Pennsylvania has strict and complex DUI laws in place, with penalties ranging from fines and probation to Felony level DUI charges with up to seven years in prison. A DUI is a serious criminal offense, not a traffic violation, and good representation for your DUI defense is essential.
The key to dealing with a DUI charge is turning to an experienced team of DUI attorneys for help. The Team at Manchester and Associates has extensive knowledge in how the Roadside Field Sobriety Testing is supposed to be done and in how the chemical testing for DUIs is supposed to happen.
Pennsylvania defines driving under the influence under Title 75, Chapter 38 in several ways. One way is that it is a crime to drive or control the movement of a motor vehicle after drinking enough alcohol to render yourself unsafe to drive. This is known as “driving under the influence” (DUI). Another way is that it is illegal to drive or control a motor vehicle after drinking enough alcohol that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is more than 0.08 within two hours of your arrest. Another way to be charged with a DUI is for having controlled substances in your system. Even including legally prescribed medications can result in a DUI charge. Other DUI charges exist for individuals under the age of 21; Commercial Vehicles and Buses; Boating while Intoxicated.
Pennsylvania DUI Defense Questions & Answers
- What is normally thought of as ‘driving while impaired’. This means that the Commonwealth must prove that you consumed enough alcohol that it made you incapable of driving safely and that you then, drove, operated, or were in physical control of a vehicle. There is no specific blood alcohol concentration (BAC) needed for this offense. How much alcohol is needed to make you incapable of driving safely differs for every person. This means you can still be charged with this offense even if your BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) level is below the legal limit.
- Measurement of BAC (Blood Alcohol Level): specifically, if BAC level is determined to be above .08% within two hours of driving, operating, or being in physical control of a vehicle. The Commonwealth does not have to prove an offender was incapable of driving safely, only that BAC was above .08% within two hours. In Pennsylvania BAC is determined by either blood or breath test - no other testing method is approved.
This DUI offense has increased penalties/tiers depending upon severity. If BAC is .08-.10, or if a blood test is refused,, it is a tier 1 offense. If BAC is between .10-.16 or you there is an associated road traffic accident, it’s a tier 2 offense. If BAC is .16 or higher or you refused a breath test, that’s a tier 3 offense. The higher the tier, the more severe the punishment can be if convicted.
For more specific information about possible punishments for DUI tiers and number of offenses please see the chart provided in our resources section.
Yes. In fact, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania individuals are almost always charged with multiple counts of DUI. There are multiple ways a DUI can be charged. The Commonwealth will charge a Defendant with everything they can at the beginning of the case rather than try to add it later. Even if someone is not charged with multiple DUIs initially, these extra DUI charges will almost certainly be added by the District Attorney office later in the process.
For example - if you are charged with an alcohol based offense, it is not uncommon to be charged with all the DUIs that relate to alcohol. That would mean all three tiers as well as an incapable of safe driving DUI charge, for a total of four charges. There could be even more possible DUI charges if there are controlled substances involved, if you are under 21, or if you were operating a commercial or school vehicle.
However, even if someone is charged and convicted with multiple offenses, these offenses combine for the purpose of sentencing. In other words, you can only be sentenced for one count of DUI for an incident regardless of the number of charges. The Commonwealth will always ask the Court to impose a sentence for the DUI offense that incurs the most severe punishment.
Field Sobriety Tests, also known as FSTs, created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They were designed to help police determine if a person is impaired by alcohol. Three main tests are used, normally in addition to a Portable Breath Test (PBT). The results of these tests are used to establish Probable Cause to request a blood test or more reliable breath test.The three main FTSs are:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: This test is done with a pen or small light to examine the movements of the pupils of the eyes. If your pupils involuntary move during this test it could be a sign of impairment.
- Walk and Turn Test: This test is a nine step, heel to toe, straight line walking test, and is used to measure coordination and balance to show signs of impairment.
