An Overview of Pennsylvania DUI Laws, Penalties & Fines

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In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, driving under the influence (DUI) is defined as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent and above. The state has three levels of DUI: general impairment for DUIs involving a 0.08 to 0.099 percent BAC; high BAC for DUIs involving a 0.10 to 0.159 percent BAC; and highest BAC for DUIs involving a BAC of 0.16 percent and above. An underage DUI is defined as a person under 21 driving with a BAC between 0.02 and 0.079 percent. A driver between the ages of 18 and 20 with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above may be charged with a standard DUI.

First, second, third and subsequent offenses carry different penalties, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (PCS) Chapter 38. An individual who refuses to take a breathalyzer or chemical test for a DUI is subjected to the penalty for the highest BAC DUI for the respective offense. For example, an individual with no prior DUIs who refuses a blood or breath test will suffer the penalties of a first highest BAC DUI; an individual who refuses a blood or breath test and has one prior DUI will suffer the penalties of a second highest BAC DUI.

Fines for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania

The maximum fines for first-time DUI offenders range from $300 for a first general impairment DUI to $15,000 for a fourth DUI of any type, according to PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services.

The fine for a first general impairment DUI is $300, a first high BAC DUI between $500 and $5,000, and a first highest BAC DUI between $1,000 and $5,000.

The fine for a second general impairment DUI is $300 to $2,500, a second high BAC DUI between $750 and $5,000, and a second highest BAC DUI between $1,500 and $10,000.

The fine for a third general impairment DUI is $500 to $5,000, a third high BAC DUI between $1,500 and $10,000, and a third highest BAC DUI between $2,500 and $10,000.

The fine for a fourth general impairment DUI is between $500 and $15,000, a fourth high BAC DUI between $1,500 and $15,000, and a fourth highest BAC DUI between $2,500 and $15,000.

The fine for an underage first DUI is between $500 and $5,000. The fine for an underage second DUI is between $750 and $5,000. The fine for an underage third DUI is between $1,500 and $10,000, and the fine for an underage fourth DUI is between $1,500 and $15,000.

Additional DUI Penalties for a First Offense

Additional penalties for a first general impairment DUI include alcohol highway safety school, treatment if ordered, and up to six months of probation. Incarceration is not a penalty for a first general impairment DUI.

Additional penalties for a first high BAC DUI include 30 days to six months of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment when ordered; one-year loss of driving privileges; and one-year installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).

Additional penalties for a first highest BAC DUI include three days to six months in jail, alcohol highway safety school, treatment when ordered and one-year driver’s license suspension.

Additional penalties for a first underage DUI include a minimum of two days of jail time, alcohol highway safety school and treatment if ordered.

Additional penalties for all levels and types of DUIs include mandatory attendance at a victim impact panel (VIP), according to PCS Chapter 38. Additional penalties include the cost of a vehicle tow; a per-day impound fee; restitution if the driver caused a victim any property damage or bodily injury; and a higher auto insurance premium. The defendant must also pay a fee for alcohol highway safety school, and alcohol evaluation and treatment if ordered.

Additional Penalties for a Second Offense

Additional penalties for a second general impairment DUI include between five days and six months of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; one-year driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of IID.

Additional penalties for a second high BAC DUI include 30 days to six months of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; one-year driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of IID.

Additional penalties for a second highest BAC DUI include 90 days to five years of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; 18-month driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of IID.

Additional penalties for a second underage DUI include 30 days minimum incarceration, alcohol highway safety school and treatment if ordered.

Additional Penalties for a Third Offense

Additional penalties for a third general impairment DUI include 10 days to two years incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; one-year driver’s license suspension; and one-installation of an IID.

Additional penalties for a third high BAC DUI include 90 days to five years of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; 18-month driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an IID.

Additional penalties for a third highest BAC DUI include one year to five years of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; 18-month driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an IID.

Additional penalties for a third underage DUI include a minimum of 90 days incarceration, alcohol highway safety school and treatment if ordered.

Additional Penalties for a Fourth DUI

Additional penalties for a fourth general impairment DUI include 10 days to seven years of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; twelve-month license suspension; and one-year installation of an IID.

Additional penalties for a fourth high BAC DUI include one year to seven years of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; 18-month driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an IID.

Additional penalties for a fourth highest BAC DUI include one year to seven years of incarceration; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if ordered; 18-month driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an IID.

Additional penalties for a fourth underage DUI include one year to seven years of incarceration, alcohol highway safety school and treatment if ordered.

ARD and OLL for First Offenses

An individual with a first-ever DUI may be eligible to participate in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. This is a type of pretrial diversion program that allows an individual to pay fines and complete community service hours while on probation, according to Montgomery County ARD Program. The cost of the program varies by county.

If the defendant successfully completes the program, their DUI charge is dismissed. An individual with a second DUI charge is not eligible to participate in an ARD program, even if they have previously successfully completed an ARD program and had their prior DUI conviction dismissed. An individual who completed a similar program in another state for an out-of-state DUI charge is not eligible to participate in an ARD program.

An individual with a first-ever DUI may be eligible to get an Occupational Limited License (OLL), according to the PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services OLL program. An OLL allows an individual with a suspended driver’s license to drive a designated motor vehicle for purposes related only to the individual’s work, trade, medical treatment or study. Some drivers must obtain an ignition interlock OLL, according to the PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services’ Ignition Interlock Limited License.

Understanding Pennsylvania's Look-back Period

The look-back period that is used to count prior DUIs is 10 years. A DUI conviction 10 years outside of a current case will not be counted when it comes to penalties. Still, the individual facing a second DUI charge that is 10 years outside of their first conviction will likely have a harsher plea offer and sentence than an individual who is facing their first-ever DUI charge. An out-of-state DUI counts as a prior DUI if the law under which the offender was convicted is substantially the same as Pennsylvania’s DUI law.

When Is a DUI Offense a Misdemeanor?

DUI offenders may be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the number of DUIs they have committed and the level of intoxication for their current case. For charging purposes, the level of intoxication that matters is the level of intoxication in the defendant’s current case. As an example, a driver convicted of a first highest BAC DUI who is now facing a second general impairment DUI will be charged with an ungraded misdemeanor.

A first general impairment DUI, first high BAC DUI or first highest BAC DUI is charged as an ungraded misdemeanor. This type of misdemeanor has a penalty specific to the offense. A second general impairment DUI or second high BAC DUI is charged as an ungraded misdemeanor, and a second highest BAC DUI is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, the most serious misdemeanor charge in the state.

A third or subsequent general impairment DUI is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor. A third or subsequent high BAC DUI or highest BAC DUI is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. But a fourth DUI of any type is charged as a third-degree felony. Maximum penalties for third-degree felony DUI include up to seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000.