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Get to know the DUI penalty system in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania used to have a legal limit on blood alcohol concentration of .10, but it was reduced by Act 24 to .08 percent like the federal law. General impairment is considered any BAC between .08 and .099 percent. High BAC in Pennsylvania is .10 to .159 percent. Highest BAC, which is the third category for a DUI, is any BAC of .16 or higher.

New DUI laws in the state make sure that minors, commercial drivers and bus or school-vehicle drivers face the high BAC penalties, even if the BAC is below that level. Those who refuse to take a BAC test, either breath or chemical, may face the highest penalties allowed.

What is a general impairment penalty?

General impairment is .08 to .099 percent. There may not be a prior DUI offense. For a conviction, you'll face a fine of $300, need to attend alcohol highway safety school and receive treatment if it's ordered. This is an ungraded misdemeanor, and it has a potential probationary period of up to six months.

With a prior offense, the license suspension is added for 12 months, and there is a minimum jail sentence of five days. Fines extend up to $2,500, and drivers are ordered to have an ignition interlock device for a year. For two or more prior offenses, penalties include a second-degree misdemeanor and a minimum of 10 days in jail along with treatment, a license suspension and ignition interlock device. Penalties increase to between $500 and $5,000.

What is high impairment?

High impairment, which is between .10 and .159 percent BAC, starts where the general penalties left off. However, they quickly increase adding more time to the minimum jail sentence and more fines. For instance, a second-offense high DUI leads to a fine of at least $750 and at least 30 days in prison.

What is the highest impairment penalty?

With the highest impairment, people have a BAC of .16 percent or higher. Fines begin at $1,000 and potentially reach up to $10,000 depending on the number of offenses. The highest level of prison is five years, and it's possible to have a license suspended for 18 months.

While these penalties are strict, the good news is that they are often negotiable because of the ranges allowed in suggested penalties. Judges have the option to issue penalties that fit the crime, not just handing down minimums set by the state in all circumstances.

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