Northeastern PA DUI Attorneys

Have You Been Arrested for DUI?

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offense that could involve harsh penalties, as well as give you a criminal record. The penalties that can come along with a DUI conviction include: fines, jail time, license suspension, alcohol safety school, probation, the installation of an ignition interlock device, and community service. In Pennsylvania, the penalties for a DUI depend on the number of previous DUIs the individual has, as well as their blood alcohol content (BAC). The legal limit for a driver in Pennsylvania is 0.08.

Can I be Convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania if I was Below a .08%?

Section 3802  of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code covers the crime of DUI. Section 3802(a)(1) provides a definition of DUI which includes no language on BAC at all. An individual can be convicted under this section so long as they have imbibed “a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving…” This means that you could conceivably be convicted of DUI even if you had only 1 or 2 drinks, so long as those drinks were sufficient to render you incapable of safely driving.

DUI Penalties Chart for Pennsylvania
ARD as an Alternative to a First Time DUI Conviction in Pennsylvania

ARD stands for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. ARD is a program for first time offenders. If you are able to successfully complete the program, your case will be dismissed and you can have your record expunged. 

The primary purpose of the ARD program is for “first offenders who lend themselves to treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment and that the crime charged is relatively minor and does not involve a serious breach of public trust.” 

Who is Eligible for ARD in Pennsylvania?

Generally, in Pennsylvania a first time DUI offender will be accepted into the ARD program, but there are exceptions. Section 3807 of the motor vehicle code provides that an individual will not be considered for entry into the ARD program if any of the following apply:

  • The individual previously completed the ARD program for a DUI;
  • The individual has a prior conviction for a DUI within the last 10 years;
  • The current incident involved an accident where someone other than the defendant was injured or killed;
  • There was a passenger in the car under 14 years of age
What are the Benefits of the ARD Program?

The benefits of being admitted into and completing the ARD program are as follows:

  • Successful completion of the program charges results in a dismissal of the charges;
  • It results in a reduced license suspension;
  • If you are arrested for a subsequent DUI, completion of the ARD is not considered a conviction for sentencing purposes on the subsequent DUI;
  • You will not receive jail time  
How Does an Individual get into the ARD Program?

Your attorney will submit an application for admission into the ARD program to the applicable District Attorney's Office. Once the DA's office receives your application, and it is approved, ARD court is scheduled. There are several things an individual must do prior to being accepted into the ARD program at their court date, these are:

  • Paying the fees associated with the ARD; and
  • Completing a CRN evaluation
    • The CRN evaluation is a pre-screening tool used to determine if you will be referred for a more comprehensive drug and alcohol assessment.
    • The evaluation usually lasts between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
What Happens After an Individual is Admitted into the ARD Program?

At the ARD hearing, the court tells you what the conditions of entry are, and if you accept them, you are admitted into the program. You must complete your conditions within the term of your ARD program. The conditions for a DUI ARD include things such as:

  • No new arrests or violations of the law;
  • Community service;
  • Drug and Alcohol Evaluation and follow up treatment if ordered;
  • Safe driving school; and
  • Payment of all fines and costs

If you do not agree to the terms of the program, you will not be admitted, and your case will either be disposed of with a guilty plea or a trial.

Generally, for a typical DUI case, the length is usually 12 months. Once you have completed all the requirements of the program, and you have successfully completed the ARD program, your case will be eligible for expungement.

What Happens if an Individual Violates the Terms of the ARD Program?

The answer to this question depends on what the violation is. If you do not complete your community service or pay your fines in time, the court will generally extend the time of your ARD to allow you time to complete your requirements. If this happens, you will have to pay the additional supervision fees associated with the extension. If you get arrested and are facing new criminal charges, you will likely be revoked from the ARD program immediately. Your case will then proceed as normal and be disposed of via guilty plea or trial. 

Second Offense DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the specific consequences an individual faces for a second offense DUI conviction will be based on the individual's BAC. The higher the BAC, the higher the penalties you will face.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania structures the three tiers as follows:

  • General Impairment - BAC .08 and 0.99%
  • High Impairment - BAC .10 and 0.159%
  • Highest Impairment - BAC of .16% or higher

With a conviction for a second DUI, an individual will be required to use an ignition interlock device on his or her car. This device, which starts your car after testing and making sure you have a zero or near zero BAC, must be paid for out of your own pocket and usually costs around $1,000.

Third Offense DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania

Just like a conviction for a second offense DUI, the specific consequences for a third offense DUI conviction will be based on the individual's BAC. The higher the BAC, the higher the penalties you will face.

With a third offense DUI conviction, you will receive a guaranteed misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record. Depending on your BAC, a third offense DUI conviction can result in a felony on your criminal record. 