- One Leg Stand Test: This test involves standing on one leg with the other leg about six inches off the ground, while counting out loud. This test is also used to measure coordination and balance to show signs of impairment. .
Individuals with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) must be extremely careful with using alcohol, as well as any and all other controlled substances (including prescribed medications). A CDL driver who is charged with a DUI can lose their Commercial License even if they were not using their CDL when they committed the alleged crime. This means that if you are convicted of a DUI even in your personal vehicle you will lose your CDL.
The first time a CDL holder is convicted of a DUI, they will lose their Commercial Driver’s License for a period of 1 year. If they are caught for a DUI or other major offense a second time, according to PENNDOT rules, they will be banned for life from having a CDL. In other words, the Commercial Driver’s License only allows ONE mistake - a second mistake means a lifetime ban.
If you have a HAZMAT Certification along with a CDL, there is a 3-year ban on the HAZMAT for a first offense. A second offense is a life time ban with your CDL.
Yes. The number and kinds of programs available to you for your case will depend on your particular circumstances and which county is prosecuting your case. The most widely available programs are:
- Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
- Restrictive Punishment (RP) (formally known as County Intermediate Punishment (CIP or IP)
- Treatment Court (DUI Court or Drug Court)
- State Drug Treatment Program (SDTP) (formally known as State Intermediate Punishment (SIP))
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is designed for first time offenders. There are instances where an individual may enter into this program more then once, but these are rare. If you are accepted into the ARD Program you will be placed on supervision for up to two years. You will have to comply with any conditions the Court deems appropriate. These typically include community service, a drug and alcohol assessment and treatment as recommended, and no non-prescribed drug or alcohol during the time of the program. This Program offers several benefits:
- It removes the mandatory jail time required for DUI convictions
- It substantially reduces and can in certain situations eliminate license suspensions
- At the completion of the Program all of the charges placed into the Program are dismissed and you will not have a conviction on your Criminal Record for any of those charges
- Upon completing the program you will be eligible to expunge the charges that were placed into the program from your criminal record.
Restrictive Punishment (RP). This is a County run Program that is for First Offenders that are not eligible for ARD, people with a Second DUI Offense, and in some cases and counties people charged with a Third DUI Offense. This Program allows you to serve a portion of up to your entire mandatory jail sentence on In-Home Confinement (also known as House Arrest). Often the time spent on In-Home Confinement is longer then the time that you would have spent if you would have instead opted to go to jail. The benefits of this program is that you do not have to spend as much time in jail, you can and will be required to maintain your employment, and continue with treatment as recommended. This could be either out-patient or in-patient treatment.
Treatment Court. This Program is a County Program designed in most cases for people charged with DUIs who are in need of treatment and extensive supervision. This Program is usually not available unless the individual does not qualify for ARD or RP. These Treatment Courts are heavily based in treatment and supervision. Usually there is some jail time required in this program, however the time of incarceration is greatly reduced from the mandatory jail time required by statute. Most Treatment Courts require their participants to attend treatment which can be anything from an In-Patient facility, to daily meetings both individually and group, to NA and AA meetings depending on what the Treatment Court team deems appropriate for you. Participants in Treatment Court appear at the Courthouse, usually bi-weekly, to meet with the Judge and other members of the Treatment Court team who monitor all of the participants progress. In addition the participants will meet regularly with their probation officer and other members of the treatment team who closely monitor your progress in the program. In addition to treatment the program is also able to help participants with finding housing and employment. This program is designed to address the participants addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.
State Drug Treatment Program (SDTP). This Program is only available for people who have been sentenced to a state prison sentence of at least two years. You will be evaluated by the Department of Corrections (DOC) for this program after you are sentenced. If accepted into the program you will serve a portion of your sentence in jail. Then a portion of your sentence in an In-patient facility, and a portion of your sentence at a half-way house. This program usually last for two years.
First and foremost, if you believe you may have an issue with substance abuse; either controlled substances and/or alcohol, you should get a drug and alcohol evaluation from a licensed treatment provider.
