As with most states, Pennsylvania sets a blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of .08 percent for general motorists, .04 percent for commercial drivers and .02 percent for drivers under the age of 21. Where Pennsylvania differs from most states is it has a tiered system of separate enhanced charges for BAC levels higher than .08 percent. BAC from .08-.99 percent is charged as “general impairment.” BAC from .10-.159 percent is charged as “high BAC.” And a BAC of .16 percent or higher is charged as “highest BAC.” Driving under the influence of a controlled substance is also punished at the “highest BAC” level. It is important to understand these different limits as penalties are multiplied as the BAC goes up.
Penalties for a First DUI Offense
Pennsylvania DUI Penalties for a first offense with no priors is regarded as an ungraded misdemeanor regardless of BAC. Drivers charged with general impairment face up to six months of probation, a $300 fine, a mandatory alcohol highway safety school and potentially a mandatory treatment program if a judge chooses to order it. Drivers charged with high BAC will have their licenses suspended for a year, receive a jail sentence of 48 hours to six months, and will be fined $500-$5,000 dollars. The penalties for highest BAC are the same with an increase in the mandatory minimum jail time to 72 hours and the minimum fine to $1,000.
Penalties for a Second DUI Offense
A second DUI offense continues to be an ungraded misdemeanor unless there is a charge of highest BAC, in which case it becomes a first degree misdemeanor. A charge of general impairment results in a one-year license suspension, five days to 16 months of jail time, a fine of $300-$2,500, a mandatory ignition interlock for one year and a mandatory alcohol highway safety school. A mandatory treatment program may also be ordered. A high BAC charge ups the minimum jail sentence to 30 days and the fine to $750-$5,000. A highest BAC charge ups the license suspension to 18 months, the jail sentence to 90 days to five years and the fine to $1,500-$10,000.
Penalties for a Third DUI Offense
A third DUI offense is a second degree misdemeanor at the general impairment level and a first degree misdemeanor at the higher levels. For a general impairment charge, the penalty is a one-year license suspension, 10 days to two years in prison, a $500-$5,000 fine and use of an ignition interlock device for one year. A high BAC charge ups the license suspension to 18 months, increases the prison term from 90 days to five years, and increases the fine to $1,500-$10,000. A highest BAC charge ups the prison term to one to five years and the fine to $2,500-$10,000.
Penalties for a Fourth DUI Offense and Beyond
Pennsylvania is one of the few states where DUI never escalates to a felony charge with repeated offenses. Under some circumstances a fourth or greater charge may increase the mandatory minimum prison sentence, but otherwise the penalties continue to be the same as those levied for a third offense.