You're Driving Along…
Feeling pretty good after a couple of drinks with your friends after work. You feel like those few drinks didn't do enough to make your driving dangerous. In fact, you actually might think you're driving better than you did before the drinks.
You're rolling down the open road feeling fine, when all of a sudden; you see lights, the flashing lights of the police cruiser following closely behind.
You pull over to the side of the road wondering, "What was I doing wrong? Why did he pull me over? Will he be able to tell that I was drinking?"
You are about to join the ranks of over 37,500 individuals arrested each year in Pennsylvania for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
You are about to discover that life after a DUI arrest can be expensive, embarrassing, and downright inconvenient. With the fines, jail term, loss of driving privileges, and increased insurance rates, a DUI arrest can have a tremendous impact on your private, professional and social life, not to mention your budget. To better understand the effects of being charged with DUI, let's look at a basic DUI arrest in Pennsylvania, and see what could happen to you.
Why Did I Get Pulled Over?
The police officer has pulled you over because of erratic driving, a traffic violation or an observation of faulty equipment, such as a burned out tail light. You could also be stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. If the officer has reason to suspect that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (due to the odor of alcoholic beverages on your breath, slurred speech, or other "impaired" behavior) you will be given standard field sobriety tests.
If you do not perform well on the tests due to losing your balance, walking off line, or not follwoing the directions properly, you may be arrested for DUI.
How Will They Prove It?
If arrested for DUI, you will be asked to take a chemical test involving blood, breath or urine, or a combination of these. If your chemical tests reveal a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher, you are legally intoxicated under Pennsylvania law.
Impaired Driving - Even if your BAC is lower then .08%, you still may be arrested and convicted of DUI, if you consumed enough alcohol to make you enable to drive or operate your vehicle safely.
- What happens if you refuse to take a chemical test? Whether or not you are found guilty of DUI, your refusal will: result in an automatic and immediate loss of your license for one year
- and, be used against you when you go to court.
Now What Happens?
After the arrest, you will receive a notice to appear before a District Justice. One of two things could happen:
1. The District Justice could hold a preliminary hearing on the charges, where he could either:
- dismiss the charges and you would be free to go, or
- require your appearance before your county's criminal court
2. You could waive the preliminary hearing before the District Justice and your case would be sent to criminal court.
If you plead guilty in criminal court or are convicted of DUI
- You will undergo a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation at your expense. The CRN is a pre-screening evaluation used to determine whether or not you have an alcohol or substance abuse problem, and
- You will attend Alcohol Highway Safety School, which includes a minimum of 12.5 hours of class, and
- Following the evaluation, you will be scheduled for sentencing, which generally includes a mandatory minimum jail sentence and a mandatory minimum fine (see below).
Sentencing-The Price You Pay
Pennsylvania's mandatory minimum and possible maximum imprisonment, maximum fines, license suspensions and Ignition Interlock Device for DUI offenders are:
Please click below link to see chart on DUI Sentencing Tiers:
DUI SENTENCING TIERS
Also, if you are convicted of DUI your driving privileges will be suspended for a period of time. If you operate a motor vehicle upon a highway during this time, you could face additional charges which include additional jail time and fines.
In addition to the fines and imprisonment you would be required to:
- undergo treatment at your own expense (if you are recognized as having a drug or alcohol problem), and
- pay other arrest and treatment-associated costs
And What About Insurance?
Following a DUI conviction you will be labeled a "high risk" driver and your automobile insurance can undergo the following changes:
- costs can increase up to $5,000 a year or higher
- if you are on a family policy, the insurance company may cancel the policy or refuse to renew the policy once it expires, and
- the insurance company will keep a record of the arrest for three years which may make it difficult for you to find another company to insure you.
There is a tougher law just for you. If you are under 21 and your blood alcohol content is .02% or above (rather than .08%), you can be arrested for DUI.
In Pennsylvania, DUI offenders who are minors (18 to 21 years old) are processed like adults while offenders who are juveniles (under 18 years old) are processed through juvenile court. Penalties for juvenile offenders may differ from adult DUI offenders.
Underage DUI offenders also face charges of underage drinking. These include fines up to $500 and suspension of driving privileges for misrepresentation of age to secure, purchase, consume, possess or transport alcoholic beverages, and carrying a false identification card.
Let's face it, driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is no smooth ride.
Think About the Consequences…
Is drinking and driving worth the aggravation and expense of
- depending on family, friends or public transportation for rides,
- paying court costs, imprisonment and parole restrictions, and
- possibly causing a crash, and injuring or killing yourself or someone else?
It's just not worth it! The next time you've been drinking and know you shouldn't be driving, let someone else drive.
- Ask a sober friend, or
- Call a cab, friend, or family member, or
- Designate a driver before you go out.
And don't forget to return the favor. Prevent an intoxicated friend from driving.
Help make Pennsylvania roadways safe--for your family, friends, and other drivers.
An Exception to the Rule… A.R.D.
In some cases, first time DUI offenders may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. You are not eligible if you:
- had previously been placed in an ARD program,
- had been convicted of DUI within the past 10 years,
- had seriously injured or killed someone as the result of a DUI crash, or
- had been charged at the time of DUI with other specific serous vehicle violations.
In addition, the District Attorney may have other requirements that may disqualify you from ARD.
Don't think if you qualify for ARD you are getting off easy. Even though there will be no jail sentence, the program will consist of the following:
- 1 to 12 month license suspension
- community service
- attendance at Alcohol Highway Safety School and its costs
- CRN evaluation
- Court and administrative costs
- Treatment and other conditions that a judge may impose
The total cost of ARD has been estimated to be $1,500 excluding attorney fees, but costs can go higher.