Pennsylvania law does make allowances for people who get treatment before they are sentenced. It always makes a good impression with the Judge and prosecuting attorney if a Defendant voluntarily seeks treatment without being ordered to by the Court. Additionally if you successfully complete treatment, the court may (but does not have to), count the days spent in an in-patient facility as credit towards any jail sentence you may receive. This is at the discretion of the Judge and is determined at sentencing. The Judge usually has the benefit of a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI), which can be used to show the Judge details of your treatment prior to sentencing.
ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. It is a pre-trial diversionary program. This particular diversionary program is usually offered only to first time offenders of non-serious offenses, typically misdemeanors where no one was hurt. If accepted into the ARD Program you will be placed on supervision prior to any conviction or guilty plea. The length of supervision can last up to 24 months. If you are being placed into this program because of a DUI you will also have to attend and complete the mandatory Highway Safety classes. You may also be required to have a drug and alcohol analysis completed and complete treatment as recommended. In addition most DUIs still carry a license suspension even in the ARD program. The length of suspension will depend on your Blood Alcohol level. No suspension for BAC less than .10, 30 days for BAC between .10 and .16, and 60 days for BAC over .16. There can also be additional suspensions if you are in possession of alcohol and under the age of 21. First for the DUI you will have a 90 day suspension then the possession of alcohol will have an additional 90 day suspension. Cost and fines for the ARD program range vary across the state they usually range from $1500-2500.
Once you complete the ARD program some major benefits will be available to you. First, there is no jail sentence when you enter into the ARD program. Second the license suspension is greatly reduced from 12 months to as stated above for DUI offenses. Third, you are never convicted when you enter the ARD program, thus this allows for the charged to be dismissed and for you to expunge them from your criminal record. Even if your case is expunged if you are charged with another DUI offense in the 10 years after the expunged offense will still count as a first offense. This means that any subsequent DUI will be considered a second offense subject to more jail time and license suspensions. This expungement does not remove the license suspension from your driving record. These benefits sound great and this is why most people think that ARD is the easy way out to get out of trouble with the Court. In most cases this might be true but not all.
Some people will not be eligible for ARD if they have a prior criminal conviction, were involved in a crash that resulted in serious injury or death, had a minor under the age of 14 in the vehicle at the time of DUI arrest, or if the DA is just not willing to offer the program. The ARD program is controlled by the District Attorney; they must initially aprove you for the program. Then you will be presented to the Court for final acceptance. There is no “right” to ARD and either the DA or the Judge could deny you admission for many reasons.
With that being said the ARD program is still a very appealing program for most individuals, however there are some situations were accepting this program may have very bad unintended consequences. For example if you have a CDL and take the ARD program, this will count as a major violation against your CDL meaning that your CDL will be suspended for at least 12 months. If this is your second major violation against your CDL then it will result in a lifetime ban for your CDL. In addition if you hold a professional license; doctor, pilot, lawyer, school teacher or nurse, you may still be subject to penalties by your regulatory bodies. You must contact them first to understand the collateral consequences that could result from entering into the ARD program. Once you have all the ramifications figured out then you can make an educated decision on whether or not ARD is right for you.
Pennsylvania's Driving Under the Influence statute allows for police officers to make arrest for DUI if some has actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle, even if they are not actively driving the vehicle. The Courts have interpreted this to mean that, if an individual is either in or around a vehicle with the keys in their possession allowing them to operate the vehicle they are in actual physical control of the vehicle.
This means that if you are leaving an establishment and feel that you are unable to drive home you can be charged with a DUI for getting into your vehicle to sleep it off, even if you do not move your vehicle. The police can and will likely charge you with a DUI. In Pennsylvania you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence if you are on a highway or traffic way. In basic terms this is a road or other area in which people can operate their vehicles which is open to the public. This includes parking garages and parking lots, and even private land. Because of all of these nuances it is important to hire a firm with experience in all kinds of DUI situations.
