Sadly, drunk driving is still a big problem across the US.
It has caused so many crashes.
Inflicted so many injuries.
Taken away so many lives.
It’s in your best interest to avoid this.
Not only that but, in Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to drive under the influence.
And you know what that means?
Even if you don’t get into an accident, you can still face harsh penalties if you’re caught.
That’s what we’re going to look at here — all the Pennsylvania DUI laws and their penalties, as well as the Driver License Compact (DLC).
There’s so much to cover, so let’s begin right away!
DUI Laws in Pennsylvania
Now, there are several laws that talk about DUIs.
- Illegal BAC levels
- Zero tolerance law
- Drugged driving
- Implied consent law
- Underage drinking
- Open container law
- Daena’s Law
Let’s look at all of these in detail.
Illegal BAC Levels
What is driving under the influence in Pennsylvania?
Well, according to the law, you are considered a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches these percentages:
- 0.08% for drivers aged 21 and above
- 0.04% for drivers with commercial licenses
- 0.02% for drivers below 21 years old
BAC levels are determined by a breath, blood, or urine test.
That said, you can still be charged with DUI even if your BAC is below these levels. This is if you show signs of drunkenness, such as weaving, going over the speed limit, going very slowly, or disobeying traffic signals.
Remember, alcohol affects people in different ways — some only need a little alcohol in their system to already be drunk.
Zero Tolerance Law
You might be wondering why drivers below 21 years old have it bad.
I mean, 0.02% is only one glass.
This is because of Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance law.
Did you know that it’s NOT legal to drink until you reach 21 years old?
So any measurable amount of alcohol in their system is a big NO NO.
Even more so if they get behind the wheel.
As you might expect, the penalties are severe.
For example, your first offense will already get you some jail time from 2 days to 6 months. On top of that, your license is suspended for a year and you need to pay a fine of $500 – $5,000.
A DUI doesn’t just mean alcohol.
Drugs can impair your driving, too.
So if you show signs of driving under the influence, and there is any amount of drugs found in your system, you will be charged with DUI.
And yes, that applies even if you just took over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
This is why it’s very important to know the effects of the drugs you take.
And if the effects impair your driving, you should NOT get behind the wheel.
Implied Consent Law
As we said, you need to take a breath, blood, or urine test to check your BAC level.
Now, under the Implied Consent Law, you HAVE to submit to these tests.
Implied consent means that, once you get your PA driver’s license, you agree to this consent.
And if you refuse to take the test, you will face these penalties:
- License suspension for one year.
- Additional suspension for a conviction (if proven DUI) or take an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Program.
- Chemical test refusal restoration fee ($500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second, and $2,000 for the third).
Of course, if you feel that the chemical test was not necessary, you can hire a DUI attorney to fight back.
Open Container Law
The Open Container Law states that…
“All drivers and passengers are NOT allowed to have an open container of any alcoholic beverage in the motor vehicle.”
However, there are exceptions:
- If the vehicle is used for hire to transport passengers and the passengers have an open container of alcohol (like a limousine party).
- If the individual is in the living quarters of the vehicle (house coaches or trailers).
- If the open container is in a place where the driver or passenger cannot reach it (in the vehicle’s trunk).
Deana’s Law imposes stricter penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
Here’s what it says:
- It’s a third-degree felony with up to 7 years of jail time for those with two prior DUI offenses
- It’s a second-degree felony with up to 10 years of jail time for those with three or more prior DUI offenses
This law was named after Deana Eckman.
In 2019, she was killed in a car crash by a man who had 5 DUI convictions.
The goal of the law is to prevent drivers with multiple DUI offenses to operate motor vehicles in Pennsylvania.
DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania
Okay, those were all the Pennsylvania DUI laws.
Now, let’s move on to the penalties.
The penalties for DUI differ depending on the amount of alcohol in your system.
