DUI and Criminal Defense

Serving Chester County, Delaware County and surrounding areas of Southeast Pennsylvania

267.388.FIRM(3476)

15 West Gay Street, 1st Floor
West Chester, PA  19380

Practice Areas

West Chester DUI Attorney

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Many people who have been charged with a DUI are unclear on Pennsylvania’s laws, or how the DUI can affect their futures. Although seemingly common, DUI charges can have grave effects on your career, education and/or personal life. A conviction for drinking alcohol and driving can result in a driver’s license suspension, suspended driving privileges, jail time and/or fines. A few common DUI charges and topics associated with DUI are:

West Chester DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a DUI in Chester County, it is important to contact an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. Michael J. Skinner will aggressively fight for each of his clients charged with Driving Under the Influence. The Skinner Law Firm knows that entering a guilty plea for many clients is not an option, and will make every effort to avoid a criminal conviction for their clients. Contact Michael J. Skinner at the Skinner Law Firm at (267) 388-3476 today for a consultation.


Pennsylvania DUI Information Center


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Proof of Intoxication in Pennsylvania

In many cases, factors other than alcohol intoxication or impairment from a controlled substance can lead to irregular driving or poor performance on a field sobriety test. These factors can result in driving patterns or behavior that initially indicates driving under the influence to a law enforcement officer. Some factors can include:

  • Fatigue,
  • Disability or an underlying medical condition,
  • Illness,
  • Inattention, and/or
  • Mechanical problems.

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Pennsylvania’s Legal Limit

Effective September 30, 2003, the Pennsylvania legislature overhauled the DUI laws. The legal limit in Pennsylvania changed from a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of .10% to .08%. Known as the "per se" version of DUI, even if a driver is not actually impaired, they still may be considered driving under the influence based solely on the fact that their BAC was above the legal limit.

Even in cases in which a BAC is not available, the prosecutor can still attempt to prove DUI under a theory that the person was incapable of driving safely while operating or being in control of a motor vehicle because they had consumed alcohol or were impaired by a controlled substance.


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Common DUI Charges and Penalties in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law provides for three umbrella categories of DUI offenses based on different levels of impairment. The consequences for offenses committed each level of impairment increase as the driver’s BAC increases. The categories and penalties according to Pennsylvania Statutes § 3804 are:

General DUI Impairment with a BAC of .08 to .099%:

  • First DUI (no prior DUI convictions) – A first DUI involving a BAC of 0.08 to .099 is considered an ungraded misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of 6 months probation to complete the following:
    • Pay a $300 fine;
    • Successfully complete the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Complete an alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Second DUI (one prior DUI conviction) – A second DUI involving a BAC of 0.08 to .099 is also considered an ungraded misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, the court will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of 12 months probation to complete the following special conditions:
    • A 12 month driver license suspension;
    • A minimum of 5 days in jail (although the court can order up to 6 months);
    • Install an ignition interlock device for one year;
    • Pay a fine between $300 and $2,500;
    • Successfully complete the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Complete an alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Third DUI (two prior DUI convictions) - A third DUI involving a BAC of 0.08 to .099 is considered a second (2nd) degree misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of:
    • A 12 month driver license suspension;
    • A minimum of 10 days in jail (although the court can order up to 2 years in prison);
    • Install an ignition interlock device for one year;
    • Pay a fine between $500 and $5,000;
    • Successfully complete an alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Complete an alcohol or drug treatment program, if ordered.

High DUI Impairment with a BAC of .10 to .159%:

  • First DUI (no prior DUI convictions) - A first DUI involving a BAC of .10 to .159% is considered an ungraded misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the following sentence:
    • A 12 month driver's license suspension;
    • At least 48 hours in jail (although the court can impose up to 6 months in prison);
    • A fine between $500 and $5,000;
    • Successful completion of the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Completion of alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Second DUI (one prior DUI conviction) - A second DUI involving a BAC of .10 to .159% is considered an ungraded misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the following sentence:
    • Ignition interlock installed for one year;
    • A 12 month driver's license suspension;
    • At least 30 days in jail (although the court can impose up to 6 months in prison);
    • A fine between $750 and $5,000;
    • Successful completion of the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Completion of alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Third DUI (two prior DUI convictions) – A third DUI involving a BAC of .10 to .159% is considered a first degree misdemeanor, and the courts will typically impose the following sentence:
    • Ignition interlock device installed for one year;
    • An 18 month driver's license suspension;
    • At least 90 days in jail (although the court can impose up to 5 years in prison);
    • A fine between $1,500 and $10,000;
    • Successful completion of the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Completion of alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Fourth or Subsequent DUI – A fourth or subsequent DUI involving a BAC of .10 to .159% is considered a first (1st) degree misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, if the driver is convicted of a fourth or subsequent DUI, the courts will typically impose the following sentence:
    • Ignition Interlock device installed for one year;
    • An 18 month driver's license suspension;
    • Between one and five years in the Pennsylvania State Prison system;
    • A fine between $1,500 and $10,000;
    • Successful completion of the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Completion of alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.