What is an Ignition Interlock?

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation issues ignition interlock licenses to drivers who have had their driving privileges revoked as a result of a DUI conviction or for refusal to submit to a chemical test. This type of license allows you to get back to driving, but with the restrictions of having an ignition interlock device installed in your car.  The laws for the ignition interlock are found in Section 3805 of the motor vehicle code.

Simply put, a vehicle equipped with ignition interlock prevents a car from starting until the person operating it blows into a breathalyzer-style device. In order for the vehicle to start, the device has to register the individual's BAC below a certain level. If the BAC is above the threshold the vehicle will not start. 

Who is Eligible for the Ignition Interlock?

If you have been convicted of a first offense DUI, or are eligible and enter the ARD program, you are immediately eligible to reinstate your driving privilege with the ignition interlock license. If an individual has a prior conviction for DUI, they are eligible to reinstate their driving privilege after they have served half of their suspension. For example, if they have a 12-month suspension to serve, they will be eligible after 6 months. You must keep the ignition interlock on your car for 1 year. 

How do you get an Ignition Interlock License and the Device Installed in Your Car?

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, an individual will receive a letter from PennDOT 30 days prior to eligibility, listing their individual restoration requirements. The letter will also include an application and information on vendors where he or she can get an ignition interlock device installed in their car. A dealer licensed by the government must install the device. PennDOT will issue the license once they approve the application and the company certifies the device was installed in your vehicle.

Ignition Interlock and Multiple Vehicles

Pennsylvania law requires that an individual have ignition interlock devices installed on each car he or she owns. There is an exemption for economic hardship. If an individual can establish that installing the device on more than one car would cause economic hardship, the court may allow installation on only one vehicle. If PennDOT permits only one car with ignition interlock, the individual can only drive that car. 

Ignition Interlock and Driving a Work Vehicle

If an individual has an ignition interlock restricted license and has to drive an employer owned vehicle for work, an  ignition interlock does not have to be installed on that car. Your employer must aware that you have an ignition interlock restricted license and the individual must carry proof confirming the employer's knowledge while driving. An example of proof of knowledge would be a notarized letter from your employer. This exemption is not available if the company car is available for your private use.

Can an Ignition Interlock Device Register a False Positive?

Quite simply, yes, it is possible for an ignition interlock device to register a false positive, particularly if the user had eaten spicy food or rinsed with mouthwash directly prior to blowing into the device. Pennsylvania law provides for this possibility, allowing a person to try and blow into the machine again within 10 minutes of the false positive. If they register less than a .08 in that time period, they will not be cited for a violation of their restricted license. 

What Happens if you Drive a Car Without an Ignition Interlock When you Have a Restricted License?

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is a misdemeanor offense for an individual to drive a car without an ignition interlock when you have a restricted license. 

It is also a misdemeanor offense if someone else blows into your ignition interlock device and you are driving, or if you otherwise tamper with the device.

What Happens When There is a Violation of the Ignition Interlock License?

Pennsylvania law provides that if an individual violates the conditions of his or her ignition interlock restricted license, PennDOT will add an additional year to their ignition interlock requirement.

Having the Ignition Interlock Requirement Removed From Your License

An individual can have the ignition interlock restrictions removed from their license after having the ignition interlock in his or her car for 1 year. In addition, the individual must obtain a report certifying that he or she did not have any violations in the past two months, including any reading above.08, without a result below .08 within 10 minutes. If the individual had any violations in the past 2 months, he or she will not be able to have the ignition interlock restrictions removed until they have been violation free for two months.

CDL DUI Laws in Pennsylvania

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, if you have a commercial driver's license (CDL), or live out of state but get a DUI in Pennsylvania, your livelihood and ability to operate a commercial vehicle could be affected. The ramifications of being convicted with DUI for commercial drivers, are much more severe than for non-commercial drivers. In Pennsylvania, being arrested for DUI not only subjects you to the ordinary administrative and criminal consequences, but also puts a CDL holder at risk of having their license suspended. This is true even if you weren't operating a commercial vehicle at the time of your arrest. 

For CDL drivers driving a commercial vehicle in Pennsylvania, the legal limit for BAC is incredibly low. A BAC of no more than .02 is the max. That's a full 75% lower than the legal limit for non-commercial drivers or when you are in a non-commercial vehicle. 

For other CDL license holders in their commercial vehicle, a BAC of .04 will put you in the high impairment category.

As you can see, the laws for CDL drivers in a commercial vehicle in PA are quite strict, to go along with severe penalties.

Contact Us Today

If you or a loved one are DUI charges, call Sklarosky Law today at (570) 283-1200 or use our online contact form and tell us about your potential case. DUI charges can have life altering ramification. Do not wait, call us today so that we can help ensure that your rights are protected.

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