Pennsylvania DUI Laws and Penalties

Driving under the influence is a significant criminal offense that involves statutory consequences and a criminal record. The penalties associated with a conviction may include fines, jail time, license suspension, alcohol safety school, probation, and the installation of an ignition interlock device. In Pennsylvania, DUI penalties are categorized according to the number of times the driver has been arrested and the driver’s blood alcohol content at the time of their arrest. The legal limit for any Pennsylvania driver is 0.08 percent, meaning that any driver whose BAC is over that level can face increasingly more severe consequences if convicted.

The gravity of Pennsylvania’s DUI penalties is enough to convince many drivers charged to do whatever it takes to find and retain the best possible defense attorney. Skillful defense strategies may be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal or between license suspension and an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). See our DUI chart below for details on penalties that you can expect if you’ve been charged and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

DUI Penalties Chart – Pennsylvania

1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense Subsequent Offense(s)
General Impairment Penalties

  • §3802(a)
  • BAC of .08% to .099%
  • Individuals incapable of safe driving
  • No license suspension
  • Up to 6 months probation
  • $300 fine
  • Alcohol hwy. safety school
  • Treatment when ordered
  • No ignition interlock ARD eligible
  • CRN evaluation
  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • 1 yr. license suspension
  • 5 days to 6 mos. Prison
  • $300 – $2,500 fine
  • Alcohol hwy. safety school
  • CRN evaluation Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work release eligible
  • 2nd degree misdemeanor
  • 1 yr. license suspension
  • 10 days to 2 yrs. prison
  • $500 – $5,000 fine
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. Ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work release eligible
  • 2nd degree misdemeanor
  • 1 yr. license suspension
  • 10 days to 2 yrs. prison
  • $500 – $5,000 fine
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • Work release eligible
High Rate of Alcohol

  • §3802(b)
  • BAC of .10% to .159%
  • Minors with .02 BAC
  • CDL drivers with .04% BAC
  • School bus/vehicle drivers with .04% BAC
  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • 1 yr. license suspension
  • 48 hours to 6 mos. prison
  • $500-$5,000 fine
  • Alcohol hwy. safety school
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • No ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work
  • release eligible
  • ARD eligible
  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • 1 yr. license suspension
  • 30 days to 6 mos. Prison
  • $750-$5,000 fine
  • Alcohol hwy. safety school
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work release eligible
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 mos. license suspension
  • 90 days to 5 yrs. prison
  • $I,500-$10,000 fine a Alcohol hwy. safety school
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work release eligible
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 mos. license suspension
  • 1 yr. to 5 yrs. Prison
  • $l,500 – $l0,000 fine
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • Work release eligible
Highest Rate of Alcohol

  • §3802(c)
  • BAC of .16% and above
  • Minimum levels of controlled substances in blood
  • Individuals who refused chemical tests
  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • 1 yr. license suspension
  • 72 hrs. to 6 mos. Prison
  • $1,000-$5,000 fine
  • Alcohol hwy. Safety school
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • ARD eligible
  • House arrest/work
  • Ungraded misdemeanor
  • 18 mos. license suspension
  • 90 days to 5 yrs. Prison
  • Minimum $1,500 fine
  • Alcohol hwy. Safety school
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work release eligible
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 mos. license suspension
  • 1-5 yrs. prison
  • Minimum $2,500 fine
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • House arrest/work release eligible
  • 1st degree misdemeanor
  • 18 mos. license suspension
  • 1-5 yrs. Prison
  • Minimum $2,500 fine
  • CRN evaluation
  • Treatment when ordered
  • 1 yr. ignition interlock
  • Work release eligible

Alternatives to a First-Time DUI Conviction in Pennsylvania

There may be options available to first-time DUI offenders that can help keep your record clean. If your BAC was between 0.08 percent and 0.09 percent and this is your first offense, you may not see jail time. For those with a higher BAC, an expert lawyer may be able to help you replace your prison sentence with certain alcohol-related programs like Pennsylvania’s ARD Program, participation in drug court, and contribution to a drug or alcohol treatment program. The following options may be available to you:

  • Pennsylvania’s ARD Program: This course is unique to first-time offenders who have no prior criminal convictions and serves to treat and rehabilitate those individuals and effectively remove their cases from the criminal justice system.
  • Participation in drug court: These programs require intensive supervision based on frequent drug testing, court appearances, and tightly structured treatment and recovery services.
  • Participation in a drug or alcohol treatment program: These programs are meant to foster a driver’s understanding of their legal and moral responsibility while in a positive, non-judgmental environment. The DUI program provides valuable tools for relapse prevention and intends to help drivers comprehend and accept their responsibility to stay sober.

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, it’s crucial that you act quickly and contact an attorney following your arrest. The Pennsylvania DUI attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford may be able to help.

How Long Does a DUI Remain on Your Pennsylvania Driving Record?

In Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction will stay on your record for life unless it’s expunged or granted limited access relief. Because your conviction is public record, it will be listed in your criminal background and credit records in addition to your insurance and driver’s license history. If you receive a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania, the state will update your record in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Driver Register to reflect the details of your offense. Financial reporting agencies also receive this information and may incorporate this data into your credit history.