A BAC test is one of two chemical test allowed under Pennsylvania law for DUI offenses. If suspected of a DUI the police may ask you to submit to either a Blood Test or a Breath test. Both of these can be used to determine Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level. The police can only ask for one of these tests if they have probable cause to believe you are under the influence of alcohol and are incapable of driving safely. Whether or not your refuse to submit to a BAC test is ultimately your decision, there are different consequences depending on the type of test requested by the police. Whether or not it is in your best interest to refuse the test depends on the type of test requested and on your personal history with previous DUI convictions.
If you refuse to agree to a BAC test - PennDOT can punish you through civil law by suspending your driver’s license for a minimum of 12 months. PennDOT does this by suspending your privlidge to drive in Pennsylvania. If you have a Pennsylvania license you will be required to turn that license into PennDOT. If you have an out of state license you will have to submit a form acknowledging your suspension of driving privileges in Pennsylvania. If the state which issued your license finds out about the suspension they can suspend your license, but this depends completely on each individual state and their laws handling such matters. If you refuse a BAC test, the officer will have to fill out the refusal paperwork and mail this paperwork into PennDOT. There is sometimes a delay between the refusal and the filing so there is sometimes opportunity for an intervention before the filing with PennDOT occurs. If not then PennDOT will send you suspension paperwork and tell you when and where to turn in your license. This suspension can be appealed; however, there is a strict deadline of 30 days to appeal this suspension, determined by the 'mail by' date on the letter of suspension from PennDOT.
In addition to the civil license suspension, you will still be charged with a DUI. If you refused a blood test your offense will be the lowest tier of DUI. If you refused a breath test your offense will be increased to the highest tier of DUI. The Courts have made this distinction between Breath and Blood samples, stating that there is a distinction between capturing the air that you breath out and using a needle to puncture your skin to remove a blood sample. Thus if you are presented with a breath test it is almost always in your best interest to not refuse the test. If you do and are then subsequently charged and convicted of the DUI the charge will be to the highest level of DUI possible. With a breath test it is usually better to provide the sample as your results may be in a lower level or not above the legal level at all.
When a Blood test is requested each individual will have to make their own choice. If you are requested to take a Blood test and you refuse, your DUI charges will remain in the lowest level of DUI. This could greatly reduce the criminal penalties that you could be facing. However, you will receive the additional minimum 12 month license suspension from PennDOT for refusing the test. Where this really matters is when an individual is facing a second or subsequent DUI, as the lowest tier DUI can keep an individual in county jail, while the higher tiers could be state prison sentences. Thus whether or not you refuse a blood test will be your decision based on your own personal history and what you are willing to risk moving forward with the different punishments.
If you refuse the BAC test then there are no results for your lawyer to challenge in Court. In addition your refusal can and will be used against you by the District Attorney in an effort to get a conviction for the DUI offense.
For individuals who do not have a Pennsylvania driver’s license, you need to be very careful when you receive a DUI in the state of Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of a DUI in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania cannot suspend your out of state license but what they will do is suspend your driving privledges in the state of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will send you your suspension information telling you to turn PA your driver license in to them. Since you do not have a PA license you need to fill out a PennDOT form that says, “I acknowledge my suspension in the state of Pennsylvania” and state on that form that you are not licensed in Pennsylvania. You will then send this form into PennDOT instead to your drivers license. PennDOT will hold on to that form until your suspension is up. You will also have to pay a restoration fee and complete any other requirements that are in the suspension information that PennDOT sent to you. Once everything is complete PennDOT will restore your driving privledges in the state of Pennsylvania.
The big catch here is if the state where your license is issued from finds out about the suspension in the state of Pennsylvania through reciprocity. If your home state has reciprocity with PA your home state would be made aware of the PA suspension and they could also suspend your license. Pennsylvania can only suspend you in the state of Pennsylvania. The state that issued you your license can suspend your license for an offense that you committed in the state of Pennsylvania. The length of that suspension is dependent on the laws in that particular state. Your license could be suspend for the same amount of time as Pennsylvania or they could actually suspend you for a longer period of time depending on their laws.
