Being charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania can have life-altering consequences, including jail time, high insurance premiums, lost professional opportunities, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. But not everyone who’s charged with a DUI is convicted. In fact, enlisting the help of a skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorney can help you to fight your charges and avoid the worst of DUI penalties.
To help you understand what it means to be charged with a DUI in Pittsburgh, we’ve compiled the following answers to commonly asked questions about Pennsylvania’s DUI laws. We hope they prove useful to you as you research DUI charges on behalf of yourself or a loved one.
Pennsylvania DUI Basics
If you’re wondering what a DUI is, how much it will cost you, why you or a loved one was charged with a DUI, or if you might be going to jail following conviction, you’re not alone. In fact, hundreds of people in Pennsylvania are charged with DUIs each year. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we’re experienced at helping clients who want to learn more about what their DUI charge might mean for them.
- What Is a DUI? A DUI refers to the act of driving under the influence of alcohol or another substance. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for an adult to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above. For commercial drivers, the BAC limit is even lower, at .04.
- What If I Was Drinking But Wasn’t Drunk? Even if a person’s driving wasn’t affected in any way by alcohol, it is still illegal to drive with a BAC over .08; doing so can result in a DUI charge.
- What If I Wasn’t Drinking At All? A DUI doesn’t just apply to cases involving alcohol. In fact, a charge can be brought against a person who was driving under the influence of prescription drugs or most other controlled substances.
- How Much Does a DUI Cost? DUI fines range from up to $300 for a first offense to up to $10,000 for a second or third offense, depending on the level in which a person’s BAC falls. In all BAC levels, fines increase with subsequent offenses.
- Why Did I Get Pulled Over When My Driving Was Fine? Any number of reasons unrelated to driving under the influence can prompt an officer to pull a person over. For example, if a trooper pulls you over for a broken taillight but finds, when asking for your license and registration, that you have alcohol on your breath or inflammation in your eyes, he or she may ask you to submit to a roadside sobriety test. Depending on the results of your test, he or she may also ask you to submit to chemical testing; as a result, you could be charged with a DUI.
- Am I Going to Lose My License? It depends. If you’re convicted of a DUI, you’ll likely face a driver’s license suspension of months or years in duration, except if convicted of a first-time DUI in which your BAC is between .08 and .099. In that case, you may not face suspension.
- Am I Going to Jail? First-time DUI offenders in Pennsylvania with a BAC of .08 to .099 face no jail time, if convicted. However, those found with a higher BAC who are convicted or who are facing a subsequent conviction could face anywhere from 5 days to 5 years in jail, depending on the circumstances of their case.
- Can I Erase a DUI Conviction From My Record? Yes, it may be possible to remove a DUI conviction from your criminal record through a pardon. Serious misdemeanor and felony crimes can haunt a person for a lifetime. To learn more about erasing a DUI from your record, contact a Pittsburgh DUI attorney.
What Are the Effects of a DUI Conviction?
The effects of a DUI conviction are severe and can result in months or years of incarceration, hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines, and a criminal record that can make it difficult to pursue future personal and professional goals. Further effects include higher car insurance premiums, loss of professional licenses, and time lost from family and work due to incarceration.
In Pennsylvania, DUI penalties match to a series of tiers that depend on a person’s BAC. These tiers range from .08-.099 for the first tier, .10-.159 for the second tier, and .16 or more for the third tier. The higher the tier in which a person falls, the harsher the DUI penalties.
- First-Time DUI Penalties — For a first-time DUI, penalties range from $300 to $5,000 in fines and 0 to 6 months incarceration, depending on a driver’s BAC, with a higher BAC resulting in harsher penalties
- Multiple DUI Penalties — For a second-time DUI, penalties range from $300 to $10,000 in fines and 5 days to 5 years in jail, depending on the amount of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream with higher BAC levels resulting in more severe penalties. For a third-time DUI, penalties range from $500 to $10,000 in fines and 10 days to 5 years incarceration, BAC level depending.
- Underage DUI Penalties — Drinking in Pennsylvania by a person under the age of 21 is strictly prohibited. If a person under 21 is found to have been operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02 or higher, he or she can be charged with underage DUI and face up to 90 days incarceration and $300 to $500 in fines
How To Defend Yourself Against DUI Charges
- Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh DUI Attorney — If you’re facing a DUI charge, we strongly recommend that you enlist the help of an experienced Pittsburgh DUI attorney. He or she can review your case and help you to build the strongest in order to help you fight your DUI charges.
- Leverage Multiple Methods of Defense — A DUI defense can rest on a number of strategies, including proving that an officer didn’t have probable cause to stop you in the first place, that your roadside sobriety test, breathalyzer, or chemical testing were poorly administered, or that you weren’t actually driving when you were charged with a DUI. A skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorney can work one-on-one with you to determine the most appropriate defense for your case.
- Record Your Memory of Events — Your own memory of an officer’s actions, of how a sobriety test was administered, or of the way in which a chemical sample was handled could play a key role in determining the outcome of your case. As soon as possible after you were pulled over, take a moment to record your memory of events. A seasoned Pittsburg DUI attorney may be able to use your documentation to help advance your case.
How An Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Attorney Can Help You
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we have years of experience helping clients who are facing DUI charges or who are seeking help in figuring out how best to defend themselves against a conviction. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI and are looking for more information on DUIs in Pittsburgh, call us at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. We’re here to stand up for your rights, build the strongest possible defense, and work with you to fight your DUI charge.