Drunk driving is a serious crime in the state of Pennsylvania, and the penalties associated with DUI have grown significantly harsher over the past few decades. Many people are under the mistaken impression that a first-time DUI conviction cannot result in anything more serious than a slap on the wrist and fines. In reality, a first-time DUI conviction has the potential to result in extremely serious legal consequences, including jail time, and may also cause collateral issues that may affect you for years to come.

First-Time DUI Penalties in PA

The penalties associated with a first-time DUI conviction on Pennsylvania depend upon you blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest. State law recognizes three levels of DUI – general impairment (BAC of .08 to .099), high BAC (.10 to .159), highest BAC (.16 and higher). The following table outlines the various penalties that can be imposed for a first offense at these  BAC levels:

General Impairment

  • Up to 6 months of probation
  • $300 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment

High BAC

  • 12-month license suspension
  • 30 days to 6 months in prison
  • A fine of $750 to $5,000
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment
  • 1-year ignition interlock requirement

High BAC

  • 18 Month License Suspension
  • 90 days to 5 years in prison
  • A fine of between $1,500 to $10,000
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Treatment
  • 1-year interlock device

The Collateral Consequences of a DUI Should Not Be Ignored

It is easy for people accused of DUI to focus on the court-imposed consequences they are facing, as they are often the most immediate and clearly defined. It is important, however, to understand that a DUI can result in collateral consequences that in some cases may affect your life much more that any consequence imposed by the court. For example, the presence of a DUI conviction on your record may raise red flags when you are applying for a job or for an apartment. Similarly, certain academic institutions may think twice about admitting a student who has a history of alcohol-related incidents. In this way, a DUI conviction can affect your life and opportunities for years after any court-imposed sanctions have ended.

There Are Often Ways an Attorney Can Help

Fortunately for people who have been arrested for drunk driving, there are often ways that a lawyer can help avoid the most serious of these consequences and, in some cases, and consequences at all. Some of the more common defenses that are raised in Pennsylvania DUI cases include the following:

  • Challenging the legal justification for the initial traffic stop
  • Introducing evidence you have a health condition that can cause unreliably high breathalyzer results
  • Arguing that the officer who stopped you lack sufficient training to perform tests or determine that you were under the influence
  • Establishing that you have a medical condition that can cause symptoms similar to those associated with alcohol intoxication

If there are no defenses available, a lawyer can still be of assistance by negotiating a plea bargain arrangement in which you agree to plead guilty in return for the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence. In addition, your attorney may be able to get you into Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, which, if completed successfully, will result in the expungement of your DUI case and no conviction.

Call a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Options

If you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in the Philadelphia area, you should contact attorney Brian Zeiger as soon as possible. In many cases, the representation of an attorney can help ensure that your case is resolved favorably and with minimal long-term consequences. To schedule a consultation with Mr. Zeiger, call our office today at 215-546-0340 or contact us online.

1 http://www.dmv.pa.gov/information-centers/laws-regulations/pages/dui-legislation.aspx

2 http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/faq_accelerated.html

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