All DUI charges are serious and should be treated as such, but the severity of potential consequences can vary. Pennsylvania takes a tiered approach to drunk driving, with three different levels based on a person’s blood-alcohol content at the time of their arrest. The three levels are general impairment, high BAC and highest BAC, with penalties varying greatly even for first-time offenders.
A general impairment drunk driving charge applies to drivers who register a BAC between .08 and .099 percent at the time of their arrest. If convicted, drivers may face six months of probation, hundreds of dollars in fines and even a course in alcohol highway safety. Pennsylvania also focuses on treatment options for first time-offenders, and many are surprised when faced with court-ordered alcohol treatment rather than jail time.
The consequences for high BAC — between .10 and .159 percent — and highest BAC — anything above .16 percent — charges are surprisingly similar, although still more severe than those for general impairment. Both can result in up to six months in prison, thousands of dollars in fines and a loss of driving privileges for a full year. Alcohol-related treatment may still be ordered on top of other penalties.
While the tiered approach to drunk driving charges is sensible, the legal ramifications of conviction can have long-reaching implications. Aside from jail time, fines and suspended licenses, many find that convictions impact their future employment and education opportunities. Most defendants in Pennsylvania are able to minimize this impact by taking a careful, guided approach to their criminal defense preparations.
Source: dmv.pa.org, “.08 DUI Legislation“, Accessed on Oct. 11, 2017