Pennsylvania DUI Penalties: First, Second and Third Offenses
In the state of Pennsylvania, the criminal penalties for a DUI increase from the first DUI conviction to the second, and from the second to the third. Pennsylvania differs from many other states in that the criminal penalties for a DUI conviction vary according to the driver’s blood alcohol content level. The three levels classified under Pennsylvania DUI laws are:
- .08 percent to .099 percent, classified as BAC per se
- .10 percent to .159 percent, classified as “high”
- .16 percent and above, classified as “highest”
First Offense DUI Penalties
If you have been arrested for a DUI and this is your first offense, you likely have many questions regarding the consequences you may face and alternative options for reducing those consequences. During this time, it is important to speak to an experienced DUI attorney. Your attorney will be able to help answer your questions and fight aggressively for your future after a first offense DUI.
In Chester County, as well as the counties of Delaware, Lancaster, Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia, some drivers charged with DUI may be eligible for the ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) program. An early intervention program for non-violent offenders who either have no existing prior criminal record or a very limited prior criminal record, the ARD program offers an alternative to traditional DUI sentencing. Candidates for the ARD program are screened carefully by the Office of the District Attorney.
The ARD program is meant to rehabilitate participants rather than punish them, and the theory behind the program is that early intervention can prevent future, similar incidents. Since public safety is an issue with DUI offenders, allowing offenders to receive help contributes to that safety. DUI offenders are able to receive immediate treatment and be placed in alcohol education classes. In some cases the offender must complete community service as a condition of the ARD program.
Driver’s License Suspension and the ARD Program
The defendant’s drivers’ license will be suspended for a varying period of time, however the maximum will still be less than the one-year suspension required following a DUI conviction. Specifically, for a BAC between .08 percent and .099 percent, there is no license suspension. For a BAC between .10 percent and .159 percent, there is a 30 day license suspension. A BAC between .16 percent and .299 percent brings a 60 day license suspension and for the driver whose BAC is above .30 percent, a one year ignition interlock will be required in addition to the 60 day driver’s license suspension
Second Offense DUI Penalties
A driver convicted of a second DUI in Pennsylvania (within ten years of the first DUI conviction) who tests at the first level of BAC will face the following penalties:
- From five days to six months in jail;
- A fine of $300 to as high as $2,500;
- Court-ordered alcohol safety school;
- The possibility of court-ordered ignition interlock device for one year, and
- Court-ordered community service, as many as 150 hours.
For a second Pennsylvania DUI conviction with the second level of BAC (.10 percent to .159 percent), the minimum jail time is thirty days rather than five days, with the same maximum of six months in jail. The fines increase from a minimum of $750 to a maximum of $5,000. The driver may have the same likelihood of being sentenced to alcohol safety school, a maximum of 150 hours of community service and an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for one year. Additionally, the driver may be sentenced to treatment for alcohol addiction.
Finally, a second Pennsylvania DUI conviction with the highest BAC level (.16 percent or higher) will face from 90 days to five years in prison, fines from $1,500 to $10,000, up to 150 hours of community service, a mandatory one year ignition interlock device before license reinstatement, alcohol safety school and alcohol treatment if ordered by the judge.
As far as administrative penalties are concerned, a driver who is convicted of a second DUI in the state of Pennsylvania for either of the first two BAC levels will receive a 12-month suspension of their driver’s license. For the highest BAC level, that suspension increases to 18 months.
Because Pennsylvania is an implied consent state, a driver who refuses a BAC test at the time of their arrest will automatically have their license suspended for a period of one year and three days—separate from the license suspension received if the driver is convicted of a second DUI.
A second offense DUI is classified as a misdemeanor, although if the driver tests at the highest BAC level, it becomes a first degree misdemeanor. While not a felony, a DUI conviction nevertheless becomes a part of the driver’s criminal record. As such, prospective employers can access that record, and finding employment can become difficult.
Third Offense DUI Penalties
Those charged with a third DUI in the state of Pennsylvania could be in serious trouble, which absolutely requires speaking to a highly qualified Pennsylvania DUI attorney. Although the legal process may be much the same as for prior DUI charges, the penalties and consequences are likely to be significantly increased. While the Fifth Amendment allows those ordered to submit to a BAC test the right to say “no,” Pennsylvania laws allow the police to obtain a warrant to run DUI tests which cannot be refused. Refusing a BAC test could result in immediate suspension of the person’s driver’s license.There are three “tiers” for Pennsylvania DUI penalties: the lowest tier penalty is for a BAC of .08 to .99, the next highest tier penalty is for a BAC of .10 to .159, and the highest tier penalty is for a BAC of .16 or more. Under the lowest tier of charges, a third DUI offense can result in the following:
- From $500-$5,000 in fines;
- From ten days to twenty-four months in prison;
- A license suspension for one year;
- The potential for a court-ordered alcohol or drug treatment program, and
- A year of having an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle.
A third offense for the middle tier adds six months to the license suspension, an increase in prison time from 90 days to sixty months, an increase in fines from $1,500 to $10,000. The potential for a court-ordered alcohol or drug treatment program as well as a year of an ignition interlock device remain the same. The highest tier third offense brings a license suspension for a year and a half, from twelve to sixty months in prison, fines up to $10,000, the potential for a court-ordered alcohol or drug treatment, and the installation of an ignition interlock device for one year. There is a “lookback” period of ten years, when determining whether a DUI is a third offense.
FURTHER CONSEQUENCES OF A THIRD DUI
Aside from spending time in jail or prison, losing your license, paying significant amounts of fees and fines, attending drug or alcohol treatment and dealing with an ignition interlock device, a person in Pennsylvania who is looking at a third offense DUI will also suffer additional consequences. A conviction for a third DUI makes it likely auto insurance will be dropped or that the rates will skyrocket to a prohibitively expensive level. Without a license, employment may become impossible, and even future employment can become difficult or impossible with a third DUI conviction on a person’s record. Obtaining a professional license, government-based student loan or even owning a firearm may be barred to the person with a third DUI conviction.
Being convicted of a third offense DUI in the state of Pennsylvania can alter your life forever. Speaking to a knowledgeable, experienced DUI defense attorney could well be your only avenue for lessening some of the worst consequences of such a conviction. Despite the fact this is your third arrest for DUI, your attorney can still offer a valid defense on your behalf.