Dealing with a DUI in Pennsylvania: What You Need to Know

Driving under the influence, also known as a DUI, is a serious offense that can have severe consequences. Whether you made a mistake after having one too many drinks or you were wrongfully accused, facing a DUI charge is an overwhelming experience. The laws and penalties for DUIs vary from state to state, so if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation in Pennsylvania, you must know your rights and responsibilities. Understanding how to navigate this process can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty associated with such charges.

Understanding DUI Laws in Pennsylvania

PA DUI Laws prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. You can be charged with DUI under the following circumstances:

In the state of Pennsylvania, your initial DUI offense is classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony. The typical consequences include probation, a suspension of your driving license, and a financial penalty.

The state categorizes DUI offenses into three tiers based on the blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of arrest: General Impairment (.08 to .099%), High BAC (.10 to .159%), and Highest BAC (.16% and higher). Each tier carries escalating penalties and mandatory minimum sentences. For instance, a first-time offender in the General Impairment tier may face fines, probation, and mandatory alcohol safety education. However, a first-time offender in the Highest BAC tier can expect stringent consequences like a mandatory minimum jail sentence, higher fines, and completion of an alcohol treatment program. It's worth noting that these penalties intensify with repeat offenses, underscoring the serious nature of DUI charges in Pennsylvania.

If a DUI is an offense you continually commit, there are much more severe penalties since a new law in 2022 was created under the Wolf Administration. Deana’s Law, Act 59 of 2022, requires consecutive sentencing for specific repeat DUI offenders.

In 2019, Deana DeRosa Eckman was killed in a car accident caused by a driver who had five prior DUI convictions. The Law now mandates consecutive sentencing for habitual DUI offenders in two specific circumstances. The first circumstance is for those who decline a breath or chemical test. The second applies to offenders who record a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .16 or above, this being twice the legal limit in Pennsylvania. In addition, the Law will also encompass DUI transgressions involving the use of controlled substances.

For individuals with two preceding DUI offenses, the new regulations will intensify the repercussions of an additional DUI that fulfills the criteria. The result will be a charge of a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison term of seven years. For those with three or more prior DUI offenses, they will confront a second-degree felony charge. This graver charge could potentially result in a prison term of up to 10 years.

Medical Marijuana and DUI

Medical marijuana is currently in a precarious legal position in Pennsylvania. Although it is legal for those holding a valid medical marijuana license, the state's law has a significant loophole that catch many by surprise. Specifically, if you've consumed marijuana legally under the license and get pulled over on suspicion of DUI, you are subject to a blood test. This test checks for the presence of marijuana, not the level of impairment. Due to the nature of marijuana, it can stay in your system for up to 30 days, long after the effects have worn off. If the test returns positive, regardless of the level of marijuana in your system or how long ago you consumed it, you can be charged with a DUI under section 3802 D of Pennsylvania law. However, the state has been criticized for not adequately informing license holders about this potential risk. Essentially, accepting a medical marijuana license in Pennsylvania can mean giving up your right to drive. Furthermore, Pennsylvania does not recognize out-of-state marijuana licenses, which can lead to legal complications for visitors.

What To Do If Charged With a DUI

  1. Maintain Your Composure and Follow Instructions: If you're stopped for a potential DUI, it's essential to stay calm and follow the directives given by the police officer. This doesn't imply admitting guilt, rather, it involves complying with requests such as displaying your driver's license and vehicle registration, or participating in any tests they request.
  2. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent: While you should be compliant, you do not have to answer questions that may incriminate you. Politely inform the officer that you're choosing to remain silent.
  3. Hire a DUI Attorney: If charged with a DUI, one of the first steps you should take is to hire an experienced DUI attorney like those at the law offices of Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk LLC. They understand the complexities of DUI laws and can guide your defense strategy, potentially reducing your sentence.
  4. Attend All Court Hearings: Make sure to attend all court hearings. Your attorney will guide you through this process, and your absence could negatively impact your case.

How Can the Law Offices of Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk LLC Help?

The Law Offices of Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk LLC can provide indispensable assistance when facing a serious charge like a DUI. Their deep understanding of the Law and commitment to safeguarding your rights can guide you through this process. Seeking their professional legal counsel right away can aid in a more efficient navigation through the legal hurdles. Keep in mind that the most effective strategy to evade a DUI charge is refraining from drinking and driving altogether. Always assign a sober driver or utilize transit services when alcohol is involved. Prioritize safety and responsibility while on the roads.


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