The first thing people need to understand is that you are not legally obligated to do a whole lot at a traffic stop. You should be cordial and respectful with the officer and you want to comply with their commands. If they ask you to turn the car off or get out of the vehicle then comply and do that. However, your only legal duty in the state of Pennsylvania is to provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You do not have to say or provide anything else. If the police are asking you “Why did I pull you over,” you do not have to answer that. You don’t have to speculate on what you may or may not have been doing that was illegal. This also goes to the Field Sobriety Tests that offiers may ask you to perform. You can choose to decline these tests. There are a various numbers of reasons why you might decline to do those tests. However, if the officer asks you to give a breath or blood test, there are ramifications for declining or refusing to take those tests.
There are three different levels of custody. Each level bring new rights and protections for you. Just because you were pulled over and the officer is asking you questions does not mean you have to be “Mirandized” or “read your rights”.
The lowest level is a “Mere Encounter” is where you happen to come into contact with a police officer on the street or driving down the road. This is simply a mere encounter with the officer; the officer was not looking for you, you both just happened to be there at the same time. Basically, your only obligation here to the officer is if they ask for identification, you must provide it. Other than that, you do not have to do anything else for the officer or answer any of their questions.
The next level is an “Investigatory Detention”. This is your typical traffic stop where you are pulled over. The officer has some reasonable belief that you may have committed some type of offense. They can legally briefly detain you to investigate that offense. This gives them a little bit broader powers to detain you for a period of time to determine whether or not a law has been violated. They are allowed to investigate what law they believe you broke until they determine whether they have enough evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed. At that point, you are detained, but your rights have not fully kicked in at this point. Many individuals get “investigative detention” confused with the next level, which is called “custodial detention.” While it is true that you are being detained with “investigative detention,” it’s only for investigative purposes. At this level the officer does not have to “mirandize” or “read you your rights” and you do not have to answer any questions.
The highest level is “Custodial Detention.” This is the equivalent of a full blown arrest. You are not free to leave and the officers at this level must read you your rights before they start to question you. In other wards now you need to be “Mirandized”. What this means is that you can be in custodial detention and not receive you Miranda Rights as long as the police are not asking you questions about the case. Once the officers start interrogating you, then your rights apply and they must notify you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. In addition at this level you are not required to answer any of their questions.
Regardless of whether or not you were “Mirandized” or “read your rights” you always have the option and right to remain silent and not answer any questions asked by the police.
Pennsylvania DUI Crimes & General Information
- Driving Under the Influence - General Impairment
- Driving Under the Influence with a BAC between .08-.10
- Driving Under the Influence with a BAC between .10-.16
- Driving Under the Influence with a BAC over .16
- Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance
- Driving Under Suspension
- Aggravated Assault while DUI
- Homicide by Vehicle while DUI
- First Offense DUI
- Second Offense DUI
- Third Offense DUI
- Fourth Offense DUI
- Boating While Intoxicated
Classified in PA as a Felony 3, punishable by up to 7 years in jail and a maximum fine of $15,000.00. An additional 2 years of jail time can be requested by the District Attorney if the offense occurred in an active workzone; 2 additional years of jail time can also be added if you are also convicted of driving without a license, driving while license is suspended, texting while driving, duties for emergency vehicles, or duties in emergency response areas.
In order for you to be convicted of aggravated assault by vehicle, the District Attorney’s office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted recklessly or with gross negligence while operating a vehicle; that their operation of the vehicle caused serious bodily injury to another person; and that you also violated any vehicle code offense relating to the operation or use of a vehicle. 'Serious bodily injury' is defined as "bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or cause serious permanent disfigurement or long lasting loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ". The offense committed cannot be the offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) as there is a separate offense for DUI situations called Aggravated Assault While DUI.
