Erie DUI Lawyer

Your Erie criminal defense lawyer from Melaragno, Placidi & Parini has your back.

Are you facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania? Then you need criminal defense assistance from the experienced attorneys at Melaragno, Placidi & Parini. In October of 2018, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Senate Bill 961 that imposed severe consequences for drunk driving convictions. Senate Bill 961 also created a new felony category for certain DUI offenses. The new law can be frightening for someone facing a first or subsequent DUI charge.

We will review the facts of your case and determine whether there is a way to eliminate or reduce the charges and will utilize all legal means to attempt to minimize any sentence.

DUI Rules

Legal BAC limits in Pennsylvania:

What is considered to be DUI in Pennsylvania?

  • School bus drivers are legally drunk when their BAC is 0.02 or more
  • Commercial vehicle drivers are legally drunk when their BAC is 0.04 percent or greater
  • A BAC of 0.08 or more is considered legally drunk for non-commercial drivers age 21+
  • Drivers under 21 are legally drunk when their BAC is 0.02 or more

These rules are an attempt to address public safety in response to Pennsylvania DUI statistics.

dui-stats

What does “generally impaired” mean in Pennsylvania?

The State considers a driver to be “generally impaired” on presenting with a BAC level of at least 0.08 but less than 0.10. Penalties range from probation and fines to potential prison time, depending on the number of offenses.

Penalties for general impairment

Pennsylvania is tough on drinking and driving and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So much so that in 2004 state lawmakers lowered the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) threshold to 0.08. The revised Pennsylvania DUI laws for first time offenders were lowered and penalties for repeat offenders were increased. Penalties were also revised to be stiffer for defendants with higher BACs than those with lower

In 2018, Pennsylvania law enforcement arrested 49,730 drivers for DUI and/or DWI. In 2017, 52,189 were arrested. Driving under the influence of drugs or DUID arrests are also a cause for concern in the state, with 33,712 charges filed in 2018; a 28 percent increase over the prior three years.

The Three-Tiered DUI System

Pennsylvania has a three tier DUI system designed to categorize DUI offences. The three tiers are General Impairment, High Rate and Highest Rate.

  • General Impairment applies to drivers with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.10.
  • High Rate applies to drivers with a BAC between, 0.10 and 0.159.
  • Highest Rate applies to drivers with BAC over 0.160.

Should a driver refuse to take a sobriety test, the DUI is charged as “General Impairment,” but the penalty is the same as the Highest Rate DUI.

DUI Mandatory Minimum Sentences

In Pennsylvania, all DUI convictions have mandatory minimum sentences. DUI penalties in Pennsylvania are based on the BAC recorded at the time of the arrest. Here are the general sentences for a first DUI offense:

  • BAC 0.08-0.09 percent – Probation not more than 6 months and fines of approximately $300
  • BAC 0.10-0.159 percent – No less than 48 hours and up to 6 months in jail; fines of $500 to $5,000; license suspended for 12 months.
  • BAC 0.16 percent and up – Minimum 72 hours to maximum 6 months in jail; fines of $1,000 to $5,000; license suspended for 12 months.

DUI is a “stackable offense.” This means that each time a person is convicted of another DUI, the penalties increase.

First-Time DUI Conviction Alternatives

A first-time offender may qualify for a deferred verdict and a period of probation. If the probationary period concludes successfully, the offense may be expunged. A first-time offender may also be able to qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which allows participants to, among other things, attend alcohol education classes. If the program is successfully completed, the offense is removed from the driver’s record.

Second DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania

If a driver is convicted of a second DUI within 10 years, there are mandatory jail terms and, most likely additional penalties. 

Penalties for a Second DUI Offense

The higher the BAC, the more severe penalties are likely to be. Fines levied if convicted of DUI vary depending on the BAC level:

  • BAC 0.08-0.09 percent – Minimum of 5 days and up to 6 months in jail; $300 to $2,500 in fines; license suspended for 12 months
  • BAC 0.10-0.159 percent – 30 days to 6 months jail time; $750-$5,000 fines; license suspended 12 months.
  • BAC 0.16 percent and up – 90 days to 5 years imprisonment; $1,500 – $10,000 fines; license suspended for 18 months.
  • All BACs – Ignition interlock device installed for one year; up to 150 hours community service; Alcohol Highway Safety School enrollment; alcohol and drug treatment program.

Defending Against Second-Time DUI Charges

Many DUI charges can be defensible, based on the evidence surrounding the charges and any missteps that authorities may have made during the process. Any possible errors by police and/or prosecutors could lead to reduced penalties or charges being dismissed.

