Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Laws

Pennsylvania is home to beautiful countryside, historic landmarks, and vibrant city life. But whether you're visiting Valley Forge or bar hopping in the City of Brotherly Love, don't let a DUI dampen your travels. Although the state has relaxed some of its penalties in recent years, Pennsylvania still takes drunk driving seriously and includes fines, jail time, and license suspension among the possible penalties. If you've been arrested for drunk driving or a related offense, you should become familiar with Pennsylvania's drunk driving laws and the likely consequences of a conviction.

What Pennsylvania Law Says About Testing the Alcohol in Your Blood

In Pennsylvania, a person may not drive, operate, or be in physical control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. To determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a police officer usually conducts field sobriety tests and checks your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Pennsylvania also has an "Illegal Per Se" provision which means that it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 percent or higher. In these cases, the prosecution only needs to show that your BAC was at least .08 percent within two hours after you were stopped (Sec. 3802).

Pennsylvania drunk driving laws also state the following regarding blood-alcohol testing:

  • Anyone driving in Pennsylvania is considered to have given consent to one or more tests of breath, blood , or urine if an officer has reasonable grounds to think the driver is impaired (Sec. 1547(a))
  • If your BAC is below .08 percent, you may still be considered impaired if there is other evidence showing intoxication (Sec. 3802(a)(1))
  • You may refuse BAC testing, but your license will be suspended for at least 12 months for a first offense, your refusal can be used against you in court, and it may increase the penalties if you're convicted (Sec. 1547(b) and (e))
  • You may refuse a preliminary breath test conducted during a stop before you're arrested and your refusal may not be used against you in court (Sec. 1547(k))
  • A commercial driver with any alcohol in his or her system will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year (Sec. 1611 and 1612)

If you're under 21, it's illegal to drive with a BAC of .02 percent or more (Sec. 3802(e)). The consequences for a first offense includes at least 48 hours of jail time, a fine of $500 to $5,000, and alcohol highway safety school (Sec. 3804(b)).

What Pennsylvania Law Says About Drunk Driving Penalties

Pennsylvania uses a three-tiered approach to DUI penalties and treatment, and consequences vary depending on your BAC level and number of prior offenses. The approach focuses on treatment rather than punishment for first-time DUI offenders.

Pennsylvania statutes include the following consequences for driving under the influence:

  • First offense with .08 to .099 percent BAC (Sec. 3804)
    • $300 fine
    • Up to six months probation
    • Alcohol highway safety school
    • Treatment when ordered
    • Additional fines, imprisonment, and license suspension for higher BAC
  • Second offense with .08 to .099 percent BAC (Sec. 3804)
    • 12 month license suspension
    • $300 to $2,500 fine
    • Five days to six months jail time
    • Alcohol highway safety school
    • 1 year ignition interlock device
    • Treatment when ordered
    • Additional fines, imprisonment, and license suspension for higher BAC
  • Third offense with .08 to .099 percent BAC (Sec. 3804)
    • 12 month license suspension
    • $500 to $5,000 fine
    • 10 days to two years in prison
    • 1 year ignition interlock device
    • Treatment when ordered
    • Additional fines, imprisonment, and license suspension for higher BAC

Read the full text of the Pennsylvania Statutes and Constitution for more details.

I Was Arrested for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania: What's Next?

In Pennsylvania, you can be arrested for a DUI even if you're simply parked on the side of the road with the keys in the ignition. If you have been arrested, you can still challenge aspects of your arrest, such as the protocol followed by law enforcement, the BAC testing equipment, and the reason for the traffic stop in the first place. An experienced DUI defense attorney can explain your legal options and help protect your rights.

Receive a Free Evaluation from a Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer

A DUI conviction in Pennsylvania can mean license suspensions, fines, jail time, classes, and treatment. Whether you've just been booked at the station or a prosecutor is offering you a plea deal, you'll need someone to explain all your options. Consider getting a free case review from a local attorney who has experience navigating Pennsylvania's drunk driving laws.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

Additional Drunk Driving Articles

Search LawInfo's Drunk Driving Resources

Lead Counsel Rated Law Firm

Click Here to Learn More