DUI Laws in Pennsylvania


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Like other states, the Pennsylvania court system treats those convicted of driving under the influence harshly. However Pennsylvania has a clearly defined three-tier system that bases punishment for DUI on the level of blood alcohol content in your system as well as your previous offenses.

If your test reveals you are at the Commonwealth’s legal limit of .08 percent – or higher — and you will be charged with DUI.

Pennsylvania DUI Laws

If you are arrested for drunk driving in Pennsylvania, the impact will be swift and damaging. You can lose your license for months, making it hard for you to get to work, run errands or take your kids to school. You may be looking at years of jail time and heavy fines. You will need to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as you can.

What The Police Look For On The Roads

Erratic driving such as:

  • Weaving
  • Swerving
  • Driving under the speed limit
  • Coming close to hitting an object or another vehicle

What The Police Look For After They Stop You

  • Fumbling when you try to find your driver’s license
  • If your breath smells like alcohol
  • Flushed face
  • Glassy or bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech is slurred
  • Staggering or swaying when you leave your car

Field Sobriety Tests

The police may ask you to get out of the car to take a field sobriety test. This is a test of your mental and physical capabilities to see if you have been drinking. In particular, they are observing how well you can follow directions. They may ask you to:

  • Walk a straight line and turn
  • Recite the alphabet beginning with a letter that they give you
  • Balance on one leg
  • Follow a moving light or object with your eyes while you keep your head still

Your BAC Level

You will probably be asked to take a chemical test such as a breath, blood or urine test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).

If your BAC is .08 percent or more, the equivalent of two drinks for most people, you will be charged with DUI. However if the police believe you are impaired because of alcohol and/or drugs, you can still be arrested even if your blood level tests lower.

In Pennsylvania, you have to be tested within two hours of your arrest. If you refuse to be tested, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for a year or more.

Pennsylvania’s Three-Tier System

Pennsylvania uses a three-tier system based on the level of alcohol in your blood to determine your level of punishment for a DUI.

The first and lowest tier is for drivers who have a BAC of .08 to .099. You can also be put into this category if your BAC is lower than .08 but your driving was still impaired due to alcohol. You will face the lightest penalties if you are in this tier.

The second and middle tier is for drivers with a BAC of .10 to .159.

The third and highest tier is for drivers with BAC of .16 percent and higher. Third tier drivers risk the most severe punishment.

More Negative Impacts Of A DUI

  • DUI convictions will give you a criminal record that can impact your ability to get a good job.
  • With any DUI conviction, your car insurance rates are likely to go up.
  • If someone was injured or killed while you were driving drunk, you may draw an enhanced sentence with harsher penalties. You can also be sued in a civil court for damages.

What To Do If The Police Pull You Over

  • Do not try to talk your way out of the arrest
  • Do not tell them you have been drinking.
  • If the police question you repeatedly, politely refuse to answer their questions and tell then you want a lawyer.

Your DUI Defense

Depending on the circumstances of your case, among the many defenses your attorney may try to prove:

  • You were not impaired
  • The stop was not legal
  • The DUI checkpoint did not meet standards
  • They had no legitimate reason to stop you
  • The test was administered incorrectly
  • The test equipment was not calibrated properly
  • You were not the driver
  • The police report had inaccuracies

How A Lawyer Will Help

When you are up against DUI charges, you need an attorney who will stand by you every step of the way, work hard to discredit any evidence – and work with you to determine your best course of action.

Pennsylvania DUI Law

DUI is described and defined under The Pennsylvania Code under Title 75, Chapter 38. Read the code here.

Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Certified

Attorney Michael H. Fienman represents clients in criminal and traffic matters throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Fienman has completed the same DWI detection training as most law enforcement officers and he holds a certificate in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) As an experienced trial attorney, he is a zealous advocate known for relentlessly defending clients in state court, federal court, and before administrative agencies.

Attorney Fienman is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Questions? Contact us today.

Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to get your DUI charges dismissed or lowered. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.