Driving under the Influence charges are among the most common types of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania. While everyone makes mistakes, a DUI charge is not something that can be solved by paying a traffic citation and continuing on your way. Instead, a DUI charge is serious, exposing you to serious penalties. It is a good idea for you to seek help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer if you have been charged with a DUI. At DiCindio Law, we have represented many people who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and understand how to build strong defense cases for our clients. In most cases, a DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor. However, certain aggravating factors can transform a DUI into a felony offense. While a misdemeanor DUI conviction can bring serious penalties, the potential consequences of a felony offense are much more severe.
What happens if you are charged with a DUI?
Driving under the influence can be charged when you are driving, operating, or are in actual physical control of a vehicle when you have more than a prescribed maximum amount of alcohol in your blood. The offense can also be charged when your driving is impaired by any amount of alcohol or when you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test.
The three levels of impairment and their penalties for a first offense are as follows:
- General impairment DUI with a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099% – Up to six months of probation, a fine of $300, highway traffic safety school, and an ungraded misdemeanor conviction
- High BAC DUI with a BAC of 0.10% to 0.159% – two days to six months in jail, 12-month driver’s license suspension, fine of $500 to $5,000, highway traffic safety school, 12-month ignition interlock suspension, ungraded misdemeanor conviction
- Highest-BAC DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher – three days to six months in jail, 12-month driver’s license suspension, $1,000 to $5,000 fine, highway traffic safety school, ungraded misdemeanor conviction
As you can see, a first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor at all levels. However, there are aggravating circumstances that can transform DUI cases into felonies.
Problems with DUI cases
A police officer might suspect that you are driving under the influence if he or she sees you weaving, speeding, or driving too slowly. He or she might pull you over and ask you to submit to a series of roadside tests called standardized field sobriety tests or SFSTs. There are three standardized tests along with three others that are not standardized. These tests rely on the officer’s observations of you as measured against some guidelines. If the officer decides that you have not passed these tests, he or she may take you into custody and ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test at the police station.
Breathalyzer tests are not always accurate, and several factors can cause them to give wrong results. For example, if you have diabetes or are following the keto diet, you may have high levels of acetone in your blood. These acetone levels can read as ethanol on the breathalyzer. Breathalyzer machines that are not correctly calibrated can also produce inaccurate results, and other factors can similarly lead to challenges of the results. If you are certain that your test results are false, you should hire a lawyer who can challenge the results or secure a reduction in your potential penalties.
When DUIs are misdemeanors
In general, a first-offense DUI in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor, but the penalties will vary based on your BAC level. As previously described, misdemeanor DUI convictions in Pennsylvania may carry jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties. While a DUI offense might be a misdemeanor, that does not mean that you should attempt to represent yourself. Getting help from an experienced DUI defense attorney might help you to secure a better outcome.
Second and third DUI offenses are also misdemeanors in most cases in Pennsylvania. However, now a third DUI offense within 10 years at the highest level as well as any forth offense within 10 years will now be graded as felony offenses.
DUIs as felony offenses
In certain situations, what would otherwise be a misdemeanor DUI offense can be charged as a felony. A felony conviction will have consequences that last much longer than a misdemeanor and can seriously impact your life. Here are some situations in which a misdemeanor DUI offense might be charged as a felony:
- Felony DUI causing as an injury
- Aggravated assault while under the influence
- Homicide while under the influence
You may be charged with a felony DUI offense if you cause an accident while you are impaired in which someone is injured. To be charged with this offense, the injuries that were caused do not need to be serious. If you are convicted of this offense, you will face up to six months in jail and have a felony on your record even if it is your first DUI.
You may be charged with aggravated assault while under the influence if you cause an accident while you are under the influence that results in serious bodily injuries to others. Serious injuries include those that could result in death, those that leave people with permanent impairments, and those that cause permanent disfigurement. This offense is a second-degree felony that carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Homicide while under the influence may be charged when you cause a fatal accident while you are under the influence. This is the most serious type of DUI offense and is a second-degree felony. It carries from a mandatory minimum of three years in prison up to 10 years and a fine of $25,000 for each count with which you are charged.
If you are charged with a felony DUI offense, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles both misdemeanor and felony matters.
Contact DiCindio Law
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony DUI offense, a conviction can have severe consequences. Getting help from an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to secure a better resolution to your charges. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 610.430.3535.