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:
- General Impairment (B.A.C.=.08 to 0.099%,Incapable of safe driving, No injury or property damage)
- 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%)
- 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.