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DUI & DWI in Pennsylvania

Arrested for a DUI or DWI?

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In 2003, Pennsylvania took a major leap toward eradicating drunk driving through the passing of Act 24.

In a nutshell, Act 24 made it easier for law enforcement to confront the drinking and driving problem by dropping the legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers down to 0.08%, and it introduced alcohol treatment into the penalty package.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Defined

The state operates behind a three-tiered definition for DUI based on a driver's BAC:

  • General impairment: 0.08% to 0.099%
  • High BAC: 0.10% to 0.159%
  • Highest BAC: 0.16% and up OR a controlled substance

Penalties

Penalties for DUI are broken down by the BAC level. Those who refuse a chemical test or are found to be under the influence of a controlled substance will face the highest BAC penalties. The courts also have the option of adding 150 hours of community service to any and all DUI or test refusal charges.

General Impairment BAC 0.08% to 0.099%

1st offense:

  • 6 months of probation.
  • $300 fine.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.

2nd offense:

  • Drivers license suspended for 1 year.
  • 5 days to 6 months in prison.
  • Fine ranging $300 to $2,500.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

3rd offense:

  • 2nd degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Driver's license suspended for 1 year.
  • Prison from 10 days to 2 years.
  • Fine ranging $500 to $5,000.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

High BAC 0.10% to 0.159%

1st offense:

  • License suspended for 1 year.
  • 48 hours to 6 months in prison.
  • Fine ranging $500 to $5,000.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.

2nd offense:

  • Automatic driver's license suspension for 1 year.
  • 30 days to 6 months in prison.
  • Fine ranging $750 to $5,000.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

3rd offense:

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Automatic license suspension of 18 months.
  • 90 days to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine ranging $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

4th offense (and subsequent offenses):

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Automatic suspension for 18 months.
  • 1 to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine ranging $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

Highest BAC 0.16% and over OR Controlled Substance

1st offense:

  • License suspended for 1 year.
  • 72 hours to 6 months in prison.
  • Fine ranging $1,000 to $5,000.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.

2nd offense:

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Automatic suspension of 18 months.
  • 90 days to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine ranging $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

3rd offense (and subsequent offenses):

  • 1st degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Automatic suspension of 18 months.
  • 1 to 5 years in prison.
  • Fine ranging $2,500 to $10,000.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for 1 year.

Zero Tolerance Law

Those convicted of a DUI under the age of 21 years old will:

  • Have their license will be suspended for 1 year.
  • Go to jail for 2 days to 6 months.
  • Be fined $500 to $5,000.

Underage Drinking

Pennsylvania takes DUI very seriously. In order to discourage minors from drinking and driving they have instituted tough laws to combat any underage drinking. If you are caught drinking under 21 years old you will face these minimum penalties:

  • A $500 fine.
  • Court costs.
  • Driver's license suspension:
    • 1st offense: 90 days.
    • 2nd offense: 1 year.
    • 3rd and subsequent offenses: 2 years.

If you do not have a license at the time you are charged with underage drinking, you will be prevented from applying for one until your suspension time is over.

Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD)

1st offenses for high or highest BAC may qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. If you are accepted into the program you will be required to attend 12 1/2 hours at the Alcohol Highway Safety School as well as enroll in drug and/or alcohol treatment. You will lose your license for up to 90 days, be under court supervision for 6 months, be responsible for all fees and a fine from $300 to $5,000.

Ignition Interlock Device

An Ignition Interlock Device (IID) is required after an individual is convicted of a 2nd or subsequent DUI offense. When you are eligible for an IID Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will mail you a Restoration Requirements Letter. This will provide all the information on how to apply for an IID including the application. IID cost about $1,200 per year to install, maintain and monitor. This is in addition to all other fees associated with driving with an IID.

For more information on IIDs please see the Ignition Interlock Fact Sheet provided by PennDOT.

More Information

Chapter Four of the Driver's Manual provides detailed information about Pennsylvania's DUI laws, including the zero-tolerance law for minors, implied consent to BAC testing, driving impaired by medication, and the interstate Driver's License Compact. The DUI Grading and Sentencing Guide also provides useful information for understand DUI in PA and its consequences.

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