Facing a Driving Under the Influence offense is a confusing and horrifying experience that can have lasting personal and financial penalties. For those charged with Pennsylvania’s highest Blood Alcohol Content DUI though, the consequences can be extreme.
Act 24 lowered our state’s legal BAC limit from 0.10 to 0.08%, beginning on September 30, 2003. That law created a tiered DUI enforcement and treatment structure, which combined the accused’s BAC level and prior offenses to determine punishments. Specifically, there are three levels of DUI: general impairment (a BAC between 0.08 to 0.099%), high BAC (a BAC between 0.10 to 0.159%), and highest BAC (a BAC between 0.16% and higher). And, while this new law focused on treatment for first-timers, for highest BAC DUI’s, the focus remained on punishment and suspension.
With no prior DUI offenses, a conviction for highest BAC means the accused will have an ungraded misdemeanor on their record. Penalties also include 12 month license suspension, after 72 hours to 6 months in prison, and a $1,000 to $5,000 fine. Moreover, depending on the situation, in addition to alcohol highway safety school, a person convicted may be required to attend alcohol treatment, both of which are at the convicted person’s expense.
The consequences only go up from there. With one prior DUI, the charge is increased to a first degree misdemeanor. The license suspension goes up to 18 months, and the prison time goes up to 90 days to 5 years. The fine increases to $1,500 to $10,000, in addition to alcohol highway safety school and possible treatment, but now an ignition interlock device is required for one year. After this, the penalties increase to 1 to 5 years in prison and a $2,500 to $10,000.
The criminal charges will follow those convicted when they seek employment and educational opportunities, potentially limiting both. Moreover, the costs of fines, increased transportation costs (i.e., Uber, Lyft, taxis, etc.), treatment, and alcohol highway safety school easily reach five-figures. This is why when one is charged with driving under the influence, driving after imbibement, or underage drinking, hiring an attorney quickly is so important.