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 Avvo.com. 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.

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