D.U.I. Arrest In Pennsylvania


* Information obtained from www.dmv.state.pa.us. *

Your Driving Along...

Feeling pretty good after a couple drinks with your friends after work. You feel like those few drinks didn't do enough to make your driving dangerous. in fact, you actually might think your're driving better than you did before the drinks.

You're rolling down the open road feeling fine, when all of a sudden, you see lights, the flashing lights of the police cruiser following closely behind.

You pull over to the side of the road wandering, "What was I doing wrong? Why did he pull me over? Will he be able to tell that I was drinking?"

Oh No!

You are about to join the ranks of over 37,500 individuals arrested each year in Pennsylvania for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

You are about to discover that life after a DUI arrest can be expensive, embarrasing, and downright inconvenient. With the fines, jail term, loss of driving privileges and increased insurance rates, a DUI arrest can have a tremendous impact on your private, professional and social life, not to mention your budget. To better understand the effects of being charged with DUI, let's look at a basic DUI arrest in Pennsylvania, and see what could happen to you.

Why Did I Get Pulled Over?

The police officer has pulled you over for erratic driving, a traffic violation or an observation of faulty equipment, such as a burned out tail light. You could also be stopped at a sobriety check point. If the officer has reason to suspect that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (due to the odor of alcoholic beverages on your breath, slurred speech or other "impaired" behavior) you will be given standard field sobriety tests. If you fail the field sobriety tests you will be arrested for DUI.

How Will They Prove It?

If arrested for DUI, you will be asked to take a chemical test involving blood, breath or urine, or a combination of these. If your chemical tests reveal a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher, you are legally intoxicated under Pennsylvania law.

What happens if you refuse to take a chemical test? Whether or not you are found guilty of DUI, your refusal will:

* result in an automatic and immediate loss of your license for one year.
* you are subject to the highest BAC penalties.
* be used against you when you go to court.

Now What Happens?

After the arrest, you will receive a notice to appear before a District Justice. One of two things could happen:

1. The District Justice could hold a preliminary hearing on the charges where he/she could:

* dismiss the charges and you would be free to go.
* require your appearance before the County's criminal court.

2. You could waive the preliminary hearing before the District Justice and your case would be sent directly to criminal court.

If you plead guilty in criminal court or are convicted of DUI:

* you will undergo a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation at your expense. The CRN is a pre-screening evaluation used to determine whether or not you have an alcohol or substance abuse problem.
* you will attend Alcohol Highway Safety School which includes a minimum of 12.5 hours of class.
* following the evaluation, you will be scheduled for sentencing, which includes a criminal record notation, a mandatory minimum fine and, for repeat offenders, mandatory jail sentence (listed below).

Act 24 - Pennsylvania .08 DUI Legislation.

Act 24, which lowered Pennsylvania's legal limit of alcohol from .10 to .08, was signed into law on September 30, 2003. The new Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Law creates a tiered approach toward DUI enforcement and treatment, and includes many changes to the penalties, terms of suspension, fines and other requirements. The combination of an individual's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level, and prior offenses, determines the licensing requirements and penalties. The new law focuses on treatment for first-time DUI offenders, rather than strictly punishment and suspension.

There are now three levels of DUI:

General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)
High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)
Highest BAC (.16% and higher)

Under the new DUI law minors, commercial drivers, school vehicle or bus drivers, and offenders involved in an accident that injures someone or causes property damage may be subject to the high BAC penalties even if their BAC is not in the high category. Offenders who refuse breath or chemical testing may be subject to the highest BAC penalties.

Sentencing - The Price You Pay.

General Impairment penalties (Undetermined BAC, .08 to .099% BAC)

No prior DUI offenses

* ungraded misdemeanor
* up to 6 months probation
* $300 fine
* alcohol highway safety school
* treatment when ordered<

1 prior DUI offense

* ungraded misdemeanor
* 12 month license suspension
* 5 days to 6 months jail time
* $300 to $2,500 fine
* alcohol highway safety school
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

2 or more prior DUI offenses

* 2nd degree misdemeanor
* 12 month license suspension
* 10 days to 2 years prison
* $500 to $5,000 fine
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

The new law creates a higher set of penalties for those having higher BAC levels. It allows for treament at all levels, and requires alcohol highway safety school for all first and second time offenders.