Classifed by PA as a felony 2, punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $25,000. An additional two years jail time can be requested by the District Attorney for texting while driving, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, failure to move for emergency vehicles, or if the offense is committed in an active work zone. The District Attorney can also ask for an additional two years of incarceration if you are not properly licensed at the time of the offense.
To prove this offense the Commonwealth must show that you acted recklessly or with gross negligence, and caused Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) to another person as a result of you operating a vehicle while committing the offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). 'Serious bodily injury' is defined as "bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or cause serious permanent disfigurement or long lasting loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ".
Pennsylvania's Ignition Interlock Limited License is a special license that individuals can apply for through Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. This license is issued to individuals that have had their regular license suspended for a period of time. It allows an individual to drive and operate a vehicle with an Ignition Interlock System installed in the vehicle that they are driving. The Ignition Interlock system will not allow the vehicle to start if it detects alcohol on the individual's breath when they blow into the system. The Ignition Interlock Limited License replaced the Occupational Limited License for DUI offenses. The Occupational Limited License was commonly referred to as the “Bread and Butter License” because it was used to allow people only to drive back and forth to work.
Ignition Interlock Limited License is under 75 PACSA 1556 of the PA code applies to all offenses under Pennsylvania DUIs 75 PACSA 3802 and Refusals 75 PACSA 1547. The petition fee with PennDOT is a nonrefundable $65.00 and must be sent certified mail with the prescribed form from PennDOT. To qualify the law requires that all fines, cost, and restoration fees are paid in full, that the vehicle or vehicles in which the operator wants to use be equipped with an approved ignition interlock system, proof of the ignition interlock system must be proved with the petition, proof of financial responsibility covering all vehicles that the operator intends to use. If the applicant qualifies PennDOT must issue an ignition interlock limited license within 20 days after receiving the petition and all other required documents.
There are waiting periods associated with this special license. Defendants who have not had a prior DUI offense are immediately eligible for the Ignition Interlock Limited License. All other DUI Defendants, if they are serving a 12 month suspension then they must first serve 6 months of that suspension before being eligible. If you are serving an 18 month suspension then you must first serve 9 months of that suspension before being eligible. If you are serving a 12 month suspension for Refusing to submit to chemical testing then you must first serve 6 months of that suspension before being eligible. If you are serving an 18 month suspension then you must first serve 9 months of that suspension before being eligible. In addition time served on the ignition interlock license under this program does not reduce the time period in which you are ordered to have an ignition interlock program as part of your DUI sentence.
For a chart and more information, please refer to our resources page to download additional information and forms about the Ignition Interlock Limited License program.
Obtaining a driver’s license is a right of passage for most Americans. A driver’s license is an essential tool that allows us to commute to and from work. For some people is it an essential tool for work. As important as having a driver’s license is to most people, in Pennsylvania driving is a privilege not a right.
In Pennsylvania you must have a valid driver’s license and have it with you in order to legally drive. If you never had a license, or you fail to have it with you while you are driving, or your license is expired and you didn’t get it renewed, and you are stopped by the police while driving you can face charges. The charge which applies to all of the above is under section 1501 of the Vehicle Code, “Drivers Required to be Licensed”. There is a defense to the charge if you can produce proof that you had a valid license at the time you were stopped, as long as you provide that proof within 15 days of the date you were stopped.
This offense is a summary traffic violation with a mandatory $200 fine for a first offense. If your violation was due to an expired license the fine will be reduced to $25 if your license was not expired for more than one year and you get your license renewed before going to court. If this is a second or subsequent offense within 7 years you will face a fine of between $200 and $1000 OR imprisonment of up to 6 months OR both.
If your license is suspended due to a DUI conviction or ARD placement, and you are caught driving before you get your license restored, you can face charges under Section 1543(b) of the Vehicle Code for Driving Under Suspension DUI related. A DUI related suspension remains in effect until you get your license is restored, even if the actual suspension length is over. Failure to get your license restored can result in Driving Under Suspension DUI related charges months or even years after your suspension period is over. Like many driver’s license related offenses, the severity of the punishment depends on how many prior convictions you have and, in this case of a DUI related suspension, whether you had alcohol in your system when you were stopped by the police.
