Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases in Pennsylvania are taken very seriously. In 2004, Pennsylvania lowered the threshold on DUI to BAC (blood alcohol content) to .08. Pennsylvania has a sliding scale as far as penalties for repeat offenders. Additionally, they also have a sliding scale of punishments based on your BAC level, something that prior to 2004, wasn’t the case.
There are 3 tiers of DUI penalties in Pennsylvania:
- General Impairment – BAC between .08 but below .1
- High Rate – BAC between .1 and .159
- Highest Rate* – BAC .16 or higher.
*Refusal to submit to a chemical test (breathalyzer or blood test) may be charged as general impairment but carries the same penalties as the Highest Rate offense.
*Drug DUI charges are also charged at the highest rate. (Even when there is just a trace of the judge left in your system, it counts!)
DUI convictions carry mandatory minimums. That does not mean that you automatically get the minimum. Finding the right DUI attorney will guide you through the process as painlessly as possible.
For First Offenses*:
General impairment carries – 6 months’ probation, a $300 fine, DUI classes; and potentially drug and alcohol classes. This GENERALLY does not cause your license to be suspended for the first offense general impairment.
High Rate carries: 48 hours in jail followed by 6 months of parole; a one-year license suspension; a fine between $500 and $5,000; drug and alcohol treatment and DUI classes.
Highest Rate – 72 hours mandatory in jail followed by 6 months of parole; one- year license suspension; a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and drug and alcohol treatment and DUI classes.
*There is a 10-year lookback provision in Pennsylvania for determine prior convictions. This means…if you had a DUI 15 years ago….and pick up another one more recently, the 2nd offense would only count as a first offense for punishment purposes.
ACCELERATED REHABILITATIVE DISPOSITION (“ARD”)
Many first-time offenders have a “get out of jail free” card they may qualify to use given their specific situation. Acceptance into ARD is certainly far from automatic. An experienced criminal attorney can help determine if you qualify to get into the ARD program. ARD avoids jail time, avoids a conviction on your record, shortens your license suspension and can result in your record being cleared once you’ve completed the program (this is called Expungement). Expungement is important for those who are looking for employment or looking to further their education. Note that some counties automatically expunge, while others require an additional filing and attendance at an additional hearing). ARD involves a certain number of hours of community service in replacement of the jail time and extended license suspension.
Some counties offer Treatment Court (whether for drugs or alcohol) for defendants with numerous DUI arrests. This allows individuals to serve a portion of their sentence in jail (or on probation), followed by house arrest or meetings. Knowing how the local treatment courts work is something you would speak to an experienced criminal attorney about. The programs generally include substance abuse treatment which helps people get sober.
When Should I go to Trial?
This is a question for you to discuss with competent legal counsel. Knowing when to plead or fight any criminal charge needs to rely on the experience of an attorney who is familiar with the judge assigned to your matter, the district attorney assigned to your matter, and the realistic outcomes of similar matters in the county. Advice changes from county to county. Generally speaking, trials are expensive.
What Should I do if I can’t afford an attorney?
You should never go to trial without speaking with an attorney first. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can contact the public defender’s office in the county where you were arrested for potentially free representation.
What makes a good criminal attorney?
A good criminal attorney is one that can:
- Answer all your questions in a way that you can understand so that you can make an informed decision.
- Advise you of not just the possible options, but the pros and cons of each action…allowing you to make the decision.
- Has experience with the local judges, local district attorneys and can advise you about how the county handles your charges.
- Is available for you when you need them and responds timely.
Anyone facing criminal charges involving a criminal offense will likely experience physical stress, emotional stress and financial stress. No one has a rainy-day fund to pay for a criminal attorney but most criminal attorneys require their entire fee to be paid up front. RICK STOCK LAW offers payment options for most criminal matters. For a free initial consultation, please fill out the intake form below to be contacted within 24 hours by our office.