The Legal Consequences of a DUI in PA

One of the first questions clients ask us is “Should I fight my DUI charges?” Our short answer to this is, considering the seriousness of the penalties and consequences, Absolutely.

In this series, we will examine the consequences, legal and otherwise, of a DUI conviction in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Today’s post discusses the legal penalties.

A DUI (like a Diamond) is Forever

A DUI conviction or plea of “guilty” or nolo contendere will be a permanent part of your driving record and your criminal history. It does not “come off” your record after five (5) years… it never comes off your record. Moreover, a conviction, guilty plea or nolo contendere plea is reported to PennDOT, which in turn, reports it to the National Driver’s License Registry. These computer records are accessible to driver’s licensing agencies nationwide. This is why fighting a DUI case is so important. It can have long term and long lasting effects. Only a pardon granted by the President of the United State or the Governor of Pennsylvania can remove a conviction.

Penalties for a DUI Conviction

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses a progressive, recidivist, multi-tiered model of criminal liability for the offense of Impaired Driving.  That means that there are two variables that normally determine a penalty range, the level of the charge and the number of prior convictions. DUI charges are divided into three tiers:

  1. General Impairment (B.A.C.=.08 to 0.099%,Incapable of safe driving, No injury or property damage)
  2. High Impairment (B.A.C.=.10 to 0.159%, Minor B.A.C.= .02 to .159%, General Impairment B.A.C. with an accident, School Bus Driver B.A.C.=.02 to .159%, Commercial Vehicle driver B.A.C.=.04% to .159%)
  3. Highest Impairment (B.A.C.=.16% or greater, Refusal of chemical test, Controlled substance DUI)

Below is a chart that highlights some of the consequences you may face if convicted of a DUI.
First time offenders charged with General Impairment, might look at the penalties and consider not hiring an attorney. Keep in mind, there is a lot of forensic science that is considered in these cases. Are you aware of these forensic issues? Can you weed through legal evidence and find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case? Keep in mind you’re going up against a prosecutor that has fought thousands of cases. It’s like stepping into a boxing ring for the first time and being paired with the heavy weight champion.

Tier Description First Offense Second Offense Third Offense
General Impairment B.A.C.=.08 to 0.099%
Incapable of safe driving No injury or property damage
Misdemeanor of the second degree
Prison Sentence from 5 days up to 6 months Prison Sentence from 10 days up to 2 years
Up to 6 month probation 12 month license suspension 12 month license suspension
$300 fine $300-$2,500 fine $500-$5,000 fine
High Rate B.A.C.=.10 to 0.159%
Minor B.A.C.= .02 to .159%
General Impairment BAC with an accident
School Bus Driver B.A.C.=.02 to .159%
Commercial Vehicle driver B.A.C.=.04% to .159%
Misdemeanor of the first degree
Prison Sentence from 2 days up to 6 months Prison Sentence from 30 days up to 6 months Prison Sentence from 90 days up to 5 years
12 month license suspension 12 month license suspension 18 month license suspension
$500-$5,000 fine $750-$5,000 fine $1,500-$10,000 fine
Highest Rate B.A.C.=.16% or greater
Refusal of chemical test Controlled substance DUI
Misdemeanor of the first degree Misdemeanor of the first degree
Prison Sentence from 3 days up to 6 months Prison Sentence from 90 days up to 60 months Prison Sentence from 1 year up to 5 years
12 month license suspension 18 month license suspension 18 month license suspension
$1,000-$5,000 fine $1,500-$10,000 fine $2,500-$10,000 fine

What do we learn from this chart?

Repeat offenses and Tier 2 and Tier 3 offenses carry vary hash penalties including mandatory jail time, heavy fines, and license suspension. What most people don’t realize, is that qualified DUI attorney can win many of these cases, even with the presence of breath and blood tests. That is why it is so important to have a qualified DUI attorney review your case. Your freedom, your right to drive, and your future are all riding on this outcome.

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.