- For a 1st offense, where there is no alcohol in your system, you will face a fine of $500 AND a jail sentence of between 60 and 90 days AND an additional license suspension.
- For a 2nd offense, where there is no alcohol in your system, you will face a fine of $1000 AND a jail sentence of 90 days AND an additional license suspension.
- For a 3rd or subsequent offense, where there is no alcohol in your system, you will face a fine of $2500 AND a jail sentence of at least 6 months but not more than 12 months AND an additional license suspension.
If you have a blood alcohol level of .02% or greater when you are stopped the punishments are even more severe:
- For a 1st offense, you will face a fine of $1000 AND a jail sentence of 90 days AND an additional license suspension.
- For a 2nd offense, you will face a fine of $2500 AND a jail sentence of at least 6 months but could go up to 12 months AND an additional license suspension.
- For a 3rd or subsequent offense, you will face a fine of $5000 AND a jail sentence of at least 2 years but could go up to 5 years AND an additional license suspension.
As important as having a driver’s license is to most people, in Pennsylvania driving is a privilege not a right and that privilege can be taken away for several reasons. Among the reasons someone might lose their driver’s license is because they have gotten too many points on their record, they have received a medical suspension, they failed to pay fines imposed by a court, or they received a suspension associated with a criminal conviction.
Pennsylvania takes a hard stance against people who are caught driving with a suspended license. If your license is suspended for anything other than a DUI and you are caught driving, you can be charged under section 1543(a) of the Vehicle Code for “Driving Under Suspension”. Like many driver’s license related offenses, the more convictions for driving under suspension you have the more serious the punishments become.
- For a 1st offense, this is a summary traffic offense, which will result in a $200 fine AND an additional license suspension.
- If this is your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th offense, you will face a fine between $200 and $1000 AND a possible jail sentence of up to 6 months AND an additional license suspension.
- If you are facing a 6th or subsequent offense there is a fine of $1000 AND a jail sentence of at least 30 days but not more than 6 months AND an additional license suspension.
Pennsylvania has multiple ways, under section 3802(d) of the vehicle code, to charge someone who is driving with controlled substances or other drugs in their system. These include driving after having used illegal street drugs or after having taken drugs that were prescribed by a doctor or after having used drugs that are normally prescribed by a doctor without a valid prescription. Subsection (1) applies to anyone who drives a motor vehicle with any amount of a Schedule I drug or a Schedule I drug metabolite in their blood. It also applies to anyone who has a Schedule II or Schedule III drug or metabolite in their system if the Schedule II or Schedule III drug was not prescribed by a doctor. A metabolite is the by-product of a drug as it breaks down in your system. Different drugs have different metabolites. This section does not require that you be under the influence of the drug or that you be impaired. Simply having the drug in your blood is enough to face charges.
Subsection (2) applies to anyone who drives a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs to such a degree that they are incapable of safe driving. This section applies to all drugs, even those prescribed by a doctor and taken as prescribed.
Subsection (3) applies to anyone who drives a motor vehicle under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol to such a degree that they are incapable of safe driving. If you have both drugs and alcohol in your blood you are likely to be charged under this section as well as under the alcohol related sections of the DUI statute.
Subsection (4) applies to anyone who drives a motor vehicle under the influence of solvents or noxious substances. Again, this section does not require that you be impaired, only that you have a solvent or noxious substance in your blood. A solvent or noxious substance is any substance containing one or more of the following chemical compounds: acetone, acetate, benzene, butyl alcohol, cyclohexyl nitrite, ethyl alcohol, ethylene dichloride, gaseous or liquid fluorocarbons, isopropyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, methyl ethyl ketone, nitrous oxide, pentachlorophenol, petroleum ether, or toluene. This section is often charged when people use inhalants, sometimes called huffing, and then drive.
