Pennsylvania DUI FAQs

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you have been drinking or using recreational drugs or are taking prescription medications that can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, the best practice is to leave the keys at home and take public transportation or get a ride. 

However, if you are caught driving under the influence and receive a DUI citation, knowing what to do will help you considerably. Here are answers to some Pennsylvania DUI FAQs.

Yes. The only DUI conviction that escapes mandatory jail time or its equivalent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a first offense of the General Impairment Tier with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of lower than 0.1%.  

A DUI sentence for drivers found with a blood alcohol content of anything above 0.1% can range from 2 days to 60 months. The sentence is dependent on the details of the case. For example, if the driving impairment led to property damage, injury, or death, these things will be taken into consideration during the driver’s sentencing. The sentencing judge will also consider the driver’s BAC, his or her type of driver’s license, and any prior record.  

Judges consider alternatives to jail sentences for drivers when this is appropriate. These include work release, house arrest, and secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring (SCRAM).  

Drivers involved in minor traffic accidents and without criminal records can also enter an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program of alcohol highway safety school and community service that lasts between 30 days and a year. 

If the offense is committed in Pennsylvania, no matter the driver’s home state, the case will be tried in Pennsylvania courts.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, all DUI convictions beyond a first offense result in the driver losing his or her license for a minimum of one year. Depending on the severity of the offense and the driver’s record, the license suspension can last longer. 

If loss of a license makes working impossible, qualified drivers can apply for an Occupational Limited License to enable them to continue driving to and from their jobs. However, commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders face harsher penalties than other drivers, even if the offense took place in a private vehicle. 

At the end of a suspension of at least one year, Pennsylvania drivers convicted of a second or subsequent DUI must have an ignition interlock system fitted on each of their motor vehicles. Before turning the ignition, drivers blow into the system, which disables the car if alcohol is detected. 

If you are convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania but licensed to drive in another state, Pennsylvania will send a notice of your conviction to your home state. Your license suspension will be according to that state’s DUI laws.

Yes. If a Pennsylvania court convicts you of driving under the influence, it will remain on your criminal record forever. 

Information about DUI convictions appears in many places, including the National Driver Registry and databases run by the state, local, and federal authorities, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) with which Pennsylvania’s own Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network (CLEAN) integrates. This also means that a previous DUI in a different state will be easily discovered and used against you during sentencing in your Pennsylvania trial. 

DUI records are easily accessible to the public and appear in background checks for many things, including employment and credit applications.

No. The police just have to prove that you were operating the vehicle. Other evidence, such as eye-witness accounts or camera records can verify that, but the driver being found behind the wheel of a running vehicle is rarely sufficient in the Pennsylvania courts.

You can refuse blood or breath tests, otherwise known as chemical testing, but it is not advisable because doing so carries penalties beyond those the DUI alone might bring. 

If you refuse a blood or breath test, the police officers involved will notify the Pennsylvania Department of Transport. If you are a Pennsylvania resident, you will automatically lose your license for at least a year. If you are an out-of-state driver, you will no longer be permitted to drive in Pennsylvania. 

The driver will receive a letter informing him or her of the license suspension or revocation of driving rights and be given 30 days to file an appeal to Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas. If the appeal is filed correctly, the driver will receive a court date for a hearing to see whether the police officers were followed the correct procedures.

Yes. Miranda warnings are not required until an individual has already been arrested and is about to face police questioning. Most DUI cases hinge on high BAC test results and the arresting officer’s observations rather than the driver’s answers to questions. DUI cases often take place without the driver being Mirandized. However, should the un-Mirandized driver say something incriminating, he or she can file a motion to suppress its use as evidence.

Yes. In Pennsylvania, DUI law includes impairment due to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, or a mixture of these things. Prescription medication comes with driving impairment warnings, which should be adhered to.

Yes. A nolo contendere, or no contest plea, means the defendant pleads guilty without admitting guilt. Drivers who plead nolo contendere will be subject to the same legal penalties as drivers found guilty in a court case; however, they will not receive points against their license.

In Pennsylvania, police departments usually file charges for the DUI incident directly with magistrates in the district the offense occurred. They do not present the motorist with the charges. 

Within two weeks to a month of the traffic incident, drivers receive the DUI charges in the mail. These will include a request for fingerprints and a summons to appear for a preliminary hearing in district court. During this hearing, the police must prove they have enough evidence for the Court of Common Pleas to take the case. 

In many states, driver’s licenses become suspended as soon as a DUI charge is made. However, in Pennsylvania, unless drivers refuse a blood or breath test, their licenses remain good, and they can continue to drive until their cases are decided in court. 

America’s criminal justice laws give individuals the right to represent themselves in court cases, no matter what they are for. However, unless the individual is a criminal lawyer who specializes in an appropriate area, he or she will be at a severe disadvantage to the professionals trying the case. Representing yourself can result in worse penalties as the prosecuting attorney will be ready to turn any mistake you make against you. 

The penalties for DUI offenses are severe and inconvenient. Nobody wants to spend time in prison, and it is hard to get by in many parts of America without a driver’s license. Employing a specialist attorney may cost money in the short term, but its benefits can quickly pay for themselves. 

It is a good idea to hire a DUI attorney as soon as possible after being accused of impaired or drunk driving. Before the initial hearing, an experienced attorney can see whether there are grounds to dismiss the case or have reduce charges. A DUI attorney can often spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case at the preliminary hearing, sometimes leading to the case being dropped.  

Contact a Pennsylvania DUI Attorney Today

The Wyland Law Group is a Western Pennsylvania law firm committed to serving the community and protecting the rights of individuals in criminal proceedings. Our team’s many years of experience mean we know how Pennsylvania law operates, and we make that knowledge work for clients by providing great advice and helping them make decisions that lead to suitable outcomes. 

We are dedicated to demystifying the legal process and being there for our clients every step of the way. Our legal team will quickly answer questions and make the DUI process as smooth as possible. 

Call now at 412-710-0013 to speak to a friendly representative and learn more about how we can help you.

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Whether you have been charged with your first offense or your third, having an experienced attorney on your side is critical to your ability to defend yourself against the government’s allegations. I have the knowledge and experience to help you achieve the best possible results.

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    The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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    Telephone: 412-710-0013
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