High BAC penalties (.10 to .159% BAC)

No prior DUI offenses

* ungraded misdemeanor
* 12 month license suspension
* 48 hours to 6 months prison
* $500 to $5,000 fine
* alcohol highway safety school
* treatment when ordered

1 prior DUI offense

* ungraded misdemeanor
* 12 month suspension
* 30 days to 6 months prison
* $750 to $5,000 fine
* alcohol highway safety school
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

2 or more prior DUI offenses

* 1st degree misdemeanor
* 18 month license suspension
* 90 days to 5 years prison
* $1,500 to $10,000 fine
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

3 or more prior DUI offenses

* 1st degree misdemeanor
* 18 month license suspension
* 1 to 5 years prison
* $1,500 to $10,000 fine
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

For those at the highest BAC levels, the new law has strict penalties, but also allows for treatment. This even-handed approach allows for individuals to receive counseling for their alcohol problem, while still penalizing those who choose to continue the dangerous practice of drinking and driving.

In addition, drivers under the influence of controlled substances and those who refuse breath or chemical testing are subject to the highest BAC category penalties.

Highest BAC penalties (.16% and higher) or Controlled Substance

No prior DUI offenses

* ungraded misdemeanor
* 12 month license suspension
* 72 hours to 6 months prison
* $1,000 to $5,000 fine
* alcohol highway safety school
* treatment when ordered
1 prior DUI offense

* 1st degree misdemeanor
* 18 month license suspension
* 90 days to 5 years prison
* $1,500 to $10,00 fine
* alcohol highway safety school
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

2 or more prior DUI offenses

* 1st degree misdemeanor
* 18 month license suspension
* 1 to 5 years prison
* $2,500 to $10,000
* treatment when ordered
* 1 year ignition interlock

The following outlines specific components of the new law, and changes from the previous law that impacts DUI drivers.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels

The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level for per se* DUI is lowered to .08%.

-Effective September 30, 2003

Penalties for DUI will be based on BAC and prior offenses.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)

Requires courts to impose suspensions for BAC ARDs based on the following BAC ranges:

Less than .10% - no suspension,
.10% to less than .16 - 30 day suspension, or
.16% and above - 60 day suspension

-Effective February 1, 2004

License Suspensions

Suspensions will be imposed as follows:

BAC below .10% and incapable of safe driving: No suspension for first offense if the driver meets certain criteria; 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense.
BAC greater than or equal to .10% and less than .16%: 12 month license suspension for first and second offense. 18 month suspension for third or subsequent offense.
BAC greater than or equal to .16%: 12 month license suspension for first offense. 18 month suspension for second or subsequent offense

Out-of-state DUI convictions: No suspension for first offense; 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense.

-Effective February 1, 2004

DUI Treatment and Evaluation

Treatment and evaluation processes are geared to rehabilitation.

-Effective - Phased-In Through 2009

Ignition Interlock

Drivers who receive a second or subsequent DUI violation on or after September 30, 2003, can no longer serve an additional one year suspension in lieu of obtaining an ignition interlock device. Drivers are required to install ignition interlock on all vehicles owned (including leased) before driving privileges can be restored.

-Effective September 30, 2003

Additionally, the following exemptions and penalties have been added:

Financial Hardship Exemption:

Drivers may apply for an exemption from the requirement to install the ignition interlock device on all of their vehicles. If the exemption is granted, ignition interlock installation will only be required on one vehicle.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Employment Exemption:

Under certain circumstances, ignition interlock restricted drivers may operate employer owned vehicles but only in the course and scope of employment. The employee must notify the employer of the ignition interlock restriction and carry proof of employer notification on a PennDOT form. The employer owned vehicle cannot be a school bus/vehicle or large passenger vehicle.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Ignition Interlock Violations:

Individuals convicted of driving without or tampering with the ignition interlock device will have their ignition interlock period extended 12 month from the date of conviction for the first offense and will have their driving privileges suspended for 12 months for the second or subsequent offenses. Upon restoration they must comply with ignition interlock for 12 months. Individuals, whose driving privileges are suspended during the ignition interlock period for a non-ignition interlock violation, must complete the ignition interlock period upon restoration.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Occupational Limited Licenses (OLL's)

First time DUI offenders may be eligible for an OLL after serving 60 days of their suspension. Individuals whose licenses are suspended for 18 months (for DUI or refusing breath or chemical testing) and have no more than one prior offense may be eligible for an OLL with an ignition interlock after serving 12 months of their suspension. In addition, first time underage drinking violators may be eligible for an OLL.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Expungement of Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) Records

PennDOT will automatically expunge ARD records after 10 years providing a person's operating privileges were not revoked as a habitual offender and/or the person was not a commercial driver at the time of the violation.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Credit (Suspension)

Individuals suspended for driving a vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device or driving under a DUI-related suspension, with a BAC of .02% or greater cannot receive credit for their suspension until jail time has been served.

-Effective February 1, 2004

Implied Consent/Breath or Chemical Testing

Suspensions for individuals who refuse to submit to breath or chemical testing may be increased. Breath or chemical testing may now be required for individuals who are arrested for driving under a DUI-related suspension or driving without an ignition interlock device.

-Effective February 1, 2004

There's More!

In addition to the fines and imprisonment you would be required to:

* undergo treatment at your own expense (if you are recognized as having a drug or alcohol problem).
* pay other arrest and treatment-associated costs.

And What About Insurance?

Following a DUI conviction you will be labeled a "high risk" driver and your automobile insurance can undergo the following changes:

* costs can increase up to $5000 a year or higher.
* if you are on a family policy, the insurance company may cancel the policy or refuse to renew the policy once it expires.
* the insurance company will keep a record of the arrest for three years which may make it difficult for you to find another company to insure you.

Under 21?

There is a tougher law just for you! If you are under 21 and your blood alcohol content is above .02% or above (rather than .08%), you can be arrested for DUI.

In Pennsylvania, DUI offenders who are minors (18 to 21 years old) are processed like adults while offenders who are juveniles (under 18) are processed through juvenile court. Penalties for juvenile offenders may differ from adult DUI offenders.

Underage DUI offenders also face charges of underage drinking. These include fines of up to $500 and suspension of driving priveleges for misrepresentation of age to secure, purchase, consume, possess or transport alcoholic beverages, and carrying a false identification card.

Let's face it, driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is no smooth ride.

Think About The Consequences...

Is drinking and driving worth the aggravation and expense of:

* depending on family, friends or public transportation for rides.
* paying court costs, imprisonment and parole restrictions.
* possibly causing a crash, and injuring or killing yourself or someone else.

It's just not worth it! The next time you've been drinking and know you shouldn't be driving, let someone else drive.

* Ask a friend.
* Call a cab, friend or family member.
* Designate a driver before you go out drinking.

An Exception To The Rule ... A.R.D.

In some cases, first time DUI offenders may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. You are not eligible if you:

* had previously been placed in an ARD program.
* had been convicted of DUI in the past seven years.
* had seriously injured or killed someone as a result of a DUI crash.
* had been charged at the time of DUI with other specific serious vehicle violations.

In addition, the District Attorney may have other requirements that may disqualify you from ARD.

Don't think if you qualify for the ARD program you are getting off easy. Even though there will be no jail sentence, the program will consist of the following:

* 1 to 12 month license suspension.
* community service.
* probation.
* attendance at Alcohol Highway Safety School and its costs.
* CRN evaluation.
* court and administrative costs.
* treatment and other conditions that a judge may impose.

The total cost of ARD had been estimated at $1500 excluding attorney fees, but court costs can go higher.

* Information obtained from www.dmv.state.pa.us. *


Want to learn more about the problem of DUI? Write to:

Pennsylvania Driving Under The Influence Association
933 Rose Street, Harrisburg, PA. 17102

or call: 1-800-62-PA-DUI

* This page last updated November 30, 2012 *

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