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What Are the Penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania?

“Can I get jail time for a DUI if it’s my first-offense?” YES! Even if this is your very first offense, you can still face jail time.

Pennsylvania DUI Sentencing Guidelines

In Pennsylvania, DUI convictions carry mandatory minimum sentences, which are based on which Tier you fall into and how many prior DUIs you’ve had.  DUI law is broken down into a three-tier structure, which is based on your blood alcohol content.

  • Tier 1: 0.08 – .099
  • Tier 2: 0.10 – .159
  • Tier 3 0.16 & above (or drugs)

Here are the penalties based on the 3-Tier system:

  • Tier 1 Penalties:
    • For a 1st Offense, you are facing 6 months’ probation and a $300 fine.
    • For a 2nd Offense, you are facing a minimum of 5 days’ jail, a $300 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
    • For a 3rd (or subsequent) Offense, you are facing a minimum of 10 days’ jail, a $500 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
  • Tier 2 Penalties:
    • For a 1st Offense, you are facing a minimum of 48 hours’ jail, a $500 fine, and a one-year driver’s license suspension
    • For a 2nd Offense, you are facing a minimum of 30 days’ jail, a $750 fine, and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
    • For a 3rd Offense, you are facing 90 days’ jail, a $1,500 fine, and an 18-month driver’s license suspension.
    • For a 4th Offense, you are facing a minimum of 1 year in jail, a $1,500 fine, and an 18-month driver’s license suspension.
  • Tier 3 Penalties:
    • For a 1st Offense, you are facing a minimum of 72 hours’ jail, a $1,000 fine, and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
    • For a 2nd Offense, you are facing a minimum of 90 days’ jail, a $1,500 fine, and an 18-month driver’s license suspension.
    • For a 3rd (or subsequent) Offense, you are facing a minimum of 1 year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and an 18-month driver’s license suspension.

Laws for Multiple DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania

Notice that the penalties not only increase based on your blood alcohol content, but also whether this was your 1st, 2nd, 3rd or subsequent DUI offense. There is a limit, though, on how far the law will look back into your prior DUI offenses. That limit is a 10-year limit, also known as a 10-year “look-back window.” Here’s how the 10-year “look-back” works:

Let’s say you were convicted of a DUI on January 25, 2008. You now get arrested for a second DUI on January 24, 2018, HOWEVER, you are not convicted of this offense until the following month. “Since my case ran beyond 10 years, does this second offense really count as my first?” NOPE! The law will measure the 10 years from the date of arrest in your second offense so that it actually counts as a second offense. Pretty unfair, huh? This was a recent change in the law that occurred in 2014. What happened was defense attorneys were strategically waiting for their clients’ cases to go beyond the 10 year look-back window. In the above example, under the old law, a defense attorney could argue that because the second DUI offense went on beyond the 10 years, the second offense really counted as a first offense. The Supreme Court rejected that argument and held that the 10-year look back window can be measured not only from the date of conviction but also the date of arrest to avoid these types of situations.

Penalties for Refusing a Blood Test

Are the penalties enhanced if I refuse to submit to a blood test? Not anymore! In 2016, DUI law across the Nation saw drastic change from a decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160 (2016). The basic holding was that the act of taking one’s blood is an invasion of one’s privacy, one that would require a search warrant to be issued. And in the absence of a search warrant, a police officer cannot coerce you to submit to a blood test by threatening enhanced criminal penalties upon refusal to do so. How did it work under the old law? Pre-Birchfield, if you refused to a submit to a blood test, then you were automatically placed in the highest Tier 3 category. Now, because of this landmark decision, you have the right to refuse to submit to a blood test, and if you do, you will remain in the lowest Tier 1 category. As a caveat, however, one should be aware: by refusing to submit to a blood test, you will still be subjected to a driver’s license suspension of one-year from PENNDOT.

Will my driver’s license be automatically suspended if I refuse to submit to a blood test? No. Not always. In Pennsylvania, you have the right to appeal your driver’s license suspension and request a hearing before a judge. At the hearing, the judge will determine whether in fact your refusal to submit to a blood test was a true and in-fact refusal. These situations occur all of the time. Police have to follow certain procedures when they administer a blood test. They must advise you of certain warnings if you do not submit to the blood test. They must also give you a full and fair opportunity to submit to the blood test. For example, let’s say that you were arrested for a DUI on the side of the road. The police officer then places you into his patrol car and drives you straight to booking. The police officer, however, never gives you the chance to take a blood test, and he deems it a refusal. Under these extreme circumstances, this is NOT a refusal, as you were not given the opportunity to submit to a blood test. And so, at a license suspension appeal hearing, we could submit evidence to this effect and save your driver’s license.

Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you’re charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania, it is crucial that you contact a criminal defense attorney who knows the ins and outs of DUI law. DUI penalties can be extreme, and you deserve a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who has the knowledge, skills and competence to protect your rights.

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