First-Offense DUI in Pennsylvania

Learn about how Pennsylvania defines “driving under the influence” and the consequences of a first DUI conviction.

By , Attorney

In Pennsylvania, as in all other states, the penalties for a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction depend on how many times the driver has been convicted of a DUI in the past.

This article covers Pennsylvania's DUI laws and the penalties for a first DUI conviction.

Pennsylvania's DUI Laws

Pennsylvania's DUI law prohibits driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while:

Generally, a driver is deemed to have violated the law if a chemical test conducted within two hours of driving shows a BAC that's above the legal limit.

How Long Prior DUIs Stay on Your Record

In Pennsylvania, DUIs generally stay on your record and count as prior convictions for ten years. So a DUI is considered a first offense if the motorist has no prior DUI convictions within the past ten years.

Penalties for a First DUI in Pennsylvania

The consequences of a first DUI conviction—which can be the result of a plea bargain or being found guilty after a trial—differ depending on the facts of the case. But generally, the possible penalties include:

  • DUI based on impairment or a BAC of at least .08% but less than .1%. A first DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment or having a BAC of .08% or more but less than .1% is a misdemeanor. A convicted driver is looking at $300 in fines, a six-month term of probation, and up to six months in jail. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment.
  • Impairment DUIs involving injuries, death, or property damage and DUIs involving BAC of at least .1% but less than .16%. A first DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment and someone was injured or killed or another's property was damaged or the driver had a BAC of .1% or more but less than .16% a misdemeanor. The convicted driver is looking at 48 hours to six months in jail, $500 to $5,000 in fines, and a 12-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment. (For offenses involving deaths, Pennsylvania's homicide-by-vehicle laws could also come into play.)
  • Impairment DUIs involving a refusal to take a breath test and DUIs involving BAC of at least .16% or controlled substances. A first DUI conviction where the driver was convicted based on impairment and unlawfully refused to take a chemical test or the driver had a BAC of at least .16% or any concentration of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor. The convicted driver is looking at 72 hours to six months in jail, $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, and a 12-month license suspension. The motorist will also have to complete an alcohol safety class and may be required to participate in substance abuse treatment.
  • DUIs with a minor passenger. A first offender who's caught driving under the influence with a passenger who is under 18 years old can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, the convicted motorist is looking at a minimum of $1,000 in fines and 100 hours of community service. The motorist also faces up to five years in jail and an 18-month license suspension.

However, the actual costs of a first DUI, including expenses like attorney fees and increased insurance rates can be quite a bit more than the fines for the conviction.

Penalties for Repeat Offenses

This article just covers first-offense penalties. The penalties for a second-offense and third-offense conviction are generally more severe. In other words, the amount of your fines and potential jail time typically increases with each subsequent offense.

Talk to a DUI Attorney About Your Case

DUI law is complicated and the facts of each case are different. So, if you've been arrested for a DUI, get in contact with an experienced DUI lawyer. A qualified attorney can tell you how the law applies in your situation and help you decide on how best to handle your case.

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