34 responses to “The Legal Consequences of a DUI in PA”

  1. ricky lee bittinger says:

    hi,i recently got convicted of two dui and a guilty plea.the first one happend in penn the cop had no camera in the car it wasnt working.o8 the second happend on roabata rd and the underpass of 66.near grapeville,pa.the reports has me pulled over on kerr rd and rt 66.which is 3 miles on the oaapite side of convicted think it was a illegally can cops get away with doing there jobs wrong

  2. Ricky,
    Great question. I think we can help. The problem with Pennsylvania DUI Attorneys are that not many of them truly understand the complexities of a DUI. We do. This is our life and our passion. We aim specifically through training and experience to know more than anyone else in Pennsylvania about DUI both legally and scientifically.
    Just spit balling here with you…
    (Please do call us, we have a totally free no obligation detailed initial consultation)
    1. If you are within a year of entering your guilty plea than we could examine and possible advance a Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) action. A PCRA is where we allege ineffectiveness by your trial counsel in allowing you to plead guilty. If successful, it would get you right back to square one where we could truly litigate these matters to their fullest extent.
    2. If your chemical result was only a .08 and if you are over 21 and not in a commercial vehicle or bus, there is no way you should have plead guilty.
    3. If you were under 21, then a complete look at the facts including whether or not the officer violated what is called the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act which is the legislative enactment that limits municipal (meaning local) police to only have powers to stop and arrest in certain limited gepgraphic areas absent some exceptions.
    4. We would need to look at the supposed reason why the “camera wasn’t working” claim as we have found in the past that either the camera footage was either willfully destroyed or negligently not copied, either one if the facts bare this out can spell problems for the prosecution.
    5. You write that it was an illegal checkpoint, but was it a checkpoint stop or a traffic stop?
    You may want to check out my other blog posts such as:
    Pennsylvania DUI Roadblocks
    What to Expect if You’re expecting a DUI: Omnibus Pretrial Motion
    Pennsylvania DUI Attorney talks about the DUI Statistics Game
    6. The police get away with doing their jobs wrong because the unskilled lawyers who mean well do not know how to meaningfully challenge these cases. It takes a specialist.

    -Justin J. McShane, Esquire, Pennsylvania DUI Attorney


    To learn more about me, please visit my Law Firm Profile

    You can also follow me on Twitter , Facebook or Linkedin.

  3. […] in an accusation of being an underage driver being charged with a High Rate DUI (see our post The Legal Consequences for a Pennsylvania DUI for a more detailed description on Pennsylvania DUI Penalties for different categories […]

  4. […] your driving record FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  Please see our post The Legal Consequences for a DUI in PA for a more detailed description on Pennsylvania DUI Pena… and our series Why Fight a DUI in PA for details on many other consequences of a […]

  5. […] In contrast, here you can find The Legal Consequences of a DUI in Pennsylvania. […]

  6. […] criminal history for background checks and also on your driving record.  Please see our post The Legal Consequences for a DUI in PA for a more detailed description on Pennsylvania DUI Pena….  As you can see, the penalties for this category are very serious and can seriously effect […]

  7. […] DUI case is the most important decision you will make (we have already discussed how seriously the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania penalizes DUI) and will have the most influence on the outcome of that case.  Keep in mind that you will […]

  8. […] Latest The Legal Consequences of a DUI in PA Piece of Paper Reads: “You’re Guilty”. Well Not Any […]

  9. […] mulit-part series “Why Fight a DUI in Pennsylvania”, we take an in depth look at the laws and legal consequences of a DUI conviction in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well as the repercussions outside of the […]

  10. […] For more information about Pennsylvania DUI penalties, see our post The Legal Consequences for a DUI in PA for a more detailed description on Pennsylvania DUI Pena…. […]

  11. […] Here are the penalties in Pennsylvania in my earlier blog posting:  "The Legal Consequences of a DUI in PA" […]

  12. […] driving under the influence of these substances will also result in a DUI Drugs with it charged at the highest tier under PA DUI law. You Can be Charged with a DUI drugs for Using […]

  13. […] to six months in prison, 12 month license suspension and $5,000 in fines for a first offense (see PA DUI Penalties for more […]

  14. joe says:

    How do they test to see if synthetic pot is in your system. To my understanding your body does not metabolize this chemical compound so it doesn’t stay in your body.

