Understanding DUI Levels In Pennsylvania
When a driver is stopped by a law enforcement officer under suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania, there are many procedures that must be followed for any charges to be valid. For instance, the law enforcement officer is not allowed to stop a vehicle at random without probable cause. There must be a reason that the vehicle was stopped such as a witness contacting the police to report a suspected DUI, a dangerous action in the vehicle, or weaving in and out of traffic in a haphazard manner.
Once the vehicle has been stopped, the officer will ask to see the driver’s license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. While this is occurring, the officer will look for signals that the driver might be under the influence such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of alcohol. If there is still cause to believe that the driver is committing a DUI, the officer will request that the driver take field sobriety tests. After that, the officer will request that the driver submit to a breath test to determine the blood alcohol content (BAC). If the driver surpasses the level of 0.08%, there will be an arrest for DUI.
Pennsylvania DUI levels
Pennsylvania has a tiered program for determining the punishments for drivers based on their BAC. A driver who registers 0.08% to 0.099% will be placed in the tier of General Impairment. A driver who registers between 0.10% and 0.159% will be placed in the High Impairment tier. A driver who registers between 0.16% or higher or has been charged with DUI due to drugs will be placed in the Highest Impairment tier. The tiers have various penalties associated with them and they grow progressively more significant with repeated charges of DUI.
Penalties for General Impairment
If a driver has been charged with General Impairment and registers a BAC of between 0.08% and 0.099%, the penalties can range from relatively light to heavy depending on whether it’s the first, second or third offense.
With a first offense, the driver will be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor. There will be as much as six months probation, a fine of $300, the order to attend alcohol highway safety school, and to undergo treatment.
A second offense DUI is also an ungraded misdemeanor. The penalties are much more substantial than with a first offense as the driver’s license will be suspended for twelve months, there will be between five days and six months in jail, a fine of $300 to $2,500, the requirement to attend safety school and undergo treatment, and the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device for a period of one year.
If the driver is charged with DUI after two or more previous offenses, the charge is now a second degree misdemeanor. The driver’s license will be suspended for twelve months, there will be a jail sentence of between ten days and two years, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, treatment if it is ordered, and an Ignition Interlock Device installed on the vehicle for a period of one year.
Penalties for High Level of Impairment
With a BAC of between 0.10% and 0.159%, the driver with no prior offenses will be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor, have the driver’s license suspended for twelve months, face a jail sentence of between 48 hours and six months, pay a fine between $500 and $5,000, and be required to take alcohol safety classes and undergo treatment if it is ordered.
For a second offense, the driver will be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor, have the driver’s license suspended for twelve months, face between 30 days and six months in jail, pay a fine of between $750 and $5,000, be required to take safety classes and undergo treatment, and will have the Ignition Interlock Device installed for one year.
The penalties for two or more offenses and three or more offenses are the same except for the possible amount of jail time the defendant might have to serve. The charge is a first degree misdemeanor with an eighteen month suspension of the driving privileges. For two or more previous charges, the jail time is between 90 days and five years; for three or more it is between one year and five years. The fine will be for between $1,500 and $10,000, and there will be required alcohol education courses and the Ignition Interlock Device for one year.
Penalties for Highest Level of Impairment
With the Highest Level of BAC or a drug related impairment, the penalties grow quite harsh. With no prior offenses, the charge is an ungraded misdemeanor. The driver’s license will be suspended for twelve months, the jail time is for between 72 hours and six months, the fine is $1,000 to $5,000, and the driver will have to attend classes and undergo treatment if it is ordered.
The penalties for one prior offenses and two prior offenses at the Highest Level are the same except for the amount of jail time possible and the fines. With one prior offense, the driver will be charged with a first degree misdemeanor, have the driver’s license suspended for eighteen months, pay a fine of between $1,500 and $10,000, be ordered to take safety classes and receive treatment, and have the Ignition Interlock Device installed for one year. If there have been two previous offenses, the jail time is raised to between one and five years and the fine is for between $2,500 and $10,000.
An attorney can assist a driver facing these penalties
Because the penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania are so wide-ranging and based on the BAC levels, a driver confronted with them has every right to be intimidated. Depending on the BAC or whether the driving is accused of DUI with drugs, there can an extensive jail sentence and expensive fines. The law enforcement officer has to follow rules when making a traffic stop on suspicion of DUI such as having probable cause, observing the twenty minute rule of watching the driver for twenty straight minutes without interruption, and to have the proper certifications to give the breath test.
If any of these rules have been broken, the arrest may not be valid. Prior to going to trial, it’s important to seek competent legal advice.
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