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Pennsylvania Law Questions: What Happens to First Time DUI Offenders?

Oct. 19, 2020

To best understand Pennsylvania DUI law, it is imperative to understand what a DUI is. Pennsylvania defines a DUI as driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with

  • a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or higher or

  • impaired by drugs or alcohol affecting the person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely

Generally, a person is considered to have violated Pennsylvania DUI law if a chemical test conducted within two hours of driving shows a BAC above the .08% legal limit.

The DUI Arrest

If a police officer suspects someone is driving under the influence, they will pull them over and administer a field sobriety test. This test is crucial because it will determine whether an arrest will follow.

Suppose probable cause exists that drinking and driving have been occurring. In that case, the officer can take the driver into custody, process them at the police station, and ask the suspected driver to submit to an official blood alcohol content test.

It is important to remember that Pennsylvania is considered an implied consent state, which means that a driver suspected of drinking and driving waives the right to refuse to a chemical test if arrested for a DUI. As a result, if a driver refuses to take the test, the officer will immediately suspend the driver’s license.

The DUI Court Hearing

After being released from the police station, the defendant will receive a summons indicating the location and time to appear for a preliminary hearing. This period before the hearing is usually the best time to retain legal counsel. A lawyer can examine any relevant evidence to determine whether the police officer followed all protocols when conducting the sobriety test, entering all evidence, and more. All this will inform the best course of action for a particular case.

If choosing to plead not guilty, the burden of proof lies on the driver — not the police officer. Even if the driver accepts the charges, they must still appear in court. A legal representative can appear on their behalf. The court may impose a range of additional penalties on the defendant, should they fail to appear. Choosing the right lawyer can maximize the defendant’s chances of success.

Penalties After the DUI Hearing

DUI penalties depend on the factual circumstances of the situation. Possible punishments include monetary fines starting in the hundreds, an alcohol safety class, participation in substance abuse treatment, jail time, and license suspension. Penalties also become more severe when it comes to accidents involving other people, especially those that endangered minors’ lives.

Altogether, it can cost an average of $7,000 to resolve a DUI case. Even a seemingly simple DUI case can quickly become complicated to someone without a nuanced understanding of the law. A Pennsylvania DUI lawyer can help reduce your charges and prevent you from further implicating yourself.

Call to schedule a consultation with Kim A. Bodnar, Attorney at Law in our Pittsburgh office.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice

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