Drunk Driving Defense Law in Pennsylvania

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses a three-tiered system in their approach to driving under the influence statutes. First implemented in 2003, this method changes the focus from sanctions to treatment for those convicted of first-offense DUI.

The penalties and licensing requirements imposed by the courts take into consideration the offender’s blood alcohol level at the time of the arrest and any prior offenses. The three levels of DUI in the state are:

  1. General Impairment – BAC .08 to .099 percent
  2. High BAC - .10 to .159 percent
  3. Higest BAC - .16 percent and higher

The law also provides for more stringent penalties for minors convicted of DUI. Others subject to the higher penalties include commercial drivers, bus drivers or those driving official school vehicles and those offenders involved in accidents that cause injury or property damage. The more severe penalties apply even if the offender’s BAC are not in the higher category. Drivers who refuse chemical or breathalyzer testing may also be subjected to the enhanced penalties.

General Impairment Penalties

When offenders have no prior DUI offenses on their record, they face the following possible penalties:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • Up to six months of probation
  • Fine of $300
  • Attendance at alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered

Offenders with one prior DUI conviction can expect the following penalties in court:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • Driving privileges suspended for a year
  • Jail term of five days to six months
  • Fines of $300 - $2,500
  • AttendancDUIIe at alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered
  • Year of ignition interlock on vehicle

Two or more prior DUI offenses bring more severe penalties, which may include:

  • Second degree misdemeanor
  • Year suspension of driving privileges
  • Prison term from 10 days to two years
  • Fines from $500 - $5,000
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered
  • Year of ignition interlock on vehicle

High BAC Penalties

When an offender has no prior DUI record, the penalties faced include the following:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • Year suspension of driving privileges
  • Jail term of two days to six months
  • Fines from $500 - $5,000
  • Attendance at alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered

Convicted offenders with a single prior DUI conviction can expect the following penalties imposed by the court:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • Year suspension of driving privileges
  • One to six months in jail
  • Fines of $750 to $5,000
  • Attendance at alcohol highway safety school
  • Year of ignition interlock on vehicle

Offenders with two or more DUI offenses face the following penalties:

  • First degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month suspension of driving privileges
  • Three months to five years in prison
  • Fines of $1,500 to $10,000
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered
  • Year of ignition interlock on vehicle

Offenders with three or more DUI convictions face the same penalties as above, except the minimum prison sentence is one year, with a maximum of five behind bars.

Highest BAC Penalties

First offenders face:

  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • Year suspension of driving privileges
  • Three days to six months in prison
  • Fines of $1,000 to $5,000
  • Attendance at alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered

Offenders with a prior DUI conviction under this tier will be penalized by:

  • First degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month suspension of driving privileges
  • Three months to five years in prison
  • Fines of $1,500 to $10,000
  • Attendance at alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered
  • Year of ignition interlock on vehicle

Two or more DUI convictions put the offender at risk of sentencing for the following:

  • First degree misdemeanor
  • 18 month suspension of driving privileges
  • One to five years in prison
  • Fines of $2,500 to $10,000
  • Attendance at alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse treatment when ordered
  • Year of ignition interlock on vehicle

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.

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