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Drinking and Driving in Pennsylvania: Why It's Just Not Worth the Risk

Marciano & MacAvoy, P.C.

After years of steady decline, drunk driving has begun to increase again in Pennsylvania. Though alcohol-related fatalities were down in 2017, drunk driving crashes increased by over 30% from the year before. Indeed, Pennsylvania State Police made 19,518 arrests in 2016 for driving under the influence (DUI), a nearly 4% increase from 2015.

Since 2004, when Pennsylvania decreased the legal limit for drunk driving from a 0.10% BAC to 0.08%, the amount of DUIs and alcohol-related crashes has taken a substantial dip. Recently, though, these numbers have begun to reverse themselves. Officials are beginning to worry Pennsylvania will once again face an epidemic of drunk driving crashes and fatalities. Pennsylvania drivers have no excuse for drinking and driving. With the advent of ride-share apps, driving while intoxicated is just not worth the risk. Be smart and do everyone a favor by just calling an Uber.

Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Believe it or not, compared to other states, Pennsylvania has moderate laws against drunk driving. Drivers shouldn’t be fooled, though. Pennsylvania penalties are still pretty stiff and can negatively impact your life, especially if you have a high Blood Alcohol Concentration count or are a repeat offender. Below is a list of penalties for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania.

General Impairment (BAC .08 to .099)

  • First Offense: Upgraded misdemeanor, no jail time, six months probation, $300 fine, alcohol highway safety class, possible 150 hour community service sentence
  • Second Offense: Upgraded misdemeanor, 5 to 6 months in jail, $300 to $2,500 fine, 1-year suspension of drivers license, alcohol highway safety school, 12 months of ignition interlock
  • Third Offense: 2nd-degree misdemeanor, 10 days to 2 years in prison, $500 to $5,000 fine, 1-year suspension of drivers license, 12 months of ignition interlock

High BAC Impairment (BAC .10 to .159)

  • First Offense: Upgraded misdemeanor, 2 days to 6 months in prison, $500 to $5,000 fine, 1-year suspension of drivers license, alcohol highway safety class
  • Second Offense: Upgraded misdemeanor, 30 days to 6 months in prison, $750 to $5,000 fine, 1-year suspension of drivers license, alcohol highway safety class, 12 months of ignition interlock
  • Third Offense: 1st-degree misdemeanor, 90 days to 5 years in prison, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, 18-month suspension of drivers license, 12 months of ignition interlock

Highest BAC Impairment (BAC .16+)

  • First Offense: Upgraded misdemeanor, 3 days to 6 months in prison, $1,000 to $5,000 fine, 1-year suspension of drivers license, alcohol highway safety class
  • Second Offense: 1st-degree misdemeanor, 90 days to 5 years in prison, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, 18-month suspension of license, alcohol highway safety class, 12 months of ignition interlock
  • Third Offense: 1st-degree misdemeanor, 1 to 5 years in prison, $2,500 to $10,000 fine, 18-month suspension of drivers license, 12 months of ignition interlock

Pennsylvania DUI Penalty Exemptions and Violations

A couple of exemptions are available to Pennsylvanians who have been charged with DUI violations. These exemptions, though, are only reserved for those who need them and are only granted in special circumstances. Below are the limited list of exemptions in Pennsylvania:

  • Employment Exemption: If a Pennsylvanian, who has been charged with a DUI, is employed in a job that requires the use of an employer-owned vehicle then they may apply for an employment exemption. An employment exemption will allow an employee charged with a DUI to continue driving as long as it is strictly for employment purposes only. The employee will have to inform their supervisor that they have an ignition interlock restriction and are required to show proof that they have notified their employer on a PennDot form.
  • Hardship Exemption: A hardship exemption can be obtained for anyone who shows they face “undue financial hardship.” This can be done by either providing a recent Federal Income Tax return that shows an income that is 200% below the poverty line or by providing official documentation showing participation in a government assistance program. An economic hardship exemption will keep one from having to install an interlock system on every owned motor vehicle.

DUI penalty exemptions are difficult to obtain and are generally only granted to Pennsylvanians who truly need them. If you qualify for a DUI penalty exemption, then you should definitely attempt to obtain one. Due to the difficulty in receiving one, though, you shouldn’t expect the courts to grant you one unless you are qualified.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help Your DUI Case

Trying to defend against a DUI charge without a lawyer on your side is no easy task. Pennsylvania takes drinking while driving seriously and are strict about the laws they use to protect drivers who are responsible and don’t drink while intoxicated. The best way to avoid the legal headaches of a DUI charge is to never drink and drive. In the end, it’s really not worth it.

If you have been arrested for driving with a .08 or higher BAC, you should consider hiring an experienced attorney to help defend yourself. Pennsylvania prosecutors want nothing more than to get a conviction for the charges brought against you. With a lawyer on your side, you will have someone fighting for you who knows the law and can expertly negotiate for your best interests.

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