Some states make driving under the influence (DUI) a traffic violation. In Pennsylvania, DUI is a criminal offense. As such, a DUI conviction can lead to probation, jail time, costly fines, license suspension, and other serious consequences. The penalties for intoxicated driving can be especially severe if the driver was heavily impaired, below the legal drinking age, transporting a minor, or operating a commercial vehicle. Philadelphia DUI defense lawyer Lloyd Long explains the penalties for a first DUI offense in Pennsylvania, discussions situations where penalties can be enhanced, and reviews some of the factors that impact sentencing for drunk driving.

What Factors Affect a First DUI Sentencing in Pennsylvania?

According to crime statistics published by the Pennsylvania State Police, nearly 2,600 people were arrested for DUI this October alone, a figure that averages out to roughly 84 DUI arrests per day. In an effort to crack down on DUI and reduce drunk driving fatalities, Pennsylvania has adopted a tough set of criminal penalties for driving under the influence.

The penalties that drivers may face for DUI-related charges can be provoked by something simple like finding empty beer bottles in the operated vehicle. Regardless of what you were charged with, our Philadelphia open container citation defense lawyer will be by your side to help.

Even if it is the driver’s first DUI offense, and he or she otherwise has a clean driving record with no criminal history, the judge can still impose harsh consequences. This can be true if you are charged with a DUI as a Drexel student or other university student in the area. The penalties for first-offense DUI depend on many factors, including:

  • The ages of the driver’s passengers, if any.
  • The degree of property damage or injury caused by the DUI, if any.
  • The driver’s age.
  • The driver’s level of impairment.
  • The driver’s status as a commercial vehicle driver, if applicable.

Penalties also increase as offenses accumulate, but this article will focus strictly on first offenses. For legal help while facing jail time and fines for a second DUI arrest in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced Philadelphia lawyer for multiple DUIs immediately.

Pennsylvania breaks DUI offenses into three categories based on the driver’s level of impairment, which is typically measured by a breathalyzer and expressed as a blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. The higher the level of impairment, the greater the criminal penalties. The three possible categories of impairment are:

  1. General Impairment – 0.08% to 0.099%
  2. High BAC – 0.10% to 0.159% (includes minors)
  3. Highest BAC – 0.16% and up (includes drugged driving and breathalyzer refusal)

Minors, or drivers who are under the legal drinking age of 21, are automatically placed into the “high BAC” category. Even if a minor’s BAC was in the general impairment range, he or she will be treated like a high BAC driver. However, highest BAC minors remain subject to highest BAC penalties.

Other drivers are automatically placed into the “highest BAC” category, even if their BAC was below 0.16% (or immeasurable). This includes:

  • Drivers who are under the influence of controlled substances (drugs), such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, over-the-counter medications, or prescription pills like OxyContin.
  • Drivers who refuse to consent to chemical testing.

Drivers in the general impairment category generally receive the lightest penalties, while highest BAC drivers generally receive the harshest penalties.

First DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania: Jail, License Suspension, and Fines

Penalties for a first DUI in Pennsylvania are listed below, organized by level of impairment. Remember that minors are treated like high BAC offenders, while drivers who are intoxicated by drugs and/or refuse breathalyzers are treated like highest BAC offenders. It’s important to consult a Philadelphia underage DUI lawyer if your son or daughter was arrested for drunk driving, because different legal rules and court procedures apply to juveniles than adult defendants.

  • First DUI, General Impairment
    • Offense Level – Ungraded misdemeanor
    • Sentence – Up to 6 months of probation
    • Fines – $300
    • Other – Alcohol highway safety school, treatment if ordered
  • First DUI, High BAC
    • Offense Level – Ungraded misdemeanor
    • Sentence – 48 hours (2 days) to 6 months in jail
    • License Suspension – 12 months (1 year)
    • Fines – $500 to $5,000
    • Other – Alcohol highway safety school, treatment if ordered
  • First DUI, Highest BAC
    • Offense Level – Ungraded misdemeanor
    • Sentence – 72 hours (3 days) to 6 months in jail
    • License Suspension – 12 months (1 year)
    • Fines – $1,000 to $5,000
    • Other – Alcohol highway safety school, treatment if ordered

Keep in mind that DUI penalties will increase if:

  • The driver is later charged with additional DUIs.
  • Anyone other than the driver is injured.
  • Personal, private, or public property is damaged.
  • The driver had one or more minor occupants in the vehicle.
  • The driver was driving without a license in Philadelphia

To give an example of some potential penalty enhancements, having minor passengers could result in:

  • 100 hours of community service.
  • A minimum fine of $1,000.

Finally, it’s important to note that a driver’s BAC does not necessarily need to reach 0.08% for the person to be arrested and charged with DUI in Pennsylvania. There are at least four situations where it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC below 0.08%:

  1. Minors may not drive with a BAC of or above 0.02%.
  2. Commercial drivers may not drive with a BAC of or above 0.04%.
  3. No one may drive while under the influence of controlled substances.
  4. No one may drive while too impaired to operate a vehicle safely.

If you were arrested for a DUI that caused damage to somebody’s car, home, or other piece of property, contact our Philadelphia defense lawyer for car accident causing property damage.

Philadelphia DUI Lawyer Offering Free Consultations on Drunk Driving Charges

By emphasizing certain facts and details, while seeking to suppress other evidence against the defendant, a skilled Philadelphia criminal lawyer and DUI defense lawyer for Temple students and other Pennsylvania college students can work to mitigate the consequences of a DUI charge, no matter how serious the allegations. It may be possible to have the case dismissed, obtain reduced penalties, or help the defendant avoid jail time by entering a diversion program like Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD).

Lloyd Long, former prosecutor and founding attorney at the Law Offices of Lloyd Long, is an aggressive Philadelphia DUI attorney with years of experience handling drunk driving arrests, including underage drinking and DUI. He has also lowered penalties for first-time drug possession in Pennsylvania. For a free legal consultation about DUI charges in Philadelphia, call our law offices right away at (215) 302-0171.

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