What to do if You Have Been Charged with DUI in Pennsylvania [Next Steps]

DUI Pittsburgh, PA

How does Pennsylvania Define a DUI? 

Pennsylvania criminalizes driving or controlling a vehicle if under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or another controlled substance.  A person is considered under the influence if they are incapable of driving safely.  However, proving incapacity of safe driving is not considered necessary in some cases.

The types of cases can include when a driver has a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is lowered to .04% for commercial drivers, .02% for bus drivers, and drivers under 21.

How Does Pennsylvania Penalize a DUI?

Pennsylvania penalizes a DUI into three categories: general impairment, high rate, and highest rate.  A driver legally arrested for a DUI is required to submit to a blood or breath test to verify if they were driving under the influence, and if so, the amount.  Pennsylvania is considered an implied consent state, which means that refusal to take a test can result in a 12-month suspension of the license. Pennsylvania penalizes a DUI based on a variety of factors, including whether the DUI was a first-time or repeat offense and the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system at the time of the arrest.

A charge of general impairment occurs when the driver’s blood alcohol content is either indeterminable or between .08 and .099 percent, usually resulting in a misdemeanor and sometimes even probation. A charge of high rate occurs when a driver’s blood alcohol content is between .10 and .159 percent. These charges can also result in additional requirements, such as mandatory treatment or counseling.

A charge of highest rate occurs when the driver’s blood alcohol content is 1.6% or higher, with jail time and fines imposed.  For the highest rate charge, treatment and counseling are a high probability.  As recently as October 2018, drunk driving convictions have become increasingly penalized, and a new felony category exists for certain DUI offenses.

Following a DUI Charge

After being charged with a DUI and released from police custody, a court summons is issued to which the driver must appear and respond. After receiving the summons is usually the advised point in time to secure legal representation to receive advice on whether the case might proceed to trial and which defense to plead. Ignoring a legal summons is not advisable. Failure to appear can result in additional penalties. These initial penalties can make the situation more difficult. It is important to remember that being charged with a DUI is not the same thing as being convicted of a DUI.

The preliminary hearing is the appearance in court after the issuance of a summons, which consists of the judge looking at the evidence to evaluate whether the situation will proceed to go to trial. However, a preliminary hearing is not technically a trial because its sole focus is on whether an unlawful arrest occurred.  Though waiving the option to have a preliminary hearing is possible, it is usually not advised. However, consultation with a legal representative about the specific circumstances of the case provides better insight and advice into the best plan. 


Call (412) 804-4048 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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Posted on: November 25, 2019 by Kim Bodnar