Penalties for a First Offense DUI in PA

In Pennsylvania, driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is a serious crime that carries serious consequences. The penalties can include a fine, a driver's license suspension, and mandatory jail time. In this blog post, we will discuss the penalties associated with a first offense DUI in PA.

Three-Tiered System

DUI charges are broken down into three tiers. The applicable tier determines the penalties that will be imposed and is based primarily on the defendant's blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the incident.  The penalties associated with first offense DUI's in each tier are as follows:

  • Tier 1: General Impairment (BAC .08-.099) - Probation, No License Suspension, $300 Fine
  • Tier 2: High Rate (BAC .10-.159) - 48 Hours in Jail, One Year License Suspension, $500 Fine
  • Tier 3: Highest Rate (BAC .16 and above) - 72 Hours in Jail, One Year License Suspension, $1000 Fine

It is important to note that a DUI involving a controlled substance is graded as a Tier 3 offense, while a DUI committed by a minor driver - someone under 21 - is graded as a Tier 2 offense and has a decreased threshold BAC of .02.

Other Factors Effecting The Applicable Tier

While the defendant's BAC is the primary consideration when determining the applicable tier, certain aggravating circumstances can increase the tier level of a DUI offense. For example, a Tier 1 offense that results in property damage, bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death, is increased to a Tier 2 offense. Additionally, if a driver suspected of DUI refuses to submit to chemical testing - by blood or by breath - the offense is automatically graded as a Tier 3 offense.

What is Considered a First Offense DUI? 

When calculating prior DUI convictions, there is a ten year "look back" period in PA. That means that only DUI convictions that occurred within ten years of the DUI incident date in the pending case are counted. For example, if Defendant A is charged with DUI in 2016 and has a prior DUI conviction from 1986, the 2016 DUI charge would be considered a first offense because Defendant A had zero DUI convictions in the ten years prior.

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)

First-time offenders in PA - defendants with no prior criminal convictions - are eligible for a diversionary program known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). The ARD program allows defendants to have their charges dismissed and expunged after the successful completion of a period of probationary supervision. For DUI offenders, the ARD program is especially advantageous because it significantly decreases the length of any applicable license suspension and eliminates any mandatory jail time that would otherwise apply.

You can learn more about the specifics of ARD by reading our last blog post.

Charged with a First Offense DUI in Western PA? 

At Bishop Law, we have handled hundreds of DUI cases and have a record of proven results. Call us today and put our experience to work for you.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Western PA, call or text (412) 589-9422 for a free consultation with a skilled DUI attorney at Bishop Law. We are available 24/7.