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Will I go to jail for my first DUI in PA?

If you have been charged with your first DUI offense, you may feel frightened and overwhelmed. Many people who are charged with DUI’s for the first time have limited or no experience with the criminal justice system. DUI cases are treated harshly in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted, you can face serious penalties. Whether or not you might spend time in jail for your first DUI offense will depend on your BAC level at the time of your arrest and whether any aggravating circumstances apply.

What are the penalties for a first DUI offense in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania divides DUI cases into three categories that depend on the blood alcohol content of the drivers at the time of their arrests. These categories have increasingly severe penalties as the BAC level increases. For people who refuse to take chemical tests and those who are charged with DUI drugs, they will automatically face the penalties for the highest BAC DUI offense.

General impairment DUI

Prosecutors charge people with general impairment DUI’s when their BAC’s ranged from 0.08% to 0.99% at the time of their arrests. 

For this offense, a first conviction will result in the following penalties:

  • Probation for up to six months
  • Minimum fine of at least $300
  • Alcohol treatment at the court’s discretion
  • Alcohol classes

Jail is not generally ordered for a first conviction of this offense.

 

First high BAC DUI conviction

Prosecutors charge people with BACs from 0.10% up to 0.159% with high BAC DUIs. 

If you are convicted, you will face the following consequences:

  • 48 hours of jail and parole for six months
  • Fine from $500 up to $5,000
  • 12-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Alcohol classes
  • Substance abuse treatment at the court’s discretion
 

Highest BAC DUI first offense

The highest BAC DUI carries the most severe penalties for a first offense. These penalties apply to people who have BACs of 0.16% or higher at the time of their arrests. They also apply if you are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or if you refused to submit to a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test. 

If you are convicted of this offense as a first-time DUI offender, you will face the following penalties:

  • Three days in jail and parole for six months
  • Fine from $1,000 up to $5,000
  • 12-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Substance abuse treatment may be ordered
  • alcohol classes
 

Minors and commercial drivers

If you are under the age of 21 or are a commercial driver, you can face harsh penalties even if you had a very low amount of alcohol in your system. Pennsylvania has a zero-tolerance law for minors. 

If you have a very small percentage of alcohol in your blood at the time of your arrest as a minor for a DUI, you will face the following penalties:

  • 48 hours in jail followed by six months of parole
  • Fine from $500 up to $5,000
  • 12-month suspension of your license
  • Alcohol classes
  • Substance abuse treatment
If you are a commercial truck driver, you can be charged with a DUI with a BAC of as little as 0.04%. For a first conviction, you will face the same penalties as those faced by adults convicted of high BAC offenses. School bus drivers who have BACs of 0.02% can also face penalties for high BAC DUIs.
 

First DUIs that result in the death of another person

If you are convicted of a first-offense DUI through which you caused an accident that resulted in someone else’s death, the penalties are very serious. This is a second-degree felony punishable by a minimum term of three years in prison. If more than one person was killed, the court will order consecutive three-year sentences for each victim.
 

First DUI with a minor younger than 18 in the car

If you are convicted of a first DUI offense while you had a passenger in your vehicle who was younger than age 18, it is a first-degree misdemeanor. You will face the penalties for the underlying DUI for your BAC level and will also be ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and to pay a minimum fine of $1,000.

ARD for first-offense PA DUIs

The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program is an alternative to taking your chances through the court process. This program is available to many first-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania who have limited or no criminal records. If you are approved for ARD, you will have to complete a number of requirements as ordered by the court. Your case will be set aside for a time while you complete the program. These requirements include waiving your right to a speedy trial, undergoing an alcohol and drug evaluation, complying with treatment recommendations, abstaining from alcohol or drugs, performing community service, paying court costs and restitution, and others. If you successfully complete ARD, your charge will be dismissed. You will then be able to ask the court to expunge your records of the DUI case.

Not everyone is eligible for ARD. You will not be eligible if you caused a vehicle accident that seriously injured or killed someone else. You also will not be eligible if you had a child younger than age 14 in your car when you were arrested. Finally, you will not be eligible if you did not have insurance or a valid license at the time of your DUI arrest.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Depending on your BAC level and other factors surrounding your DUI charge, you might have to spend time in jail if you are convicted. Even if you are facing a general impairment offense, it is still a good idea to talk to a DUI Defense Attorney to determine whether ARD might be a good option for you. Call us for an appointment at 610.430.3535.

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Michael DiCindio

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