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What to do if you receive a DUI charge in Pennsylvania

Driving under the influence in Pennsylvania can get you into a lot of trouble. But we all make mistakes, and if you’re facing charges for this type of offense, a DUI attorney in Pennsylvania might be able to help you navigate your options and seek a reduced sentence.

Pennsylvania DUI Charges

Pennsylvania rewrote its DUI laws in 2004 to make them more stringent. This same adjustment lowered the legal blood alcohol level from the previous allowance and incorporated minimum sentences and fines for DUI charges.

In Pennsylvania, a DUI results from driving under the influence of any illegal substance, typically alcohol, and over the legal limit of .08 BAC (blood alcohol content). This requirement aligns with federal laws, which was one of the reasons for the change. The law is broken into three categories:

  • General Impairment: The general impairment tier involves drivers whose BAC falls between .08 and .10 at the time of the charge.
  • High-Rate Impairment: A high-rate level is the middle tier and ranks any BAC that falls between .10 and .159.
  • Highest-Rate Impairment: The highest-rate impairment level is for any ranking over .160, and this tier will receive the harshest punishments.

Any driver who refuses a chemical test but is clearly under the influence will only be charged with general impairment, but they may be penalized at the highest-rate level. In addition, an individual under the influence of drugs on any level will be charged at the highest-rate level.

Penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania

The penalties will vary depending on the individual’s rate of impairment. Every DUI has a minimum sentence attached to it. This minimum penalty can range from probation to jail time, as well as fines that might reach as high as $5,000 for repeat offenders or the highest impairment. Drivers may also be subject to losing their license or having a suspended license.

Valid DUI Stops in Pennsylvania

There are three designated situations in which law enforcement can make a valid DUI in the state of Pennsylvania:

  1. DUI Checkpoints
  2. Reasonable Suspicion
  3. Vehicle Code Violation
  1. DUI Checkpoints

A DUI checkpoint is a public station established by law enforcement in which every person that comes through the roadblocked area is reviewed for a DUI. These checkpoints are designed specifically to catch people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Checkpoints are justified means to determine whether drivers are under the influence.

There are some requirements in order for these to be lawful, though. First, the stop is meant to be brief; all stops must be uniform and not just at officer discretion; there must be evidence supporting the choosing for location of the checkpoint; and these checkpoints have to be stationary and well-marked.

  1. Reasonable Suspicion

An officer may pull you over if they have reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence. Reasonable suspicion is when an officer uses their training and expertise, as well as facts, in order to justify pulling you over. There has to be something that triggers the officer to pull you over in this situation.

  1. Vehicle Code Violation

The third reason you could be pulled over is if you violate some sort of code or law under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code. This includes speeding, driving improper directions, running red lights, expired tags, broken tail lights, etc.

What to Do When You’ve Been Charged with a DUI

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you have options. There are many things that could have been done incorrectly, and there are solutions if you are a first-time offender as well.

After you’ve been arrested for a DUI, there are some steps that you can take, and hiring a DUI lawyer will be helpful for your case. After your arrest, you are typically released shortly. The courts will file a criminal complaint and summons against you. The filing will include any probable cause or evidence. You are then served, and a preliminary hearing is set.

Follow these steps if you’re facing a DUI:

  1. Hire an experienced DUI attorney
  2. Provide the attorney with your story and any evidence you may have
  3. The attorney will request discovery materials after the hearing
  4. You and your attorney will work together to determine the best approach

With the efforts of your attorney, you may receive a reduced sentence or be able to utilize the ARD program so that charges may be expunged after completion.

Your attorney will look for details such as these to help with the case:

  • Was the stop and DUI arrest valid?
  • Were you in physical control of the vehicle?
  • Was there probable cause for this arrest?
  • Were chemical tests and breath tests administered correctly?
  • Was the testing accurate and complete?

You can refuse the chemical testing procedure, but you should note that this requirement is part of Pennsylvania's DOT requirements and not just the law. You may automatically have your license suspended for at least one year if you refuse.

If you find yourself facing DUI charges and you don’t know where to turn, you have options. The best thing that you can do is hire a DUI attorney in Pennsylvania and let them help you navigate the process.