Questions Frequently Asked About DUI Charges

What Does It Mean To Be Driving Under The Influence?

If you are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol, any chemical or a controlled substance you may be arrested on DUI charges. If your mental faculties have be impaired by a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is greater than 0.08 percent, then you have can be arrested on a charge of DUI. The situation will become even more serious and will carry greater penalties, if you are found to have a very high BAC.

What Are The Penalties For A Conviction Of Driving Under The Influence?

All states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, have taken steps to crack down on DUI offenders enacting tougher laws and penalties. The more DUI convictions you have in your criminal history, especially within a period of 10 years from your current situation, the more severe the criminal penalties will be. Other factors, such as the level of your impairment at the time of your arrest, can also impact the penalties that the court imposes. Once you are arrested and charged with DUI, you need to be aware of the possible penalties, which can include the following:

  • First DUI conviction
    • $300 fine
    • A maximum of six months on probation
    • Alcohol highway safety school
    • Possible substance abuse treatment
  • Second DUI conviction
    • A jail sentence ranging from five days to six months
    • Suspension of your driver’s license for 12 months
    • A fine ranging from $300 to $2,500
    • Use of an ignition interlock device for 12 months
    • Alcohol highway safety school
    • Possible substance abuse treatment
  • DUI conviction with at least two prior convictions in the past 10 years
    • A sentence ranging from 10 days to two years in prison
    • Suspension of your driver’s license for 12 months
    • A fine ranging from $500 to $5,000
    • Use of an ignition interlock device for 12 months
    • Alcohol highway safety school
    • Possible substance abuse treatment

Why Are Penalties For DUI Offenses So Harsh?

As recent as 2003, you could legally drive your vehicle if your blood alcohol concentration was less than 0.10 percent, and of course, as long as you could safely drive or operate your vehicle. However, legislation introduced in 2003, referred to as Act 24, or the new Driving Under the Influence Law lowered the legal limit to 0.08 percent. The law also created a tiered approach to the enforcement and treatment of driving under the influence offenders. In other words, if you are convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania, the penalties you receive and any driver’s license consequences depend on a combination of what your blood alcohol content is and whether you have any prior DUI offenses.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are now three different tiers, or levels of DUI offenses: general impairment, high blood alcohol concentration, and highest blood alcohol concentration.

What Is “General Impairment?”

According to this provision, you are generally impaired if you drive, operate, or are in physical control of a vehicle after drinking enough alcohol to the point that you are not capable of safely driving, operating or controlling the vehicle. In addition, you can also be convicted of general impairment if your blood alcohol concentration is found to be at least 0.08 percent but less than 0.10 percent within two hours after driving.

A first general impairment offense is an ungraded misdemeanor where penalties may include probation, fines, completion of the alcohol highway safety school, and possible treatment. If you have a prior DUI offense, you can face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, license suspension for a year, mandatory completion of the highway safety school, possible treatment, and a year of driving with an ignition interlock device. The offense is considered a second-degree misdemeanor if you have two or more prior DUI offenses. Penalties for a third or subsequent offense include up to two years in prison, a $5,000 fine, license suspension for a year, possible treatment, and a year of driving with an ignition interlock device.

What Does It Mean To Have A “High Rate Of Alcohol?”

You can be convicted under this provision if you drove, operated, or were in physical control of a vehicle after drinking enough alcohol to the point that your blood alcohol concentration is at least 0.10 percent but less than 0.16 percent within two hours after driving.

The penalties for this offense are harsher, and like general impairment, treatment may be ordered, and completion of the alcohol highway safety school is mandatory for all first and second DUI offenders. In addition, if you have no priors, you can face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and license suspension for a year. If you have one prior DUI offense, you can also face up to six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, a year of license suspension, and a year of driving with an ignition interlock device. The offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor if you have two or more prior DUI offenses. Penalties include up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, 18 months of license suspension, and a year of driving with an ignition interlock device. If you have three or more priors, you can expect to spend at least one year in jail.

What Are The Penalties For Charges Of “Highest Rate Of Alcohol?”

To be found guilty under this provision, you have to have driven, operated, or physically controlled a vehicle after drinking enough alcohol to the point that your blood alcohol concentration is 0.16 or higher within two hours after driving.

The penalties for this offense are even more severe, and again, like the previous offenses, treatment may be ordered, and completion of the alcohol highway safety school is mandatory for first and second offenders. If you have no prior DUI offenses, you can be subject to up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and license suspension for a year. With either one or two prior DUI offenses, the offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor where you can face up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, an eighteen-month license suspension, and a year of driving with an ignition interlock device.

It is important to note that under Pennsylvania DUI law, commercial drivers, minors, school bus drivers, and any DUI offenders who are involved in an accident that causes injury to another or property damage may face the High BAC penalties even if their blood alcohol concentration is not within the High BAC range. In addition, those who are under the influence of drugs or controlled substances, or who refuse to take a breath or other chemical test at the station may be subject to the Highest BAC category penalties.

How Does A DUI Conviction Affect My Driver’s License?

A DUI arrest also can trigger administrative proceedings regarding your driver’s license before the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) if you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test when requested to do so by law enforcement officers. In this case, PennDOT will automatically attempt to suspend or revoke your driver’s license. Once you are convicted of DUI by a court, however, a license suspension is typically a condition of the sentence that you receive from the court for violating the law.

What Is “Target 25” In York County?

Some penalties or restrictions that you may face as a result of a DUI arrest or conviction are unique to York County and/or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For instance, if you have a second DUI arrest within 10 years in York County, you are mandatorily subject to an initiative known as Target 25. Under Target 25, you must submit to supervised bail and a SCRAM bracelet as conditions of your pretrial release in York County. Supervised bail requires that you follow a curfew between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., during which you must remain in your residence. A SCRAM bracelet is a monitor that detects alcohol and you must wear this monitor, as well as pay the costs of the monitor service, as a condition of your bail.

Where Can I Get An Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney?

Pennsylvania’s tiered approach to DUI offenses can be both complex and confusing. Accordingly, if you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Pennsylvania, it is imperative that you speak with a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Our criminal defense attorneys at Coover & Associates have successfully helped other people who have faced similar DUI charges like yours. We can review the facts and evidence in your case and help you determine the best strategy for fighting your DUI charge. Call us at 717-885-5830 or 717-243-9190 or complete our convenient online form to reach us via email.