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Criminal Defense

What Happens When You Get a DUI in Pennsylvania?

7 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

Being arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania is no joke. It’s a serious offense with severe long-term consequences. Make sure you have quality legal help. Here’s how to find it and save money on legal fees. 

When arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania, the consequences for the offense will depend on several factors such as your blood alcohol level, whether you have prior DUIs, whether you caused any damage or injury—and more.

You could face anything from big fines to a license suspension, and even jail time. Therefore, you should never get behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated. If you’ve had anything to drink, call a cab or ask a friend to drive you.

If arrested for drunk driving in Pennsylvania, ‌get in touch with a lawyer right away to get a clear understanding of what legal consequences you are facing. 

We can put you in contact with an unbundled legal services DUI attorney in your area today.

DUI Levels in Pennsylvania

The Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Law in Pennsylvania is based on a tiered approach. The penalties, suspension time, and fines you will face depend on your blood alcohol level and prior DUI offenses, if any. The DUI blood alcohol levels in Pennsylvania include‌:

  • General Impairment: if your blood alcohol level is between .08% to .099%
  • High Level: if your blood alcohol level is between .10% to .159% 
  • Highest Level: if your blood alcohol level is .16% and higher

Penalties for General Impairment 

Without prior DUI offenses, you may face these consequences:

  • Up to six months of license suspension
  • A $300 fine
  • A court order to attend an alcohol safety center

If you have one prior DUI, your penalties will most likely include‌:

  • A 12-month license suspension
  • A jail sentence of five days to six months
  • A $300 to $2,500 fine
  • A court order to attend an alcohol safety school 
  • A court order to equip your vehicle with a one-year ignition interlock device

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer device installed in your car to measure your blood alcohol level. If your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, your vehicle won’t start. 

If you have two or more prior DUIs, your new DUI will be a second-degree misdemeanor. You’ll face the following penalties:

  • A 12-month license suspension
  • A jail sentence of ten days to two years
  • A $500 to $5,000 fine
  • A court order to attend an alcohol treatment 
  • A court order to equip your vehicle with an ignition interlock device 

Penalties for High Blood Alcohol Levels

If your blood alcohol level goes from .10 to .159%, you will face more serious charges. Once again, the severity of your penalties will depend on whether you have prior offenses.

If you have no prior DUIs, you’ll face the following consequences:

  • A 12-month license suspension
  • A sentence of 48 hours to six months in prison
  • A $500 to $5,000 fine
  • A court order to attend an alcohol safety school

If you have one prior DUI offense, you will face the following consequences:

  • A 12-month license suspension
  • A sentence 30 days to six months in prison
  • A $750 to $5,000 fine
  • A court order to attend an alcohol safety school

If you have committed two or more DUI offenses, the courts will consider your DUI a first degree misdemeanor, with these consequences:

  • An 18-month license suspension
  • A prison sentence of 90 days to five years
  • A $1,500 to $10,000 fine
  • A special treatment program if ordered by the court

With three or more prior DUIs, the courts will treat your new DUI as a first degree misdemeanor. This will result in several penalties:

  • An 18-month license suspension
  • A 1-5 year prison sentence
  • A $1,500 to $10,000 fine
  • An alcohol rehabilitation program if required by the court

Penalties for the Highest Blood Alcohol Levels

If they arrest you for a DUI and your blood alcohol level qualifies as “the highest” but you have no prior DUIs, ‌expect the following penalties:

  • A 12-month license suspension
  • A prison sentence of 72 hours to 6 months 
  • A $1,000 to $5,000 fine
  • A court order to attend an alcohol safety school

If you have one prior DUI on your record, they will treat your new DUI as a first degree misdemeanor. The consequences will be as follows:

  • An 18-month license suspension
  • A prison sentence of 90 days to 5 years
  • A $1,500 to $10,00 fine
  • A court order to attend a highway safety school or receive rehabilitation treatment

Finally, if you have the highest level of alcohol in your blood paired with multiple prior DUIs, there will be harsher consequences:

  • An 18-month license suspension
  • A prison sentence of one to five years 
  • A fine of $2,500 to $10,000
  • A court order to attend an alcohol safety school or join a rehabilitation program
  • A court order to equip your vehicle with an ignition interlock device for one year

If you are involved in a DUI-related accident that caused injuries to someone or damage to property, you will face stricter penalties even if your blood alcohol level was in the lower category. 

If you are stopped and suspected of a DUI but refuse to take a breathalyzer or chemical test, you will be subject to penalties associated with the highest blood alcohol level. 

Do I Need a Lawyer To Handle a DUI Case in Pennsylvania?

As you can see, there are several variables with DUIs—each with different consequences. 

If you are dealing with a serious DUI situation, with injury or damage involved, you may want a specialized DUI/DWI attorney to represent you. 

Your attorney will help you understand the consequences of your actions and guide you through the related court proceedings. They may also ‌discover attenuating circumstances in your case and help you negotiate a lower sentence. 

If you feel they have wrongfully charged you and want to contest your conviction, you will need a lawyer to help you make your case in court. 

If this is not your first DUI, the consequences you will face will also be quite serious, and having an experienced lawyer by your side can help you manage the aftermath of the conviction. 

How Expensive Is a DUI Lawyer in Pennsylvania?

Usually, when you hire a DUI lawyer to handle your DUI case, they will charge you a flat fee for the full set of services. Depending on the complexity of your case, the cost may vary from $1,000 to $8,000, or higher. Plus, if you require any additional legal services that are not part of the standard package, your lawyer may charge you an additional per hour fee of $300 to $500.

You will need to factor in other costs as well. Most DUI charges come with hefty fines. And you need to be prepared to pay them besides your legal fees. 

How To Save Money in Legal Fees in a DUI Case in Pennsylvania?

As you can see, the services of a DUI lawyer, as well as additional expenses for handling a DUI, can get quite high. 

However, skipping legal help in a DUI case to cut costs is generally a terrible idea. In Pennsylvania, a drunk-driving conviction can have serious consequences. It can result in a long-term driver’s license suspension, prevent you from doing your job properly, or even cost you your employment altogether. If the conviction goes on your permanent record, you may also have trouble getting a job in the future. 

But there is an effective way to reduce your legal costs that may be suitable for your situation. Consider using unbundled legal services.

If you work with a lawyer from our Unbundled Legal Help network, you can hire them to handle a specific task, instead of providing a full set of services. For instance, if you need a lawyer to attend a court hearing with you, you will ‌hire them for just that. Here, your legal costs will be substantially lower as you will only pay for one (or several) services, rather than a full package.

However, if your DUI case includes aggravating circumstances, and if you have multiple priors, it may be in your best interest to seek full legal representation as there will be many aspects of the case your lawyer will need to look into. You can still work with a lawyer from the Unbundled Legal Help network for full representation. We work with many smaller law firms and independent attorneys. You may find their offers more budget-friendly compared to other options. 

We can connect you today with an experienced unbundled services DUI attorney in Pennsylvania to consult on your case.

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