Pennsylvania Drunk and Drugged Driving Laws and Penalties

The definition of "driving under the influence" in Pennsylvania and the penalties for a DUI conviction.

Pennsylvania’s DUI laws prohibit driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with any amount of controlled substances in your blood.

Under the influence. A driver is considered “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol if rendered incapable of safely driving.

Per se DUI. There doesn’t need to be proof of actual impairment for a driver to be convicted of a DUI. Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .08% is considered a “per se” DUI. This threshold is lowered to .04% for commercial drivers and .02% for bus drivers and drivers under 21 years old.

Pennsylvania DUI Penalties

The penalties for a DUI conviction depend on the number of prior offenses in the last ten years and the circumstances of the current offense. Pennsylvania divides most DUI offenses into three categories for sentencing: “general impairment,” “high rate,” and “highest rate.”

General Impairment DUIs

Drivers with a BAC of at least .08% but less than .10% will face the following penalties,

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

6 months of probation

5 days to 6 months

10 days to 2 years

Fines

$300

$300 to $2,500

$500 to $5,000

License Suspension

None

12 months

12 months

High Rate DUIs

Drivers with a BAC of at least .10% but less than .16%, face increased penalties. These penalties also apply to offenders who were operating a commercial vehicle, were under 21 years old, or caused an accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 6 months

30 days to 6 months

90 days to 5 years

Fines

$500 to $5,000

$750 to $5,000

$1,500 to $10,000

License Suspension

12 months

12 months

18 months

Highest Rate DUIs

The last category of penalties includes offenses where the driver had a BAC of .16% or more, refused breathalyzer testing in violation of the state’s implied consent law, or had controlled substances in his or her system.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense (Felony)

Jail

72 hours to 6 months

90 days to 5 years

1 to 5 years

Fines

$1,000 to $5,000

$1,500 to $10,000

$2,500 to $10,000

License Suspension

12 months

18 months

18 months

Prior to sentencing, all offenders must complete an alcohol and drug evaluation. The offender must also abide by all recommendations of the evaluator, including treatment. First and second offense DUIs additionally require the offender to complete a state-approved alcohol highway safety class.

In addition to the other required penalties, the judge can order up to 150 hours of community service. The judge can also require the offender to attend a DUI victim’s impact panel.

An offender who was transporting a minor passenger will face penalties in addition to the DUI penalties. For a first offense, the offender is looking at a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. A second offense involving a minor passenger carries a $2,500 fine and one to six months in jail. And a third offense will be a felony and result in six months to two years in jail. Also, the driver’s license suspension period will be increased to 18 months for offenses involving minor passengers.

Driver’s License Penalties

All Pennsylvania drivers who lawfully arrested for a DUI are required to submit to a breath or blood test to determine the amount of drugs or alcohol present. A driver who refuses testing will face a 12-month license suspension and $500 license reinstatement fee. The suspension increases to 18 months for second and subsequent offenses and the fee increases to $1,000 and $2,000, respectively, for second and third offenses.

All drivers who receive a license suspension for a DUI conviction or a test refusal must maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) for at least one year after reinstatement. However, the driver can install the IID during the suspension period to restore limited driving privileges. The offender must generally serve at least half of the suspension period prior to applying for the IID restricted license. But first-time offenders are immediately eligible for the IID license.

Accelerate Rehabilitative Disposition

Pennsylvania has a special program that reduces the consequences of a DUI offense. To be eligible, the offender must not have any prior DUIs within the last ten years and the current offense must not involve an accident or any passengers under 14 years old.

If accepted in the program, the offender must complete:

  • a state-approved alcohol highway safety school program
  • an alcohol and drug evaluation
  • all recommended treatments (treatment required if BAC of .16% or more), and
  • six to twelve months of court supervision.

The participant’s license will be suspended but for less time than would otherwise be the case for a DUI conviction. Following successful completion of the program, the court can dismiss the DUI charge.

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