Even though Pennsylvania has always viewed drunk driving harshly, new legislation signed into law last year in October 2018 increases some of the penalties for drunk driving offenses. These changes include the creation of a new felony category for certain DUI offenses.
The Previous Punishments for A First DUI Offense
The consequences of drunk driving mostly depend on the factual circumstances of the situation. For example, factors such as whether anybody was injured, the blood alcohol content, whether a minor was riding in the car, etc. are very important when determining the possible punishment for the driver. However, the possible punishments still range from the relatively handleable to the more serious penalties of possible incarceration.
A first DUI conviction where the driver was drunk driving with a blood alcohol content between .08 and 1% will likely be classified as a misdemeanor. A convicted driver can possibly face a monetary fine of $300, probation lasting six-months, and a jail sentence with a likely maximum of six months. The courts will likely also require an alcohol safety class and participation in substance abuse treatment.
Drunk driving involving injuries, death, or property damage and DUIs for drivers with a BAC of at least .1% but less than .16% would likely still result in a misdemeanor charge, with a convicted driver possibly facing a jail time between 48 hours and six months, a monetary fine ranging from $500 to $5,000, and a 12-month license suspension. Again, the courts will likely require an alcohol safety class and participation in a substance abuse treatment
If drunk driving with a passenger under the age of 18 will likely result in a first-degree misdemeanor, with a convicted driver facing up to 5 years in jail, a monetary fine of $1000 or more, 100 hours of community service, and an 18-month license suspension.
Pennsylvania’s new rules are geared mostly toward repeat offenders, given the rates of continued drunk driving on Pennsylvania’s roads.
Under Pennsylvania’s old laws, a DUI was mostly classified as a misdemeanor. Now, a person convicted for the third time of a DUI will be charged with a felony if their blood alcohol content is .16% and above. Regardless of the BAC, a fourth DUI is automatically a felony.
In addition, Pennsylvania will be much harsher in penalizing drunk driving if the driver kills another person, even more so if they have previous drunk driving convictions. Under the new laws, if convicted of killing another person while drunk driving with a previous incident, the driver faces a minimum of five years in prison. For a driver with two previous incidents, the driver faces a minimum of seven years in prison.
Finally, for the drivers who have had their licenses suspended due to previous incidents, it is difficult to get around some parts of Pennsylvania without a car. However, the suspension of a license is intended to deter people from drunk driving. Unfortunately for such drivers, the new laws also impose increased penalties for driving if the license has been suspended.
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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