The penalties for conviction of any of the above DUI subsection is the same as the penalties for the highest tier Alcohol DUI offense. For more specific information about possible punishments for DUI tiers and number of offenses please see the chart provided under our resource tab. resources page
There are a lot of steps involved in accurately determining a persons blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Each step must be completed to properly test your blood sample. Any misstep along the testing process can result in an improper result. Most blood samples for DUI cases in Pennsylvania are tested either in a PA State Police Crime Lab or at a private lab called NMS Labs. Both use the same type of testing called gas chromatography. This method tests the unknown sample (your blood) against known samples (matrix for alcohol, marijuiana, or ther controlled substance). The known samples must be programed into the machine first before testing so the machine learns what it is looking for. The known samples must be properly prepared and tested. The unknown samples (your blood) must be stored, and prepped for testing properly.
Testing usually occurs a week or more after the samples is taken from you. A few issues that can occur during the testing process are improper storage of the sample, using the wrong sample tubes, using an improper internal standard, clotting of the blood sample, contamination, improper sample preparation, having a poorly maintained testing machine, co-elution, analytes in the blanks, retention and relative retention times being off, and many more. It is important to determine if the Labs followed all of the proper procedures and protocols to make sure the test result is accurate.
If you are under the age of 21 and are charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania you will be charged under a separate section of the DUI law. The way PA defines a DUI for a individuals who are not old enough to legally drink in PA is where your BAC level is above .02% within two hours of driving, operating, or being in physical control of a vehicle. The Commonwealth does not have to prove you were incapable of safely driving. They only have to prove that your BAC level was above .02% within two hours. In PA you BAC is determined by either a blood or breath test. No other testing method is approved in PA for determinating your legal BAC level.
As a minor your DUI offense is automaticly a teir 2 offense. If your BAC is over .16 you may also face additional DUI charges under the higher tier based off of your BAC level. For more specific information about possible punishments for DUI tiers and number of offenses please see the chart provided under our resource tab. resources page
In addition to being charged with a DUI most of the time you can also be charged with purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor or malt or brewed beverages. This offense carry minimum penalty of a fine of up to $500 plus court cost, and a 90 day license suspension for your first offense. If you have a second violation there is a license suspension of 1 year and a fine of not more the $1000. A third or subsequent offense caries a license suspension of 2 years and a fine of not more the $1000. Notification of this offense must be made by the arresting agency to your parents or guardians.
If you receive a DUI with a child in the vehicle Pennsylvania increases the punishment for the DUI offense substantially. For this section of the DUI statute a minor/child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. If this is your first or second DUI charge then the charge is automatically increased to the highest tier and the grading is increased to an Misdemeanor 1. This means that your maximum penalties are increased to a possible 5 year jail sentence. If it is your third or subsequent DUI then the charge is graded as a Felony 3 which means that maximum possible sentence is increased to 7 years.
If it is the first time are convicted for a DUI with a minor occupant the mandatory fine is increased to $1000 and your community service hours are increased to 100 hours. If you are convicted of a second DUI with a minor occupant the mandatory fine is increased to $2500 and the mandatory jail is increased to at least one month but not more then six months. For a third or subsequent conviction of a DUI with a minor the jail time is increased to not less then six months but not more then two years. This is all inaddition to your mandatory minimum sentences that could occur based on your BAC level. For more specific information about possible punishments for DUI tiers and number of offenses please see the chart provided under our resource tab. resources page
Each situation is unique to their set of facts. It is important that you hire an experienced team to join you in the fight against the Government. The team at Manchester and Associates has decades of experience and training in fighting these types of cases. Should you find yourself in a situation where you need legal representation you need to contact criminal defense attorneys who know the law inside and out. To discuss your specific situation, contact our team for a free consultation at our toll free number (800)-243-4878 or through the contact tab at the top of the page.