Being arrest for a DUI can be a particularly harrowing experience. If the flashing lights, being hand cuffed, and potentially spending time in jail were not enough both the formal and informal consequences of a DUI arrest can be extremely harsh. As far as the formal consequences of DUI are concerned, you could face a license suspension, fines, mandatory alcohol highway education, use of an ignition interlock device, and even jail time. For informal consequences, you could find difficulty in gaining or maintaining employment due to difficulty in transportation or background check requirements by employers.
While the lawyers of Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can’t change what has happened, we can work to minimize the legal consequences. Our experienced DUI attorneys look at the facts and circumstances surrounding you DUI arrest and work to protect your ability to drive and your freedom.
DUI Laws in Pennsylvania
The 2008 revisions to the DUI law decreased the BAC at which a DUI is triggered. Today in Pennsylvania the legal limit for most drivers is a BAC of .08% which is in line with all 50 states in the United States. However, the .08% constitutes per se DUI. A DUI charge can be made if a law enforcement officer sees you driving erratically or unsafely even if your BAC is less than .08. some acts that may cause an officer to suspect a DUI include:
- A wide turning radius
- Driving down the center of a road
- Failing to use your headlights at night
- Nearly causing a collision or accident
- Driving at excessively high or low rates of speed
- Any abrupt action
- Crossing traffic or driving against traffic
- Rapid and unnecessary acceleration or deceleration
Other times your appearance may indicate that you are drunk or have recently consumed alcohol. Finally, the officer may require you perform roadside tests to check you sobriety. These tests can include the horizontal gaze test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand.
What is considered a DUI in Pennsylvania?
A police offer has the discretion to charge an individual with a DUI if, in the officer’s judgment, the driver was “incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.” This can be observed by the officer through a variety of driving behaviors including swerving, lane departure, speeding, aggressive driving, and failure to yield to traffic control signals.
Beyond the subjective criteria for a DUI charge, an individual can be charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania if the individual’s BAC is measured to exceed the legal limit of .08% BAC. Drivers who have not yet reached the legal drinking age of 21 and commercial drivers face significantly reduced legal limits. Additionally DUI charges may also be imposed if the driver was operating his or her vehicle when under the influence of illegal drugs, solvents, if a metabolite of an illegal substance is present and can be detected through a blood test. Enhanced penalties apply for drivers with BACs greater than .10% and .16%, respectively.
The Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Chester County, PA
The law in Pennsylvania establishes a tiered system of punishment for DUI offenses. Generally speaking, penalties are less severe for first-time offenders and those with BACs close to the legal limit. However, repeat offenders and those with high to extreme BACs are subject to significantly more harsh penalties. If you are charged with a DUI the penalties you could face based on your level of impairment are:
General Impairment (BAC of 0.08% or greater, but less than 0.10%)
If a general impairment offense is your first DUI offense, a potential sentence could include a mandatory minimum term of six months’ probation, a fine of $300, mandatory attendance at a department-approved alcohol highway safety school, and drug and alcohol treatment programs. All programs and education are at the experience of the driver. A second DUI offense could result in penalties including no more than 5 days imprisonment, a fine of no more than $2,500, alcohol highway safety school approved by the department, and undergo all ordered drug and alcohol treatments
High rate of blood alcohol, minors, commercial vehicles, school buses (BAC of 0.10% or greater, but less than 0.16%)
For an individual with no prior offenses due to DUI, a first offense could carry 48-hours to 6 months imprisonment, a fine between $500 and $5,000, a 12-month license suspension, traffic safety school, and all ordered drug or alcohol treatment.
Incapacity; highest blood alcohol; controlled substances (BAC of 0.16% or greater)
At the highest level, a first-time DUI offender faces a 12-month license suspension, 3 days to 6 months in prison, a fine of no more than $5,000, and all other ordered treatment programs.
Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) DUI Program
Aside from lowering the BAC at which a legal DUI is triggered, the 2008 revisions also attempted to make rehabilitation of first-time offenders more expeditious and less punitive in nature. One such program intended to promote this goal is the ARD program. While the ARD program can have significant benefits for many charged with DUI, you should consult with an experienced attorney before agreeing to the program. Your attorney can help you determine if it is more likely to be better to fight your case or agree to the terms of ARD.
Upon successful completion of the ARD program, your DUI charges are dismissed leaving you with a clean record. However to qualify for the program you must meet certain conditions. First, you may not have any criminal history. Additionally, if you have previously participated in ARD, it must have been more than 10 years previous. Further, if a child age 14 or younger was a passenger in the vehicle when you were arrested for DUI you are generally ineligible. Finally an injury to a third-party cannot have occurred due to your intoxication. However even if you satisfy all of these conditions, the District Attorney still has the final decision on your acceptance into ARD.
Our Chester County, PA DUI Attorneys Can Help
Speaking with an experienced DUI attorney for your Chester county DUI can help you understand your options. Once you understand your options, you can select a legal strategy most likely to minimize the consequences of your DUI arrest. To speak with an experienced attorney, call Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at 1-(609) 755-3115 or contact us online.