Current Driving Under Influence (DUI) Laws in Pennsylvania
The law on DUI in Pennsylvania changed substantially in February 2004. A significant change is that now the DUI statute is broken into 3 tiers (whereas previously the level for intoxication was .10% and higher). Now there are 3 tiers for blood alcohol levels, as explained below. Under the changes in the law, the penalties have also generally gotten harsher. Here is a general breakdown of the DUI Statute in Pennsylvania:
• 75 Pa. C.S. section 3802(a) — General Impairment. This section allows police to charge you with a DUI even when they haven’t obtained your blood for testing. The case will then usually be based primarily upon the subjective opinion of the officer that you were under the influence of something (or multiple things) to a degree that made you not capable of driving safely. This section also provides the lowest tier of a DUI, which is when you blood-alcohol level was at least .08% but below .10% within two hours after the person was driving or in control of a motor vehicle.
Current Driving Under Influence (DUI) Laws in Pennsylvania — Middle tier of blood-alcohol concentration (at least .10% but below .16%).
• 75 Pa. C.S. section 3802(c) — Highest tier of blood-alcohol concentration (at least .16%).
• 75 Pa. C.S. section 3802(d) — Controlled substances. This section allows police to charge someone with a DUI for driving while they have Schedule 1 controlled substances in their blood (even very small amounts), or Schedule II or III controlled substances in their blood that were not medically prescribed to them.
• 75 Pa. C.S. section 3802(e) — Minors. Even though the adult criminal court system applies to anyone who is at least age 18 (and in some cases to minors under the age of 18), since it is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21, the DUI Statute in Pennsylvania provides in this section that police can charge someone with a DUI if they are under 21 and have a blood-alcohol concentration of .02% or higher within 2 hours of driving or being in control of a motor vehicle.
• Refusal of Breath, Blood or Urine Test — If you refuse to take a breath, blood or urine test after being arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, your license will be suspended for a period of not less than 1 year and 3 days of mandatory incarceration. You should know that it doesn’t matter how the DUI charges themselves turn out in your case (e.g. if the charges are later dismissed or you are found not guilty in a trial)—the license suspension for the refusal will remain. Many people do not know this. If you refused chemical tests, you need to take immediate action because upon your refusal, the arresting officer must forward a Notice of Refusal to PennDOT, and PennDOT will then notify you that your license will be suspended beginning in 30 days from the date of the notice. You can appeal this process in a special civil proceeding (different from criminal court where you may be charged with a DUI), but you only have 30 days to file your appeal. And your appeal must deal with the process of whether you were given proper notice of the right to refuse the chemical testing, the consequences of a refusal, and that you actually did refuse. The outcome of your DUI case has no effect on the refusal/license suspension from PennDOT.