit for someone under 21 years of age is .02%. This means that under age drinkers, and especially minors, can be convicted of DUI for having very little to drink.

Per Se for commercial drivers

In Pennsylvania, the per se BAC limit for a person with a commercial driver's license is .04%. A conviction for DUI can have serious effects on your ability to work.

Refusals

In Pennsylvania, there are implied consent laws which require a person to submit to either a blood or breath test if suspected of DUI. Refusing to submit to such a test will automatically result in a loss of your license for 12 months to 18 months, in addition to any suspension you face for the DUI.

Even if you refuse to give breath or submit to a blood test, you can still be charged and convicted of DUI. A refusal will mean that there is no chemical evidence to suggest that a person was over the legal limit. However, the prosecution can still charge you with the General Impairment DUI and present evidence such as erratic driving, demeanor, odor of alcohol in your car or on your person, the condition of your eyes (droopy, bloodshot, red, watery, glassy), and other signs to suggest that you were too impaired to drive. Also, the fact that you refused to submit to chemical testing is admissible evidence.

PENALTIES

In Pennsylvania, the potential penalty for a DUI conviction can range from probation to five years incarceration. Fines for DUI offenses range from $300 to $10,000 and are mandatory on every case depending on the level of a person's BAC. As part of any DUI conviction or guilty plea, the court requires that the person attend Alcohol Highway Safety School at the person's expense and possibly attend alcohol or drug dependency counseling. For second and subsequent convictions, an ignition interlock device must be installed on every car owned by that person.

Generally, license suspensions can range from 12 months to 18 months, depending on the level of the DUI offense. However, more stringent suspensions can apply. Commercial driver's licenses (CDL) will be suspended for 1 year or for life, depending on the level of the DUI offense. If the CDL has a HAZMAT provision, it will be suspended for 3 years or for life. Persons who were driving on a DUI related suspension will receive additional suspension, as well as additional jail time.

Occupational limited licenses, otherwise known as work or "bread and butter" licenses, are available for certain DUI offenses. Applications must be filed on your behalf with the appropriate paperwork after a designated time period. Your attorney can file the application with Penn DOT after the appropriate waiting period.

When a person has a prior DUI conviction within 10 years, the length of incarceration, the length of license suspension, and the fine will all be increased if the person is convicted of another DUI offense. If the prior DUI occurred outside of the 10 year step-down period, your current charge may be treated in a less severe manner.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)

ARD is a pre-trial intervention program for first time non-violent offenders. ARD is not a conviction and will not require jail time. Upon successful completion of ARD, the charges can be dismissed and your attorney can file for an expungement of your record.

However, like a conviction, this ARD will act as a first offense DUI and a person will face elevated penalties for subsequent convictions within ten years. There are several factors that determine whether a person is eligible for ARD, both by statute and by local District Attorney policy.