What Happens if I Get Convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania?
You’ve just been convicted of Driving Under the Influence. There are likely a million questions flying through your head right now. The primary question is probably something along the lines of “what happens now?”
The answer, as it usually is when it comes to legal matters, is: it depends. You will have to pay a fine, which ranges from $300 for a first offense to anywhere between $500 to $5,000 for multiple DUI offenses within 10 years. You will also likely be sentenced to perform community service, which can be up to 150 hours depending on the severity of the offense and whether this is your first DUI. Finally, unless this was your first offense and your impairment level was low, you will likely be forced to attend drug and alcohol counseling, which lasts several weeks.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and DUI Arrest
Other aspects of your conviction, such as whether you will serve any jail time, are determined by several factors. One factor is your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest. Your BAC is determined by blood testing, which police will ask you to consent to at the time of your arrest. Under Pennsylvania law, if you refuse blood testing and are subsequently convicted of DUI, you will be given a mandatory jail sentence. This varies depending on whether this is your first offense, and could range from three days to one year. Your BAC determines your level of impairment: if your BAC is between .08% but less than .10%, you are categorized as generally impaired. “High impairment” is when your BAC is between .10% and .16%, and “Highest impairment” is when your BAC is .16% or greater.
Another important factor is whether this is your first DUI arrest. If fewer than 10 years have passed since your first DUI conviction, you will face steeper fines and more jail time than you would have if this were your first DUI. If this is your first DUI offense in 10 years, you may qualify for something called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). ARD is extremely important and something you should ask your lawyer about; if you qualify for ARD, you will avoid jail time and receive a shorter suspension of your driver’s license. You will not qualify for ARD if:
- you committed a prior DUI offense in the past 10 years;
- someone was seriously injured or killed as a result of the DUI;
- there was a minor under 14 years of age in the car with you at the time of the arrest.
If sentenced to ARD, you will be placed on probation for at least six months and as long as 12 months depending on your impairment level. Your driver’s license will not be suspended if you are not a minor and your BAC level was general impairment. Your license will be suspended for 30 days if your BAC is at the high impairment level, 60 days if your BAC is at the highest impairment level, and 90 days if you are a minor, regardless of impairment level. In addition to community service, it is likely you will also attend several weeks of counseling, depending on the results of an assessment performed at the outset of the ARD process.
If this is your first offense but you do not qualify for ARD, you may still avoid jail if you were only generally impaired, which will result in 6 months of mandatory probation. You may be sentenced to jail for as little as 48 hours and as much as 6 months if it is your first offense but your impairment level is high or highest. Unsurprisingly, the length of any jail sentence increases if this is your second DUI in 10 years, and continues to increase if this offense is your third DUI, your fourth.
If you are employed as the driver of a commercial or school vehicle, such as a school bus, and are engaged in this job at the time of your DUI, you will be sentenced to mandatory jail time of at least 2 days, which increases with each subsequent offense. Note that the threshold for DUI is lower for these types of drivers: .04% is above the legal limit for drivers of commercial vehicles, and .02% is enough for a conviction for drivers of school vehicles.
Additionally, if you are not eligible for ARD, your license will likely be suspended for 12 months, unless this is your first offense and you were generally impaired, in which case it will not be suspended. If this is your third or fourth DUI in 10 years, your license could be suspended for as long as 18 months. In all cases, if you need to drive as part of your job, in order to attend school, or in order to receive medical treatment, you may be issued what’s called an occupational limited license. With this license, you can only drive for one of these specific purposes.
Penalties of a DUI in Pennsylvania
As you can see, the penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania can be expensive, consuming a lot of your money as well as your time. If this is your first DUI and your BAC is not at the highest level of impairment, your conviction will not be as severe as if this is your second or third DUI in 10 years or if your BAC is at the highest level of impairment.
More extreme penalties, such as the installation of a device in your vehicle that requires you to breathe into it to start the car, and which won’t start if your BAC is above .025%, may be imposed if there are multiple DUI offenses on your record.
The details of your conviction will depend on what the sentencing judge determines is appropriate, but the above guidelines are generally followed in all cases. Hopefully you now have a general idea of what to expect, but make sure to ask your lawyer about ARD at the beginning of your case and about which of these penalties to expect.
We strongly advise you to seek state-specific guidance from an experienced criminal defense lawyer, like those of Young, Marr & Associates. We have represented thousands of Pennsylvania residents, and offer free initial consultations. To set up your free, confidential case evaluation, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates today at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.