Highest DUI Impairment with a BAC of .16% and higher:

  • First DUI (no prior DUI convictions) – A first DUI involving a BAC of .16% and higher is considered misdemeanor of the first degree. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the following:
    • Imprisonment of at least 72 hours;
    • Pay a fine between $1,000 and $5,000;
    • Ignition interlock installed for one year;
    • A 12 month driver's license suspension;
    • Successfully complete the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Complete an alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Second DUI (one prior DUI conviction) – A second DUI involving a BAC of .16% and higher is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree. Under Pennsylvania law, the court will typically impose the following conditions:
    • A minimum of 90 days in prison;
    • Pay at least a $1,500 fine up to $10,000;
    • Ignition interlock installed for one year;
    • An 18 month driver's license suspension;
    • Successfully complete the alcohol highway safety school; and
    • Complete an alcohol or drug treatment, if ordered.
  • Third DUI (two prior DUI convictions) - A third DUI involving a BAC of .16% and higher is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of:
    • A minimum of one year in prison;
    • Ignition interlock installed for one year;
    • An 18 month driver's license suspension;
    • Pay at least a $2,500 fine; and
    • Complete an alcohol or drug treatment program, if ordered.

DUI with a Refusal to Submit to BAC Testing - If the driver refuses to submit to chemical testing of his breath, blood or urine to determine his BAC, then Pennsylvania law imposes some of the most severe punishments, which are the same penalties as those imposed for drivers with the highest DUI impairment.

DUI Controlled Substance - If the driver is charged with DUI because of driving under the influence of any controlled substance, then Pennsylvania law imposes those same category of punishments that applies to drivers with the highest BAC impairment level.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) - Under the state’s law pertaining to Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), the court must impose driving suspensions based on the following BAC ranges:

  • No suspension if the BAC is less than .10%;
  • Thirty (30) day suspension if the BAC is .10% to less than .16%; or
  • Sixty (60) day suspension if the BAC is .16% or above.

Enhanced Penalties Based on the Driver's Status - Under Pennsylvania's DUI laws, certain types of drivers may be subjected to the penalties normally reserved for those convicted of enhanced BAC levels, even if the BAC is not in a high category. Examples of these types of drivers include:

  • Commercial drivers,
  • Drivers under the age of 21 years old (minors and juveniles),
  • School vehicle or bus drivers,
  • Drivers involved in an accident that either causes property damage or personal injury to another person, and
  • Drivers who refuse to take a chemical test of his breath or urine.

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Driver’s License Suspensions in Pennsylvania for a DUI Conviction

Pennsylvania law provides for certain DUI driver’s license suspensions based on the number of prior offenses, legal of impairment as measured by the BAC, whether the driver was under the influence of any controlled substance, and other factors. The suspensions are as follows:

  • No suspension for first offense if the driver has BAC below .10% and is incapable of safe driving;
  • 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense if the BAC is below .10% and is incapable of safe driving;
  • 12 month license suspension for first and second offenses if the driver’s BAC was at least .10% and less than .16%
  • 18 month suspension for a third or subsequent offenses  if the driver’s BAC was at least .10% and less than .16%;
  • 12 month license suspension for first offense if the driver’s BAC was greater than or equal to .16%;
  • 18 month suspension for a second or subsequent offense if the driver’s BAC was greater than or equal to .16%;
  • No suspension for a first offense if an out-of-state DUI conviction; and
  • 12 month license suspension for a second or subsequent offense if an out-of-state DUI conviction.

Occupational Limited Licenses (OLL's) After a DUI - In certain cases, a person convicted of a first time DUI may be eligible for an Occupational Limited Licenses (OLL's) after serving sixty days of their suspension. Those sixty days are also known as the "hard suspension," or when the individual cannot drive for any reason.

Even individuals with a second DUI or those charged with refusing the breath or blood testing may become eligible for the OLL's license. If the driver suffered a suspension for eighteen (18) months and has no more than one prior conviction, then the driver may be eligible for an OLL with an ignition interlock device after serving 12months of the suspension. First time underage drivers convicted of DUI may also be eligible for an OLL.


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Defenses to DUI Arrests

Upon hearing the facts of your particular case, your attorney may be able to identify defenses to your DUI arrest, or other mitigating factors to reduce your charge or even have it dismissed. A few common examples of scenarios that will lead to a defense include:

  • The police officer did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle;
  • The arresting officer did not have cause to prolong your detention or ask you to exit your vehicle;
  • The police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you for DUI;
  • The arresting officer did not give you Miranda Warnings before custodial interrogation (taking you into custody and asking questions);
  • The breath test administrator did not follow the statutory requirements in giving you a breath test; and
  • The breath test machine lead to an inaccurate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) result that was over the legal limit.

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West Chester Resources for DUI

West Chester Police Department – The West Chester Police Department is a Pennsylvania law enforcement agency dedicated to protecting and serving the community. The department is located at:

WCPD
401 East Gay Street
West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380
Phone: (610) 696-2700

Alcoholics Anonymous – This organization is a fellowship for men and women who desire to quit drinking alcohol, support each other, and share their experiences from their addiction to alcohol and their paths to recovery.

Title 75 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes (Vehicles) – This on-line resource has all of Pennsylvania’s rules regarding offenses and penalties associated with Driving Under the Influence.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving – The Pennsylvania branch of this national organization seeks to stop impaired driving, and has created a variety of initiatives for adult education, youth education and prevention, and to reach out to culturally diverse communities.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – This Pennsylvania state agency has information about driver’s license suspensions, reinstatements, renewals, commercial driver’s licenses and a variety of other information pertaining to driving in West Chester, Pennsylvania.


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Skinner Law Firm | West Chester, Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

Contact the Skinner Law Firm today for a consultation about your DUI offense in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding areas of Lancaster in Lancaster County, Norristown in Montgomery County, Media in Delaware County, and Reading in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Michael J. Skinner will listen to the facts of your particular situation, and help you identify any defenses or mitigating circumstances to your charge to find the most optimum outcome for your situation. Call (267) 388-3476 for a consultation about your DUI in Pennsylvania.