Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) is a serious offense across the United States. Just like the rest of the country, Pennsylvania hands out severe consequences to those found guilty after being charged with a DUI. If you’re facing DUI charges, the criminal defense attorney at Pike Law has extensive experience with Pennsylvania’s DUI laws and can help you understand what you need to do to protect yourself.
What is a DUI/DWI?
A DUI/DWI charge is issued when a person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Pennsylvania, this means having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher for drivers aged 21 and over, and 0.02% for those under the legal drinking age of 21.
It is important to note that a person can still be charged with a DUI even if their BAC is below the legal limit if they show signs of impairment. If you are impaired with a BAC under .02%, you are still choosing to drive while under the influence.
The Process of Receiving a DUI/DWI Charge in Pennsylvania
The DUI/DWI process in Pennsylvania typically starts with a traffic stop or being pulled over. A law enforcement officer will pull over a driver who shows signs of impairment. Signs of driving while impaired include:
- Erratic braking
- Slow response to traffic signals
The officer may then conduct field sobriety tests or use a breathalyzer to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the officer has reason to believe that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating your vehicle, they can arrest you for DUI/DWI.
Following the arrest, the driver is usually taken to a hospital or police station for further testing, such as a breath, blood, or urine test. These tests can help determine your BAC or if there are drugs in your system, which is crucial in determining the severity of the DUI charges. If your BAC is found to be above the legal limit, or if you fail the sobriety tests, you can be formally charged with a DUI/DWI.
The driver will then have to appear in court for a preliminary hearing, which is the first step in the legal process. During this hearing, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the case.
DUI vs. DWI
In Pennsylvania, there is no legal distinction between a DUI and a DWI, as they are interchangeable terms. Which term is used may depend on the specific circumstances of the offense or the jurisdiction in which it occurred. Typically, a DUI charge is more commonly used for alcohol-related offenses, while a DWI may be used for drug-related offenses.
Types of DUIs
There are three main types of DUIs in Pennsylvania:
- General impairment: This is when a driver’s BAC is between 0.08% and 0.099%.
- High BAC: A high BAC DUI occurs when a driver’s BAC is 0.10% or higher.
- Controlled substance: A controlled substance DUI involves driving under the influence of drugs, both illegal and prescription. Drugs will not trigger a breathalyzer but can cause someone to be impaired when they attempt to drive.
Pennsylvania also does separate alcohol-based DUIs into three levels as well:
- General impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)
- High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)
- Highest BAC (.16% and higher BAC)
Punishments for DUI
The punishments for a DUI in Pennsylvania vary depending on the type of substance that you consumed and how much of it you consumed. Punishments also take into account whether or not you had any prior convictions as well.
- A first-time general impairment DUI can result in up to 6 months of probation, a $300 fine, and alcohol safety school attendance.
- A high BAC or controlled substance DUI can result in up to 6 months in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a license suspension of up to 12 months.
Potential Defenses for DUI Charges
We can potentially use several defenses to combat DUI charges brought against you, including:
- Challenging the accuracy of BAC tests
- Questioning the legality of the traffic stop
- Raising doubts about the officer’s training or experience in administering field sobriety tests
Contact the DUI/DWI Attorney at Pike Law Today
Understanding the laws surrounding DUIs/DWIs in Pennsylvania is essential to avoid facing the most severe punishments you could receive. If you or a loved one received DUI charges in Kingston or the surrounding area of NEPA, it is crucial to seek help from knowledgeable and skilled DUI attorneys. The DUI/DWI law firm, Pike Law, has a legal team who can protect your rights and fight for the best possible outcome. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.