Many people who have been charged with a DUI are unclear on Pennsylvania’s laws, or how a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs 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, jail time, fines, and more.
If you have been charged with a DUI in Chester County, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable about Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. Michael J. Skinner aggressively fights for each of his clients charged with drunk driving. With years of experience handling similar cases, he’s ready to help you.
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. Call (610) 436-1410 today for a consultation with a DUI lawyer, or reach out online.
In many cases, factors other than alcohol intoxication or impairment from a controlled substance can lead to irregular driving or poor performance on DUI tests. These factors can result in driving patterns or behavior that initially indicates driving under the influence to a law enforcement officer. Such factors can include:
Effective September 30, 2003, the Pennsylvania legislature overhauled the Commonwealth’s 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.
Pennsylvania law provides for three umbrella categories of DUI offenses based on different levels of impairment. The consequences for offenses committed at each level of impairment increase as the driver’s BAC increases. According to Pennsylvania Statutes § 3804, the categories and penalties for first, second, and third DUIs are:
With no prior 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 six months’ probation and complete the following:
With one prior DUI conviction, a second DUI involving a BAC of 0.08% to .099% is also considered an ungraded misdemeanor. The court will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of five days in jail and complete the following special conditions:
With two previous drunk driving convictions, a third DUI involving a BAC of 0.08% to .099% is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. Per PA law, the courts will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of:
With 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:
With one prior conviction for drunk driving, a second DUI involving a BAC of .10% to .159% is considered an ungraded misdemeanor. If convicted, the courts will typically impose the following sentence:
With two prior DUI convictions, a third DUI involving a BAC of .10% to .159% is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. As such, the courts will likely impose the following sentence:
With no prior DUI convictions, first 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 following:
With one prior conviction for drunk driving, a second DUI involving a BAC of .16% and higher is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. Under PA law, the court will typically impose the following conditions:
With two prior DUI convictions, a third DUI involving a BAC of .16% and higher is considered a third-degree felony. Under Pennsylvania law, the courts will typically impose the statutory minimum sentence of:
Besides getting charged with an offense for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, you can also face charges for the following offenses:
DUI with a Refusal to Submit to BAC Testing
If a driver refuses to submit to chemical testing of his/her breath or blood to determine his/her 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 by Controlled Substance
If a driver is charged with DUI because of driving under the influence of any controlled substance, then Pennsylvania law imposes those same categories of punishments that apply to drivers with the highest BAC impairment level.
Those under the age of 21 face harsher BAC standards when it comes to drunk driving in Pennsylvania. If you are under the legal drinking age and get behind the wheel of a car with a BAC of .02% or higher, you will be charged with a DUI.
Depending on the facts of your case, your criminal history (or lack thereof), and several other factors, other penalties you might face for a DUI include:
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
Under the Commonwealth’s law pertaining to Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), the court must impose driving suspensions based on the following BAC ranges:
Enhanced Penalties Based on a 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:
Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction
What many people who are charged with drunk driving fail to realize is that there are a number of non-statutory consequences of a conviction. If you are a teacher, doctor, or other licensed professional, you could lose your ability to practice your chosen career. Depending on your family situation, you could lose custody of your children. To avoid these harsh consequences, reach out to a drunk driving attorney today.
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Pennsylvania law provides for certain DUI driver’s license suspensions based on the number of prior offenses, level of impairment as measured by a person’s BAC, whether the driver was under the influence of any controlled substance, and other factors. The suspensions are as follows:
An ignition interlock system, along with an Ignition Interlock Limited License is now mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol levels, repeat DUI offenders, and for individuals who refuse chemical testing.
An IID is installed in a vehicle to prohibit someone under the influence of alcohol from operating the vehicle. Before starting the vehicle. an individual is required to blow into the device. If the device detects alcohol, it will not start. In addition, at periodic times during its operation, the individual will be prompted to blow into the device to ensure they are not under the influence. An Ignition Interlock system is leased from approved Ignition Interlock vendors and the current average costs associated with leasing an IID is between $900 to $1,300 per year.
An Ignition Interlock Limited License is also issued to drivers whose privileges are suspended or revoked for driving under the influence or refusal to submit to chemical testing. An Ignition Interlock Limited License permits an individual to only operate a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning Ignition Interlock system during their suspension or revocation period. From the date the Ignition Interlock License is issued to the time an unrestricted driver’s license is reissued, an individual may not operate any vehicle not equipped with an IID.
Upon hearing the facts of your particular case, your attorney may be able to identify defenses to your DUI arrest or address other mitigating factors to reduce your charge or even have it dismissed. Common DUI defenses include:
If you’ve been charged with drunk driving in Chester County or the surrounding areas, there are a number of resources you might find helpful as you begin to navigate the legal process:
The West Chester Police Department is a Pennsylvania law enforcement agency dedicated to protecting and serving the community. The department is located at:
401 East Gay Street
West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380
Phone: (610) 696-2700
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.
This online resource has all of Pennsylvania’s rules regarding offenses and penalties associated with driving under the influence.
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.
This Pennsylvania state agency has information about driver’s license suspensions, reinstatements, renewals, commercial driver’s licenses, and a variety of other information.
When you have been charged with drunk driving, a lot is on the line. You could go to jail, lose your driver’s license, and even face repercussions in your personal life. With so much at stake, it’s important to have an experienced DUI attorney on your side who will protect your rights and freedom throughout the entire criminal justice process. Michael J. Skinner has over a decade of legal experience, and he’s ready to take on your case. He 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 optimal outcome for your situation.