  15. […] Pennsylvania DUI Laws, by Justin McShane 0 At PA DUI Blog we have detailed the numerous criminal and financial penalties of a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania and the honest truth is, a DUI conviction is horribly costly and will cost you for the rest of your […]

  16. […] DUI cases, I have seen cases where people had their entire lives ruined by a DUI conviction.  The penalties for a Pennsylvania DUI are very heavy-handed and for some people the jail time, license suspension, and social stigma […]

  17. Max says:


    I was recently pulled over for my back bumper missing, and muffler being modified. The officers got my info, then asked me to step out of the car. They gave me a sobriety test which i passed, but blew a .03 or .04. They also were going to search my car but handed them the marijuana and pipe i had. I know alchol and marijuana are going to show up on my blood work. I’m 18 and have not committed any other crimes other then speeding tickets. Can they charge me for dui and duid? Would i be able to just go right to probation and skip court for my marijuana charges, i believe it is on the border of 30 grams, give or take. Was just hoping for some input on what you could get these reduced to!

  18. […] I have often mentioned on this blog, the penalties for a Pennsylvania DUI are very severe and they last a lifetime.  Unfortunately, these penalties are only getting more […]

  19. […] drivers found guilty of driving while texting (DWT) would face a $50 fine.  Compare this to the penalties for DUI and you will notice a huge […]

  20. […] is a minor (under the age of 18). These penalties are in addition to any existing penalties (see Pennsylvania DUI laws and penalties for more details) . We have summarized the new changes […]

  21. […] the ages of 18 and 21, and convicted of a DUI, it can truly change your life.  On top of the legal penalties,  there are many other consequences which can jeopardize your […]

  22. […] Being charged with a DUI can be very confusing and scary.  There are many details to take into consideration before making an decision on how to proceed with your case.  If you make the wrong moves and are miscalculate, you could end up in jail and face a lengthy license suspension. […]

  23. […] very common criminal charge, it is also a very serious one.  This is because there are very severe punishments and penalties for a DUI conviction in PA.  Even for a first offense, depending on your BAC reading, you can be looking at up […]

  24. […] for driving under the influence is a serious crimes in the state of Pennsylvania that can result in serious consequences. If you have been arrested for this crime, then you need to hire a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania DUI […]

  25. […] Cases involving Driving Under the Influence of Prescription drugs are more complex than those of DUI alcohol. First of all, at the time of arrest, there is no Breathalyzer test to perform. If the officer simply observes red eyes, slurred speech and suspects impaired driving, that is enough to warrant an arrest with charges of : Driving Under the Influence of Drugs. (see the penalties) […]

  26. Lacey says:

    I have four DUI’s. Recently I pulled my criminal history from the state for employment. The 2 DUI’s that are over a decade do not appear, as well as several other charges. Why is this if they do not ever go away? Would I be able to get a typical expungement or do these repeat offenses require a governor’s pardon?

  27. dave says:

    I think im being charged dui with no evidence i was driving home one night out with it was 11 pm around get pulled over by cop saying i didnt stop long enough at stop sign… i had all my paper work ready before officer he took it went back to his car for almost 5 min came back get out the vehicle i did he forsed me to submit to field test cause he said my eyes are glassy to him i was tired and my contacts are dry he said something eveyone weres contacts i proceeded cause. I just wanted to.leave did test and ask me to do a breatherlizer i did cause i didnt want a refusal.. also i.was eating wings and some.sause.was on shirt and he kept telling me i.three up.on my self told him ididnt it was sause..any way did breath test blew twice both invalid… he then released me bro who.had up cause they inpounded my car my bro.asked.them what my charges were they said idk then.ask what was bac told him.we never got one…about aweek later got a letter in mail being charged with.dui.. based on what says on.the affidavit.. previous charges from.dui.i.had 8 years ago cop observation and then deeming me a refusal…now they want me go to dui court for house arrest and all that @ yr dl suspension.. saying if i not take this.could face 1-2 yr in prison and longer dl.suspension because this would be 3rd one in 10 yrs… and have ard interview coming up soon….so if you if im.being screwd.over let me know cuz this whole.chrage feels like bs..thanx

  28. […] is up to 6 months in prison, $5,000 in fines and a 12-month license suspension.  (Please see THE LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF A DUI IN PA for more […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *