November 14, 2018

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Pennsylvania DUI

Pittsburgh Law Firms

Pennsylvania’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws can be confusing. It is a three tiered system based on your blood alcohol content (BAC). There is no driver’s license suspension and no jail time for a first offense of general impairment, meaning BAC which is over the legal limit of .08, but below .10. On the other hand, if you refuse to take a breath test, your driver’s license can be suspended for a year, even if your criminal charges are dismissed.

Refusing the Breath Test or Other Chemical Testing

Many people refuse to take a breath, blood, or urine test because they believe that the state cannot make a case against them without evidence of BAC over the legal limit. This is not true. Many people also believe that they have a constitutional right to refuse chemical tests. That is a very controversial subject, but it does not have any bearing on the punishment you will receive for refusing in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is able to side-step the question of constitutionality in two ways. If you refuse chemical testing, in most cases you cannot be physically forced to take a test, in Pennsylvania. Refusal is not classified as a crime, and does not carry a risk of jail time or the loss of any of your basic rights. Driving is considered a privilege, not a right.

License suspension for breath test/chemical test refusal is a civil matter, handled by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Because it is a civil matter, the standard of proof is much lower, making it much easier for the state to prove its case against you. Your license suspension for refusal will be in addition to any suspension required due to a criminal conviction, and can even be imposed if your criminal charges are dismissed.

Your license can be suspended for one year if you have no DUI priors and no prior refusals. For a second refusal or refusal with a prior DUI conviction, your license can be suspended for 18 months.

Pennsylvania DUI First Offense Penalties

Penalties for general impairment, meaning BAC .08 – .099:

  • $300 fine
  • Up to six months probation
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Possible treatment

Penalties for high BAC, meaning BAC .10 – .159:

  • 1 year license suspension
  • 48 hours to six months in prison
  • $500 to $5,000 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Possible treatment

Penalty for highest BAC, meaning BAC .16 or greater, or driving under the influence of a controlled substance:

  • 1 year license suspension
  • 72 hours to six months in prison
  • $1,000 to $5,000 fine
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Possible treatment