Third DUI Offenses in Pennsylvania

If you have been convicted of two prior DUIs in the past 10 years, depending on the BAC level at the time of arrest, consequences may include:

  • BAC 0.08-0.09 percent – 2nd-degree misdemeanor charges; 10 days to 2 years incarceration; 12 month license suspension; $500 to $5,000 in fines.
  • BAC 0.10-0.159 percent – 1st-degree misdemeanor charge; 18 month license suspension; 1-5 years in prison; fines between $1,500 and $10,000.
  • BAC 0.16 percent and up – 1st-degree misdemeanor charges and penalties similar to above.
  • All BACs – Drug and alcohol treatment; Alcohol Highway Safety School enrollment; ignition interlock device installed for a minimum of 1 year.

First Time DUI Offenders in Pennsylvania

A significant portion of first time DUI offenders typically elect to enter the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, as it permits them to reduce collateral and direct consequences for being charged with a DUI. An ARD placement is treated the same as a conviction and involves a “look back” period of 10 years which runs from prior to the conviction date to the date of the new offense.

For those who do complete the program, they are able to avoid jail time, their driver’s license suspension is shorter, their Erie DWI/DUI lawyer can file a motion for dismissal of the charges and have the arrest record expunged.

There are an increasing number of counties in Pennsylvania that offer what is referred to as a DUI Treatment Court for those with a third offense DUI/DWI. It permits those in the program to serve a portion of their sentence in county jail, which is then followed by house arrest. This allows participants to remain in the local community and allows them to keep their jobs. Substance abuse programs are also offered in this program.

Pennsylvania’s Zero Tolerance Policy for Underage Drivers

Pennsylvania has a “zero tolerance” policy for drivers under the age of 21 who drive with BACs of even just 0.02 percent. If you are convicted of DUI, there is jail time ranging from 2 days to 6 months, a driver’s license suspension for 12 months, and a fine between $500 to $5,000.

Pennsylvania’s Implied Consent Law

The very fact that you have a driver’s license in Pennsylvania means you have consented to take one or more blood, breath or urine tests if the police arrest you for DUI.

Refusing to take any of the tests means your driver’s license is automatically suspended for one year. The suspension is for refusal to take the test and can be imposed by PennDOT even if you are found not guilty of DUI. This suspension is also an addition to other license suspensions if you are convicted of DUI.

What a DUI May Cost

Being charged with a DUI/DWI is not just about dealing with the charges and the consequences. It may also be very costly depending on what the BAC was, the number of times the driver has been stopped for DUI/DWI and even the location of an arrest.

There are also other costs associated with a DUI/DWI and they may they include:

  • Traffic fine – $300 – $10,000 depending on BAC and number of offenses
  • Vehicle tow – $50 fee plus mileage
  • Impound costs – $75-$175 every day
  • Legal fees – $2,000-$8,000 or more depending on the issues involved
  • Alcohol evaluation – $35-$100
  • Accelerated rehabilitative disposition program (ARD) – $100-$1,800
  • Alcohol/Drug education and treatment – $100-$1,000 or more depending on type and length of treatment(s)
  • License restoration – restoring a non-commercial license $76, or restoring a commercial license $184
  • Insurance premiums – premiums increase about a $1,000 a year or the insurance company may cancel the policy

Pennsylvania drunk driving charges are harsh and handling on your own is not recommended, given the complexity of the criminal justice system. If you have been charged with DUI/DWI, call Melaragno, Placidi & Parini. Our drunk driving attorneys review the facts of your case and determine whether there is a way to eliminate or reduce the charges. We then utilize all legal means to attempt to minimize any sentence.

Testimonials

Mr. Parini has been a consummate professional.

He represented us in an unusual case, but provided clear and effective advice. His strategy worked out very well and we were offered a fair settlement very quickly.

Limited tort insurance

How does limited tort auto insurance apply in DUI cases?

In most circumstances, drivers who choose “limited tort” and not “full tort” for their auto insurance waive their right to sue for pain and suffering. However, a DUI conviction is an exception. If an impaired driver injures another driver who is a policyholder with limited tort coverage, then that policyholder may sue for pain and suffering. Even if there was no DUI conviction, and the victim suffers severe permanent disfigurement, severe bodily impairment, or dies, the defendant may be sued.

Have you been accused of drinking and driving? You have the right to retain a criminal defense attorney. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney at Melaragno, Placidi & Parini. They review the facts of your case and discuss if there are ways to suppress any evidence to eliminate or reduce the charges, and will utilize all other legal means to attempt to minimize the sentence that you may receive. Every case is different, whether it is the charges, evidence or prior DUI charges. Melaragno, Placidi & Parini work with you to mitigate the consequences of an impaired driving charge.

Every case is different, whether it is the charges, evidence or prior DUI charges. Melaragno, Placidi & Parini will work with you to mitigate the consequences of an impaired driving charge.