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Criminal Law

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substances

Driving Under the Influence: DUI/DWI Lawyer

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance (DUI/DWI) is a serious offense in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and is regulated by Chapter 38 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, Title 75.  A conviction for DUI/DWI in Pennsylvania carries with it mandatory imprisonment and fines, as well as driver’s license suspension.

When is a driver “under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance” in PA?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in 75 P.S. section 3802,  uses a 3-tier definition of when an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance that is based upon the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath (i.e., “Blood Alcohol Content”  or “BAC”) within 2 hours after the person has driven, operated or been in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle:

Tier I – General impairment: at least 0.08% but less than 0.10%

Tier II – High rate of alcohol: at least 0.10% but less than 0.16%

Tier III – Highest rate of alcohol: 0.16% or higher

Controlled Substances:  An individual is prohibited from  driving, operating or being in actual control of a vehicle if:  (1) there is any amount in the person’s blood  of a: (i) Schedule I controlled substance; (ii) Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance that has not been prescribed medically for the person; or (iii) a metabolite of a Schedule I, II or III controlled substance;  (2)   the individual  is under the influence of a drug or a combination of drugs to a degree which impairs his ability to safely operate, drive,  or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle; (3) the person is under the combined influence of a drug and alcohol  or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs his ability to safely drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle; or (4) the individual is under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance.

Minors:  a minor (an  individual who is under 21 years of age) is  prohibited from driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of a motor vehicle if the alcohol concentration in the minor’s blood or breath (i.e., BAC) is 0.02% or higher within 2 hours after the minor has driven, operated or been in actual physical control of the vehicle’s movement.

When is an individual prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle or school bus?

A person may not operate, drive, or be in actual physical control of a commercial vehicle, school bus or school vehicle’s movement  in ANY of the following circumstances:

  • if the driver of a school bus or a school vehicle has imbibed a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the alcohol concentration in the individual’s blood or breath (i.e., BAC) is 0.02% or greater within 2 hours after driving, operating or   actually  physically controlling  a school bus or school vehicle’s movement.
  • if the driver of a commercial vehicle other than a school bus or a school vehicle has imbibed a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual’s blood or breath alcohol concentration  (i.e., BAC) is 0.04% or greater within 2 hours after operating, driving,   or being in actual physical control of the commercial vehicle’s movement.
  • if the individual has imbibed a sufficient amount of alcohol to be rendered incapable of safely operating, driving,  or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.
  • while the person is under the influence of a controlled substance or a combination of controlled substances.
  • while the individual is under the influence of a combination of  alcohol and a controlled substance or mixture of controlled substances.
What are the Penalties for DUI/DWI?

The penalties for a DUI/DWI conviction vary depending upon, without limitation:

  • the accused’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the offense;
  • the accused’s number of previous DUI/DWI offenses;
  • whether there was an accident resulting in bodily injury, serious bodily injury or death of any person;
  • whether  vehicle or other property  damage occurred;
  • whether the accused is a minor;
  • whether at the time of the offense the accused was operating or driving a commercial vehicle;
  • whether the accused was driving a school bus or school vehicle at the time of the offense;
  • whether the accused refused testing of blood or breath;
  • whether the accused was under the influence of controlled substances;
  • whether the  offense involved a minor occupant.

PENALTIES FOR DUI/DWI (75 P.S. §3804)

  Tier I:

General Impairment

Tier II:

High Rate of Alcohol

Tier III:

Highest Blood Alcohol

Violation Involving Minor Occupant **
First Offense:
      Imprisonment 6 months’ probation (minimum) Not less than 48 consecutive hours Not less than 72 consecutive hours 100 hours of community service
      Fine $300 Not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 Not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 Not less than $1,000
      A.H.S.S. Yes Yes Yes
      D & A Yes Yes Yes
      C.S. Up to 150 hrs. Up to 150 hrs. Up to 150 hrs.
Second Offense:
     Imprisonment Not less than 5 days Not less than 30 days Not less than 90 days Not less than 1 month nor more than 6 months
     Fine Not less than $300 nor more than $2,500 Not less than $750 nor more than $5,000 Not less than $1,500 Not less than $2,500
     A.H.S.S. Yes Yes Yes
     D & A Yes Yes Yes
     C.S. Up to 150 hr. Up to 150 hr. Up to 150 hr.
Third Offense: (Third or Subsequent Offense) (Third or Subsequent Offense) (Third of Subsequent Offense)
      Imprisonment Not less than 10 days Not less than 90 days Not less than

1 year

Not less than 6 months nor more than 2 years
      Fine Not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 Not less than $1,500 nor more than $10,000 Not less than $2,500
      A.H.S.S.
      D & A Yes Yes Yes
      C.S. Up to 150 hr. Up to 150 hr. Up to 150 hr.
Fourth Offense:
      Imprisonment Not less than

1 year

      Fine Not less than $1,500 nor more than $10,000
      A.H.S.S.
      D & A Yes
      C.S. Up to 150 hr.

*A.H.S.S. (Alcohol Highway Safety School)

* D & A  (Drug and Alcohol Treatment: comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed under sections 3814 (relating to drug and alcohol assessments) and 3815 (relating to  mandatory sentencing).

* C.S. (Community Service):  In addition to the penalties set forth above, the sentencing judge may impose up to 150 hours of community service.  Where the individual has been ordered to drug and alcohol treatment pursuant to sections 3814 and 3815, the community service shall be certified by the drug and alcohol treatment program as consistent with any drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed under sections 3814 and 3815.

**Penalties for violation involving minor occupant are in addition to any penalty imposed in      Title 75 Chapter 38.

Will my operating privileges be suspended if I'm convicted of DUI/DWI?

Pursuant to 75 P.S. 3804(e), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shall suspend the operating privilege of an individual who is convicted of DUI/DWI under 75 PS 3802 or a substantially similar violation that takes place in another state. In general, the suspension is:

  • 12 months for an ungraded misdemeanor or misdemeanor of the second degree, as defined by 75 PS 3803;
  • 18 months for a misdemeanor of the first degree, as defined by 75 PS 3803;
  • No suspension for an ungraded misdemeanor (i.e., a BAC of less than 0.10%) and the person has no prior offense.
  • Persons with 3 convictions for DUI/DWI offenses constitute “habitual offenders” under 75 P.S. 1542, and results in a 5 year revocation period.  Further, each additional offense committed within a period of 5 years from the date of any previous crime will cause a revocation for an additional period of 2 years.
What are the Penalties for Driving While My Operating Privilege is Suspended or Revoked?

Pursuant to section 1543 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code, 75 PS 1543, any person who drives a motor vehicle on any highway or traffic way in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after a cancellation, suspension, or revocation of the operating privilege has commenced and prior to the operating privilege being restored is guilty of a summary offense punishable by a fine of $200.

 

If the person drives a motor vehicle while under a DUI related suspension or revocation of operating privilege, he is guilty of a summary offense punishable by a fine of $500 and imprisonment for a period of not less than 60 days nor more than 90 days.

 

If the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is equal to or greater than 0.02%, or has any quantity of a Schedule I or non-prescribed Schedule II or III controlled substance in the blood, while driving under a DUI-related suspension or revocation of operating privilege, he shall, upon a first conviction, be sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than 90 days and a $1,000 fine. A second violation of this prohibition is punishable by not less than six months imprisonment and a fine of $2,500. A third or ensuing violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment of not less than two years.

When is an Ignition Interlock Device required by law?