One such way a DUI can be expunged is if you successfully complete the ARD Program. ARD is the acronym for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program and is a pretrial diversionary curriculum used in counties across Pennsylvania. If you didn’t participate in the ARD program, you can only expunge your DUI if you meet the following terms:

  • You’re over the age of 70 and have been free of arrest for 10 years since the completion of probation supervision
  • You’ve been deceased for three or more years

Understanding Pennsylvania Driver’s License Penalties after DUI Convictions

Perhaps the most feared penalty among offenders after a DUI is the loss of driving privileges. If a license suspension is given, offenders must continue to go about their daily lives without the ability to drive, which is a hassle for just about everyone. Fortunately, a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney can help you build an aggressive DUI defense strategy intended to safeguard your driver’s license, your rights, and your freedom. 

In addition to any incarceration, probation, or fines, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation may also hand down the following driver’s license sanctions depending on your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest:

  • BAC below .10 percent: No license suspension for your first offense and a 12-month suspension for a second or subsequent DUI
  • BAC of .10 or higher: A 12-month license suspension for your first offense and an 18-month suspension for a second or subsequent DUI
  • Refusal to take a blood test: A 12-month license suspension for your first offense and an 18-month suspension for a second or subsequent DUI

It’s important to note that drivers are only allowed 30 days to request a license suspension hearing. Your attorney will make a case as to why you should retain your driving privileges at this hearing. To petition, drivers must submit an appeal with the Civil Trials Division of the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the refusal occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions About PA DUI Penalties

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, you may have additional questions.

How Many Drinks Will It Take to Be Impaired?

If you’re thinking of using an online BAC calculator, the tools use factors like your gender, how long you’ve been drinking, how many drinks you’ve consumed, and your weight to calculate your projected BAC level. However, be aware that some experts doubt their accuracy. Ultimately, there’s probably no safe way to drink even a small amount of alcohol and get behind the wheel.

What Happens If I Refused to Take a Chemical Test?

Pennsylvania’s “Implied Consent” law says that refusing to take a chemical test after the field sobriety test will result in additional penalties. If this is your first DUI offense, you will lose your driver’s license for one year, and your refusal may be used against you in your DUI case as evidence that only intoxicated drivers refuse the testing. For your second or third offense, you will receive an 18-month suspension.

How Can I Avoid Jail Time for My DUI Offense?

In addition to concerns about the loss of driving privileges and potentially hefty fines, individuals who have no experience with incarceration often worry that they’re ill-prepared to serve a jail sentence. An expert DUI defense lawyer who understands Pennsylvania criminal defense law may be able to help you completely avoid any time spent in jail or, potentially, eliminate your charges altogether.

What Are the DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, DUI penalties can vary, and are based upon the number of times the driver has been convicted for DUI and their blood alcohol content at the time of their arrest. For a first offense, depending on your BAC, the penalties could range from six months of probation and a fine of $300 to 6 months in jail, license suspension, and a fine of up to $1,000. Read our DUI penalties chart to learn more.

How Long Will a DUI Stay On My Record in PA?

In Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction will remain on your record for life unless it is expunged or given limited access relief. Expunging a criminal conviction from your record means that it will no longer be included in your criminal record. When a conviction is expunged, all records of it are destroyed, and it is no longer visible to the public. A conviction for which limited access has been ordered will only be accessible by state and law enforcement agencies.

Will I Lose My License After Getting a DUI?

In addition to any probation, fines, or incarceration, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation may also enforce the following driver’s license penalties depending on your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest:

      • BAC below .10 percent: No license suspension for your first offense and a 12-month suspension for a subsequent DUI.
      • BAC .10 or higher: A 12-month license suspension for your first offense and an 18-month suspension for a subsequent DUI.
      • Refusing to take a blood test: A 12-month license suspension for your first offense and an 18-month suspension if you’ve had a prior refusal suspension, a prior DUI conviction, or any similar prior offense.

Will I Go to Jail After Getting a DUI in Pennsylvania?

The penalties for a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania range from no jail time to as many as five years in prison. First DUI offenses for general impairment typically don’t include jail time by themselves. However, if you caused an injury or fatality, or refused to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test, you could face time in jail. Likewise, if you’re younger than 21, you could face a jail sentence of up to six months. Read our DUI penalties chart to learn more.

Contact a Knowledgeable Montgomery County DUI Defense Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, it’s vital that you act quickly and contact an attorney immediately following your arrest. The Pennsylvania DUI attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford understand how difficult this time can be for you, which is why we’re committed to fighting for your rights and protecting your interests during the legal process. Our highly trusted legal team understands the ins and outs of Montgomery County DUI defense law and will be by your side every step of the way.

The seasoned lawyers at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford have been helping clients for more than 65 years in Montgomery County, and Bucks County, and throughout the surrounding areas. We’ve gained the respect and trust of clients facing a range of legal problems. Our attorneys are prepared to protect you and guard your rights. Contact us at (215) 822-7575 or complete our online contact form today.