In the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a second-time driving under the influence (DUI) conviction involves more serious penalties than a first offense, including a higher fine. Typically, a DUI carries jail time, which certain first DUIs may not, and an offender will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) after a second DUI. An individual charged with a second DUI will not be eligible to get an Occupational Limited License (OLL) or to participate in a Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. These options are available only to first-time offenders.
Three Levels of DUI Charges in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has three levels of DUI: general impairment for a DUI involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 to 0.099 percent; high BAC for a DUI involving a BAC level of 0.10 to 0.159 percent; and highest BAC for a DUI involving a BAC level of 0.16 percent or more.
Penalties for a Second DUI
The penalties for a second general impairment DUI include five days to six months of incarceration; a fine between $300 and $2,500; one-year driver’s license suspension; alcohol highway safety school; treatment when ordered by the court; and installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for one year.
Penalties for a second high BAC DUI include 30 days to six months of incarceration; a fine between $750 and $5,000; one-year driver’s license suspension; alcohol highway safety school; treatment when ordered; and installation of an IID for one year.
Penalties for a second highest BAC DUI include 90 days to five years incarceration; a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; 18-month license suspension; alcohol highway safety school; treatment when ordered; and installation of an IID for one year.
Additional Penalties for a Second DUI
Additional penalties for a second DUI conviction of any level include: attendance and cost of a victim impact panel; community service hours; towing of the vehicle; impoundment of the vehicle; the cost of the IID; the cost of alcohol highway safety school; the cost of a substance abuse evaluation; and the cost of treatment, if ordered.
The Pennsylvania Look-back Period is 10 Years
Pennsylvania has a “look-back” period of 10 years for DUI offenses. A second DUI committed within 10 years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced will count as a second DUI for penalties. A second DUI committed outside of 10 years will not carry as severe penalties, yet a defendant should not expect a lenient plea offer for a second DUI committed outside of 10 years.
A defendant charged with a second DUI committed outside of 10 years still is not eligible for an ARD program.
Second DUI Is a Misdemeanor
All three types of second DUIs are misdemeanors. A second general impairment DUI is an ungraded misdemeanor. This is a type of crime for which an offense-specific penalty can be assigned, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (PCS) Chapter 38. A second high BAC is also an ungraded misdemeanor, and a second highest BAC is a first-degree misdemeanor, Pennsylvania’s most serious degree of misdemeanor.
If an individual has one prior DUI offense, a refusal of breath or chemical testing pursuant to a valid search warrant, a court order or any other basis permissible by the U.S. Constitution or the Pennsylvania Constitution, they will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
What Counts as a Prior DUI Conviction?
Any level of Pennsylvania DUI counts as a prior DUI, including an underage DUI. When considering the level of a second DUI, the offense that matters when determining the penalties is the current DUI, not the first. For example, if an individual had a DUI conviction for a highest BAC DUI for their first DUI and was convicted of a general impairment DUI for their second offense, they would be sentenced to penalties appropriate for a second general impairment DUI.
Does an Out-of-state DUI Conviction Count?
An out-of-state DUI counts as a prior DUI if the DUI laws in the other state are substantially similar to Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. Pennsylvania’s DUI law provides that an individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol to render them incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
Further, Pennsylvania’s DUI law provides that an individual may not drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the alcohol concentration in the individual’s blood or breath is at least 0.08, but less than 0.10 percent within two hours after the individual has driven, operated or been in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle, according to PCS Chapter 38.
Comparison to Other States' DUI Laws
Pennsylvania’s DUI laws are strict, but not as strict as the laws of some other states. For example, Arizona Revised Statutes 4-244 (34) prohibits an individual under 21 from driving under the influence after drinking any amount of alcohol. A Pennsylvania court might not consider an Arizona underage DUI to be a prior DUI if the offender’s BAC was less than 0.02 percent.
If an individual is convicted of an out-of-state DUI and returns to Pennsylvania, they will suffer a 12-month license suspension for this second offense, according to PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Service DUI Legislation.
Pennsylvania DUI Court May Be an Option
In some counties in Pennsylvania, an individual charged with certain types of second DUIs may participate in DUI court. DUI court is a diversion program that seeks to help an offender receive substance abuse treatment. Allegheny County’s DUI Court is open to defendants who have been arrested for DUIs twice.
A candidate for DUI Court must plead guilty to all charges. A DUI offender is not eligible if they are currently charged with, or have been convicted of, crimes of violence within the past 10 years. A participant in DUI Court must complete all treatment requirements recommended by the DUI Court specialist.
A participant in DUI Court must attend progress hearings once or twice a month. Participants who complete all of the treatment requirements are stepped down to probation with continued supervision and chemical tests for controlled substances. If a person is noncompliant or completes a new offense while in the DUI Court program, they may be removed from the program and sentenced to the mandatory sentence for the charge in their recent DUI case.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.