Pursuant to 75 P.S. §3805 if a person violates 75 PS 3802 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) and, within the prior 10 years, has (i) a prior DUI/DWI offense or (ii)  had their operating privileges suspended  pursuant to 75 PS 1547 (b) for refusing to submit to chemical testing to determine amount of alcohol or controlled substance in their blood at the time of the offense or (iii) illegally operated a motor vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device, and the person seeks a restoration of operating privileges, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shall demand as a condition of issuing a restricted license that each motor vehicle owned by or registered to the person has been furnished with an ignition interlock system and remains so for the duration of the restricted license period, unless an economic hardship or employment exemption is granted. One year from the date of issuance of an ignition interlock restricted license, a person, if otherwise eligible, may be issued a replacement license that does not contain the ignition interlock system restriction.

What is Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition?

You may be eligible in certain cases for a special program known as “ARD” (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition), which permits a first time DUI/DWI offender to avoid being “convicted” of a criminal offense. Upon successful completion of the ARD program, your criminal charges are dismissed and your criminal record may be erased or “expunged” with the court’s permission. Thus,  ARD is an alternative to being convicted of a crime in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The ARD program, which can last up to 12 months in DUI/DWI cases, is managed by the District Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the probation office  in the county in which the crime occurred.  In DUI cases, an individual whom the District Attorney’s Office grants admission into the ARD program will not be forced to serve the mandatory minimum jail sentence and license suspension for a DUI conviction. The period of mandatory suspension of operating privileges as a condition of ARD is as follows:

  • BAC less than 0.10% at time of testing:  no license suspension;
  • BAC of at least 0.10% but less than 0.16%:  30 days license suspension;
  • BAC of 0.16% or higher: 60 days license suspension;
  • unknown BAC:  60 days license suspension;
  • accident resulting in bodily injury or damage to a vehicle or other property: 60 days license suspension;
  • defendant charged with driving under the influence of controlled substances: 60 day license suspension.
  • defendant a minor at the time of the offense:  90 days license suspension.

Charles Law Offices: Experienced DUI/DWI Lawyers

In light of the potential severe punishment and long-term consequences that surround any Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance conviction, it is imperative that the accused retain as soon as possible a  highly skilled trial attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in such areas as the law of search and seizure; federal and state constitutional law; evidence;  unlawful police conduct and tactics; pleading and motion practice, including suppression motions;  pretrial investigation, preparation, and strategy; presentation and rebuttal of pertinent forensic, biological, scientific, and mental health evidence and experts; preservation of the record  and issues for appellate review; post-conviction litigation in state and federal courts; and any other  relevant state and federal law.

Since the 1970’s, Attorneys Fredrick E. Charles and Dennis G. Charles of the Charles Law Offices have defended successfully  people charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (DUI/DWI) offenses throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Their excellent legal training,  pretrial investigation, preparation,  trial and appellate skills  have enabled them to  uncover and remedy   illegal searches and seizures and other unlawful police conduct, resulting in successful outcomes for clients charged with DUI/DWI  offenses in Pennsylvania and federal courts.

If you, or a loved one, are facing a driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (DUI/DWI) criminal charge, rely upon the nearly 40 years of  legal knowledge, training, trial skills and unsurpassed experience of each of the attorneys at Charles Law Offices to zealously defend and represent your legal interests at the highest level. When your freedom and reputation are on the line, you can’t afford anything less!

 

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with a lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the attorneys at Charles Law Offices.

Facing a driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (DUI/DWI) criminal charge?

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"Attorney Dennis Charles does not give up on his clients with difficult problems. His exemplary and successful defense of an unfortunate teenager charged with double criminal homicide impressed me the most. Attorney Charles has excellent trial skills, a tremendous work ethic and very high moral values."

Farhad Sholevar, M.D. | Board Certified Psychiatrist

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A Family History of Devotion to
Law and Public Service

The Charles Brothers’ devotion to the law is derived from a family history in the legal system and of service to others. Their father, Charles “Chink” Charles (depicted in the lower left-hand corner of the photograph) held a 35 year career in law enforcement, and was selected to serve as the personal bodyguard for former United States Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson during their campaign visits to Allentown.

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