Second Offense DUI
Being arrested and charged with a DUI is worrisome enough but when you have previously been convicted of a DUI and you are now facing a second charge, you are uncertain as to what your options are and what possible charges you may be facing. Some of the questions you may have could include whether or not you could be facing felony charges.
Is a DUI a felony?
Driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is nearly always charged as a misdemeanor. In cases where there has been a death or bodily injury, drivers could be facing felony charges. However, since Pennsylvania has a ten-year look-back period on all DUI charges, the penalties you are facing could be far more severe for a second DUI. Under the current laws of Pennsylvania if someone other than the person driving drunk could face felony DUI with injury charges which could result in up to six months in jail, loss of your license for one year and fines of up to $5,000. These penalties apply in the event of minor injuries that resulted in an accident.
Difference between a DUI and DWI
DUI means driving under the influence (drugs or alcohol) while DWI means driving while intoxicated. In Pennsylvania, drivers typically are facing DUI charges versus DWI charges which allow law enforcement more flexibility. If you are impaired because of drugs, you could be facing the same fines and penalties as if you were under the influence of alcohol.
DUI Accidents in Pennsylvania
During 2014, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there were more than 10,000 alcohol related accidents and more than 300 deaths resulting from drunk driving incidents. Pennsylvania has tried to stem drunk driving incidents by implementing sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.
Breathalyzer Tests and DUI Arrests
In some instances, drivers may believe they would be better off refusing a breathalyzer test believing that without such a test, it would be impossible for a prosecutor to prove their state of inebriation. However, it is important to keep in mind that if you refuse such a test, you will automatically face charges under a tier 3 DUI which is considered “highest impairment” regardless of your BAC.
DUI Levels in PA
Pennsylvania DUI charges are considered misdemeanor offenses except in very limited circumstances. However, there are different “tiers” assigned to a DUI offense and the penalties for each vary. There are three tiers which are:
Drivers with a BAC of .08 to .099 who have caused no proper damage or injury and are at least 21 years of age can face between five days and six months in prison, the loss of their license for up to 12 months and fines between $300 and $2,500
When your BAC is between .10 and .159 or meets the criteria of general impairment but has resulted in an accident or injury or the driver is below 21 you will face steeper fines of up to $5,000 and prison time between 30 days and six months. This level also applies to school bus drivers and drivers under age 21 with a BAC between .02 and .159. Commercial truck drivers with a BAC between .04 and .159 will also face high impairment charges. In all cases, drivers could face a license suspension for 12 months.
Driver could face prison time between 90 days and five years in prison if they have a BAC in excess of .16 or if they refuse a chemical test. In addition, any driver who is in possession of a controlled substance may also face this level of a misdemeanor. Generally, drivers will face fines between $1,500 and $10,000 as well as a suspended license for 18 months.
Repeat Offenders Do Have Options
Despite the state’s stringent DUI laws, this does not necessarily mean you will serve jail time or lose your job, or even your driver’s license. In fact, in Pennsylvania, you must first be convicted of a DUI offense before your license may be revoked. A DUI attorney in Pennsylvania can be crucial to managing your defense so that your case has the potential to be resolved before it escalates into a trial or conviction.
While the recently enacted laws were written with the intent to send repeat DUI offenders to jail, depending on your case’s specific circumstances, it is not a given that you will be ordered to serve jail time.
DUI and DWI Penalties
DUI and DWI penalties in Pennsylvania vary based on the number of offenses and the level of impairment that is documented in each incident. As the number of incidents increase and/or as the level of impairment increases, the severity of the penalties imposed is intended to increase as well.
The “look back period” in Pennsylvania is for a term of ten years, this means that multiple DUI offenses will be considered in succession within a ten year period beginning from the date of the first offense.
Improper or Illegal Stops for DUI and DWI
A DUI criminal defense attorney can challenge the legality of the traffic stop that resulted in your DUI. If the stop is ruled as improper or illegal then everything that occurred subsequently will be inadmissible as evidence. So, if your DUI or DWI stop is ruled to be illegal or improper then even if you failed a breathalyzer or sobriety test, that information may not be admissible in court.
Drivers who are stopped and facing a second DUI arrest should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who has the skills and experience necessary to deal with DUI charges in Pittsburgh. In addition to steep fines, jail time and a loss of your driving rights, you can also face increased insurance premiums for a period of up to 10 years. Any conviction could also have an impact on your ability to secure employment and housing.