Being charged with a first DUI offense involving alcohol or drugs can be scary. If you are facing charges for a DUI in Pennsylvania, you are likely worried about how a conviction might affect you in the future. You may be worried about the possibility of being sentenced to serve time in jail. DUI offenses are serious, and it can be frightening when you do not know what to expect in the court process. Whether you might be sentenced to jail for a first offense will depend on your blood alcohol concentration and other factors. DiCindio Law can explain the penalties that you might face and help to defend you against the charges you are facing.
DUI penalties and your BAC in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, the penalties for a DUI differ based on the BAC of the driver at the time of his or her arrest. A BAC level from 0.08% to 0.099% is considered to constitute general impairment. First DUI offenses for general impairment typically do not include jail time by themselves. However, if you caused an injury or fatality accident or refused to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test, you could end up spending time in jail. If you are younger than 21, you could face a jail sentence for up to six months even if your BAC was much lower than the general impairment offense range.
Pennsylvania changed the DUI laws in 2004. It lowered the threshold BAC level to 0.08 in response to federal law. The federal government said that states could only receive federal money for highways if they lowered the threshold level to 0.08. Pennsylvania also reduced the penalties for first offenses and increased the penalties for subsequent convictions. The state also passed increased penalties for people who have higher BACs at the time of their arrests.
In Pennsylvania, DUIs are divided into three tiers that are based on the BAC levels of the defendants. The tiers are called general impairment DUI offenses, high rate of alcohol DUI offenses, and highest rate DUI offenses. Most people refer to the top two tiers as middle and high to make them easier to understand.
General impairment DUI offenses are charged when the drivers have BAC results from 0.08% to 0.99%. High BAC DUIs are charged when the drivers’ BAC results are from 0.10% to 0.159%. The highest BAC offense includes BAC results of 0.16% or higher. Drivers who refuse to submit to chemical tests will be charged with general impairment DUIs. However, they will face the same penalties as people who are charged with the highest offense level. All DUIs involving drugs are charged as the highest rate DUI offenses even when the drivers only have trace amounts of drugs in their blood and are much less impaired than drivers who have BACs in the middle offense range.
To make the sentences for DUIs more consistent across the state, convictions for DUIs have mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory minimum sentences for first-offense general impairment DUIs include the following:
- Probation of up to six months
- Minimum fine of $300
- Alcohol classes
- Alcohol treatment if ordered by the court
A first offense of a general impairment DUI does not carry mandatory jail or the suspension of your driver’s license.
The mandatory minimum penalties for a middle-tier DUI offense include the following:
- Jail for 48 hours with six months of parole
- Driver’s license suspension of one year
- Mandatory fine ranging from $500 to $5,000
- DUI classes
The penalties for a first offense for the highest BAC level include the following:
- Minimum of 72 hours in jail with six months of parole
- Suspension of your driver’s license for one year
- Fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000
- Alcohol classes
Most people who are charged with first-offense DUIs choose to participate in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD program. This program allows people to reduce the consequences of a DUI conviction. If you successfully complete the ARD program, you will not be sentenced to jail and will have a shorter suspension of your driver’s license. People who successfully complete the ARD program will have their DUI charges dismissed, which means that they will not have a DUI conviction on their records. You can also ask an attorney for help with expunging a DUI record after you have completed the ARD program. Expungement can be very important for people who are entering the job market as well as for adults who want to switch jobs.
Get help from an experienced DUI attorney
The best method for dealing with DUIs is to simply avoid driving your vehicle after you have consumed alcohol or drugs. If you want to go out, you should plan to take public transportation, a cab, or a ride-share. If you drive yourself to a bar, ask if you can leave your car in the parking lot. You should never think that you will be okay to drive home after you have been drinking. Doing so places both you and others around you on the roads at risk.
If you have been charged with a DUI as a first offense, getting help from an experienced defense attorney at DiCindio Law can help you to determine the options that might be available to you. We can evaluate your case and provide you with an assessment of the defenses that might be available. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling us at (610) 430-3535 or by submitting your information on our contact form.