Pennsylvania Aggravated DUI

Learn about aggravating factors when charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania.

In all states, it’s a crime to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. If arrested and convicted for this crime, judges typically apply a set of minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines. When determining the sentence, judges and prosecutors commonly weigh mitigating and aggravating factors.

What are mitigating factors?

Mitigating factors reduce the punishment because they may explain or excuse the bad behavior. For example, if impairment was the result of a lawfully prescribed medication, or the driver had an otherwise spotless driving record and his .BAC just barely cracked .08, or the driver has voluntarily completed a substance abuse program, courts and prosecutors may be inclined to apply a minimum rather than a maximum sentence.

What are aggravating factors?

On the other hand, if there are aggravating factors present, prosecutors and courts are less likely to provide a lenient sentence. This may be for two reasons: public pressure in higher-profile DUI arrests and state laws requiring stiffer sentences. DUIs are a hot button issue for elected (and appointed officials) and the days when a judge or prosecutor could sweep a terrible DUI accident off the record have faded away in most jurisdictions. At the same time, recognizing that not all DUIs are the same, lobbying groups such as M.A.D.D. have applied to state legislatures to build aggravating factors into the law. Typically aggravating factors include prior DUI convictions, driving while a license is suspended, causing serious personal injury to another person, or a DUI arrest with a child present (ages defining a child vary from state to state)

Pennsylvania’s approach

Some states such as Pennsylvania consider the level of the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to be a potentially aggravating factor. Pennsylvania has established a system with two or three tiered punishments based on incremental BAC increases. It is applied as follows:

.08 to .099% BAC
No prior DUI Offenses 1 prior DUI Offense 2 or more prior DUI offenses
  • ungraded misdemeanor
  • up to 6 months probation
  • $300 fine
  • alcohol highway safety school
  • treatment when ordered
  • ungraded misdemeanor
  • 12 month license suspension
  • 5 days to 6 months jail time
  • $300 to $2,500 fine
  • alcohol highway safety school
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
  • 2nd degree misdemeanor
  • 12 month license suspension
  • 10 days to 2 years prison
  • $500 to $5,000 fine
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
.10 to .159% BAC
No prior DUI offenses 1 prior DUI offense 2 or more prior DUI offenses 3 or more prior DUI offenses
  • ungraded misdemeanor
  • 12 month license suspension
  • 48 hours to 6 months prison
  • $500 to $5,000 fine
  • alcohol highway safety school
  • treatment when ordered
  • ungraded misdemeanor
  • 12 month suspension
  • 30 days to 6 months prison
  • $750 to $5,000 fine
  • alcohol highway safety school
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month license suspension
  • 90 days to 5 years prison
  • $1,500 to $10,000 fine
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month license suspension
  • 1 to 5 years prison
  • $1,500 to $10,000 fine
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
.16% and higher BAC or controlled substance
No prior DUI offenses 1 prior DUI offense 2 or more prior DUI offenses
  • ungraded misdemeanor
  • 12 month license suspension
  • 72 hours to 6 months prison
  • $1,000 to $5,000 fine
  • alcohol highway safety school
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month license suspension
  • 90 days to 5 years prison
  • $1,500 to $10,00 fine
  • alcohol highway safety school
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock
    1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month license suspension
  • 1 to 5 years prison
  • $2,500 to $10,000
  • treatment when ordered
  • 1 year ignition interlock

In addition, drivers under the influence of controlled substances and those who refuse breath or chemical testing are subject to the highest BAC category penalties.

Seek an attorney’s advice

Although many DUIs can be handled without the assistance of an attorney, an attorney’s counsel is strongly recommended if arrested for a DUI with aggravating factors (such as an elevated BAC). That’s because when aggravating factors are present, the penalties are so much more severe and the effects can stay with you for much longer than a typical DUI. 

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