Your slight miscalculation has led to a serious citation — after a night of drinks to celebrate a friend’s job promotion you received a DUI charge. You were under the impression that you waited long enough to sober up and drive yourself, otherwise you would have used a rideshare app to go home. But, unfortunately, you still had enough liquor in your system to blow above the legal limit.

Nothing like this has happened before because you are a focused, career-minded individual, just like your friend you were celebrating. As you process this unfortunate scenario, you should keep in mind that you might qualify for a first-time offender program that will help you drop the charge. At the same time, you should also be aware the penalties you may face so they come as no surprise down the line.

Face the charge

Although, you might be hoping for some forgiveness as a first-time DUI offender, it’s important to be mindful of the penalties you may face. First-time offenders in Pennsylvania could be subject to the following penalties according to your blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of your arrest.

  • BAC of .08 to .99: Probation for up to six months, a $300 fine and alcohol highway safety school
  • BAC of .10 to .159: A five-day to six-month jail sentence, $500 to $5,000 in fines, license suspension for one year and alcohol highway safety school
  • BAC of .16 or more: A three-day to six-month jail sentence, $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, license suspension for one year and alcohol highway safety school

It’s also worth noting that at any BAC level, you might have to complete community service or court-ordered treatment. While these penalties may be hard to grasp at first glance, you probably won’t receive the harshest punishment if you were convinced you were sober enough to drive in the first place.

Dismiss the charge

Like most people with no criminal charges, you’re probably more worried about what will happen to your current job or career moving forward if you receive a DUI conviction. As a first-time offender, you might be able to dodge a criminal charge if you put in time and money.

If this is your first offense and you didn’t hurt or kill anyone in a car accident linked to your charge, then you could qualify for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). Through ARD, you can achieve a dismissal of your DUI charge if you complete a minimum of six months and maximum of one year of supervised probation and pay for all court and program fees. Depending on court orders, you might also have to complete community service, alcohol highway safety school and treatment.

The typical ARD program fee of $2,500 and the time you must put in to show you are serious about cleaning your record can seem daunting. However, it gives you the opportunity to pass future background checks and continue to meet career and salary goals for many years to come. If you think you might be eligible, an experienced DUI attorney can talk you through your options.