It’s called levels of impairment and comes in three tiers:
- 0.08% – 0.099% BAC
- 0.10% – 0.159% BAC
- 0.16% BAC and up
Here are the penalties for 0.08% – 0.099% BAC:
|1st||$300||6 months probation||No action|
|2nd||$300 – $2,500||5 days – 6 months in prison||12-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
|3rd||$500 – $5,000||According to the new Deana’s Law – 7 years in prison||12-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
Here are the penalties for 0.10% – 0.159% BAC AND underage drinkers with a 0.02% BAC:
|1st||$500 – $5,000||2 days – 6 months in prison||12-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
|2nd||$750 – $5,000||30 days – 6 months in prison||12-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
|3rd||$1,500 – $10,000||According to the new Deana’s Law – 7 years in prison||18-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
Finally, if your BAC is 0.16% and above, here are the penalties you will face:
|1st||$1,000 – $5,000||3 days – 6 months in prison||12-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
|2nd||$1,500||90 days – 5 years in prison||18-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
|3rd||At least $2,500||According to the new Deana’s Law – 7 years in prison||18-month suspension and 1-year ignition interlock requirement|
The more DUI offenses you pile up, the harsher the penalties become.
Driver License Compact (DLC)
The State of Pennsylvania is part of the Driver License Compact (DLC).
This is a compact between member states wherein there is a “one driver’s license” and “one driver’s record” concept.
By “one driver’s license”, the person who has an out-of-state license should surrender it to their new state of residence so they can get a new license.
The “one driver’s record”, on the other hand, means that the driver’s record is maintained regardless of the state where the driver resides.
So if DUI offenses are committed out-of-state, those offenses are treated as if they were done in Pennsylvania or any other member state.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pennsylvania DUI Laws
Got some questions about DUI in Pennsylvania?
Or do you just want to know more?
Either way, here are a lot of FAQs to help you out.
What is the New DUI Law in Pennsylvania?
Just in 2022, the State of Pennsylvania implemented Deana’s Law.
This puts harsher sentences to repeat DUI offenders.
An example of the harsher penalties is that a driver who has had three or more offenses will face third or second-degree felony charges. They will also face 7 to 10 years in jail.
This was implemented after Deana Eckman died in a DUI crash with a man that has already been convicted of DUI 5 times.
Is Jail Time Mandatory for 1st DUI in PA?
This depends on your BAC level.
If it’s around 0.08% to 0.099%, then you only get 6 months of probation. If it’s higher, you may face jail time from 2 days to 6 months.
How Does PA Handle Out-of-State DUI?
Since PA is part of the Driver License Compact (DLC), there is no difference if you committed a DUI charge in the state or another member state.
The state treats your DUI violation as if it were done in Pennsylvania.
Do You Always Lose Your License with a DUI in PA?
If it’s your first offense, and your BAC level does not go over 0.099%, no action will be done against your license.
However, if your BAC level reaches at least 0.010%, you will face a 1-year license suspension.
Can a DUI be Dismissed in PA?
You can challenge a DUI charge and have it dismissed.
To do this, you need to prove that the police officer had no solid evidence to suspect you of DUI. Hiring a DUI attorney will be a great help in the court hearing.
Can I Refuse a DUI Test in PA?
Yes, you can.
But remember, you will have to face certain penalties.
The first offense starts at $500, the second offense at $1,000, and the third offense at $2,000.
On top of that, your license is suspended for a year if you are found not guilty.
If you are found guilty of a DUI, your license is suspended for 2 ½ years.
If you want to challenge the penalties, you will need to hire a DUI attorney.
How Long Does it Take to Get a DUI Off Your Record in Pennsylvania?
Unfortunately, your DUI violation will always be on your driving record unless it’s expunged.
Does a DUI Show Up on a Background Check in PA?
Yes, a DUI offense will show up since all violations will be recorded.
Is a DUI in PA a Crime?
Not all DUI cases are considered a crime.
More often than not, it’s considered a misdemeanor — if it’s your first offense or your second offense with a BAC of less than 0.16%.
Other than that, it’s already considered a felony.
How Many DUI is a Felony in PA?
Under the new Deana’s Law in 2022, three DUI offenses are already a felony.
That was a lot!
But at least now you know everything you need to know about Pennsylvania DUI laws.
Being charged with DUI is a scary situation.
You just need to look at all the penalties to know that.
But what’s even scarier is that it puts everyone in so much danger.
Your loved ones.
Anyone in the area.
So avoid driving under the influence.
Always choose to be a safe and responsible driver.