All DUI charges are serious. The potential consequences for even a first-time offender can be severe. It’s important to understand how DUIs are charged in Pennsylvania, the possible penalties, and the importance of protecting your rights when you’ve been accused of a crime.
Three tiers of DUI charges
Pennsylvania categorizes DUI offenses into three tiers:
- General impairment
- High rate
- Highest rate
The type of tier your charge will fall into will depend on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If your BAC is measured between .08 and .10, you will face a charge of general impairment. A BAC reading between .10 and .159 will result in a high rate charge. As you can probably guess, anything over a .159 will lead to the highest rate charge. You’ve probably also guessed that the potential penalties increase the higher you go. For example:
- General impairment: If you’re charged with general impairment, you could face up to six months of probation and will have to attend mandatory DUI classes. The court may also order you to enroll in a treatment program.
- High rate: A conviction on a high rate charge means that you will have to spend two days in jail and will have to report to a parole officer for six months. You will also face a one-year suspension of your driver’s license. You face a fine of up to $5,000. Court-ordered treatment is also a possibility.
- Highest rate: A conviction on the highest rate charge carries the same penalties as those under a high rate charge. The main difference is you will have to serve a 72-hour jail term. The possible fines are also much higher.
This is a broad look at DUI penalties in Pennsylvania. The situation surrounding your charge can impact the potential consequences. For example, let’s say you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. Doing so will result in a general impairment charge. However, you will face the same penalties as a person who is looking at a high rate charge.
It’s also important to bear in mind that DUI offenses are “stackable.” In other words, if you have previous convictions on your record, you could face additional penalties, including felony charges. You should discuss the best way forward with a skilled legal professional. You could have the charges reduced or even dismissed. If this is your first offense, you may also be eligible for an alternative sentencing program.