A first, second or third driving under the influence (DUI) conviction is not a felony in Pennsylvania, but a fourth or subsequent DUI is considered a third-degree felony. Penalties for a third-degree felony include a prison sentence up to seven years and a maximum fine of $15,000. The law that raised the penalties for a fourth or subsequent DUI took effect in 2018.
Penalties for a Fourth DUI
An individual charged with a fourth DUI suffers different penalties depending on their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. A DUI involving a BAC of between 0.08 and 0.099 percent is called a general impairment DUI. Penalties for a fourth general impairment DUI include between 10 days and seven years of jail time; a fine between $500 and $15,000; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if recommended; one-year driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).
A high BAC DUI involves a BAC of 0.10 to 0.159 percent. Penalties for a fourth high BAC DUI include between one year and seven years incarceration; a fine between $1,500 and $15,000; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if recommended; 18-months driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).
A highest BAC DUI involves a BAC of 0.16 percent or above. Penalties for a fourth highest BAC DUI include between one year and seven years incarceration; a fine between $2,500 and $15,000; alcohol highway safety school; treatment if recommended; 18-months driver’s license suspension; and one-year installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).
The BAC in the Current DUI Is What Matters
When an individual incurs a DUI charge, only the BAC level in the current DUI case matters. For example, the individual could have three prior high BAC DUIs. If they are charged with a general impairment DUI in a current case, their penalties are limited to those for a fourth general impairment DUI.
What Is the Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Look-Back Period?
The look-back period for a Pennsylvania DUI is 10 years, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (PCS) Chapter 38. A prior offense must have occurred within 10 years prior to the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced. A prior offense can also have occurred on or after the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
When Out-of-State DUI Counts as a Prior
An out-of-state DUI counts as a prior DUI if the DUI laws of the other state are substantially similar to Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. An offense is considered a DUI if it involves driving or being in actual physical control of the movement of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above.
An underage DUI is defined as a minor driving under the influence with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above. If the individual was not driving in a way that demonstrated impairment, Pennsylvania is unlikely to consider an underage DUI involving a BAC of 0.01 to 0.019 percent as a DUI.
Pennsylvania does not consider an offense involving boating under the influence to count as a prior DUI, even if the state that convicted the individual counted it as a DUI.
ARD Program Counts as a DUI
Pennsylvania will consider completion of an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for DUI in Pennsylvania within 10 years as a prior DUI, even though the defendant did not get a DUI conviction. Pennsylvania may also consider a completion of a similar program in another state, like a pretrial diversion or deferred prosecution program, as a prior DUI. When it comes to out-of-state pretrial diversion programs, Pennsylvania is likely to look at the facts of the case to determine whether the defendant would have gotten a DUI charge in Pennsylvania.
Other Felony DUI Offenses
A number of offenses, other than a fourth DUI within 10 years, can count as felony DUIs. A driver can be charged with a felony DUI if there was a minor, a person under 18, in their car and they have two or more prior offenses, according to PCS Chapter 38. If the driver had only one prior DUI on their record, the act would be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor DUI. An individual can be charged with a felony DUI if they refused breath or chemical testing and have two or more prior DUIs. In this case, the third DUI will be charged as a third-degree felony.
Rights a Convicted Felon Loses in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a convicted felon loses numerous rights, including the right to have a firearm, according to PCS Title 18 Section 6105, and they could lose their professional license, as well. In addition, they become ineligible to be a foster parent or to adopt a child for a 10-year period, according to PCS Title 23 Section 6344.2. In Pennsylvania, a convicted felon loses the right to vote only for the period of incarceration. This right is automatically restored after their release, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Unintentional Death During a DUI
A person who unintentionally causes the death of another person as a result of a DUI and is convicted for a DUI is guilty of a second-degree felony and faces severe penalties. The terms for this type of act is vehicular homicide or homicide-by-vehicle. The minimum penalty for this offense is three years, but a defendant can be sentenced to more time in prison depending on their number of prior DUI convictions and how many victims died because of their DUI.
The sentence will be a minimum of five years if the defendant has one prior DUI and a minimum of seven years if the defendant has at least two prior DUIs on their criminal record. The defendant is guilty of a first-degree felony if they commit this act and have a prior DUI conviction. The prior DUI conviction includes an adjudication of delinquency in juvenile court for an offense involving driving under the influence or an acceptance of an ARD, according to PCS Title 75 Section 3735.
Reckless Driving Is Not a Felony Charge
In Pennsylvania, reckless driving is a summary offense, the lowest level of criminal charge, according to PCS 75 Section 3736. This criminal offense is below a misdemeanor. An individual is determined to engage in reckless driving when they drive in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. An individual convicted of reckless driving will be sentenced to pay a fine of $200.
- PENNDOT Driver & Vehicle Services: 0.08 DUI Legislation
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Chapter 38, Driving After Imbibing Alcohol or Utilizing Drugs
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Title 18 Crimes and Offenses, Section 6015 Persons Not to Possess, Use, Manufacture, Control, Sell or Transfer Firearms
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Title 23 Domestic Relations, Section 6344.2 Volunteers Having Contact With Children.
- Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: Voting Rights
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Title 75 Vehicles, Section 3735 Homicide by Vehicle While Driving Under Influence
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: Title 75 Vehicles, Section 3736 Reckless Driving
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.