Mandatory DUI Penalties in Lancaster County

Early in 2004, the Pennsylvania DUI laws were given a major overhaul, including significant changes to the penalties imposed. While the old laws differentiated penalties depending on whether offenders had prior DUI convictions, they did not take into account the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the offender. The new laws changed that, creating a somewhat complicated matrix using both factors. In addition, the lowest BAC to invoke a DUI charge was lowered from .10% to .08%. Alcohol affects everyone differently understanding how quickly drinking alcohol affects your BAC can help you prevent a DUI charge.

If someone is charged with DUI, their first step should be to determine if they qualify for ARD (Alternative Rehabilitative Disposition) which will allow them to avoid many of the mandatory penalties. 

Once it has been determined that ARD is not an option, the next step will be to establish where on the sentencing matrix the offender would fall if convicted. The sentencing guidelines first separate DUI offenses into three tiers that are primarily based on the BAC of the offender:

  • Tier One, known as "general impairment BAC", is applied where the BAC is at least .08% and no greater than .099% and no accident involved; 
  • Tier Two, "High Rate BAC", is applied where the BAC is at least .10% and no greater than .159%, where a minor is charged, where there was an accident and the BAC would have been in the Tier One category, or where a commercial or school vehicle was being driven;
  • Tier Three, "Highest Rate BAC", is applied where the BAC is equal to or greater than .16%, where a controlled substance such as marijuana or cocaine is also detected, or where a driver refused to take a BAC test.

Once the proper tier has been established, the next step is to determine if the driver has any prior offenses. For purposes of the DUI penalties, a prior offense is any conviction (including juvenile) of DUI charges or acceptance into ARD that occurred within 10 years of the date of the newest offense. Convictions and entry into programs similar to ARD that occur out of state are generally included.

Now that the tier and number of prior offenses have been established, the statutory penalties under the current Pennsylvania DUI Laws are described in the chart below. Please note that jail terms are listed as mandatory minimum and statutory maximum time periods. Depending on the circumstances, typically a convicted driver will serve the minimum amount of time in jail and then will be released to serve out the sentence on parole as long as they are not violating the terms of their parole.

 

PENNSYLVANIA STATUTORY PENALTIES

 

OFFENSE

MANDATORY JAIL

MIN. & MAX.

FINE RANGE

LIC. SUSPENSION (IN MONTHS)

TIER ONE

1st

none, 6 months probation

$300   

none

2nd

5 days - 6 months

$300-2,500

12

3rd or more

10 days - 2 years

$500-5,000

12

TIER TWO

1st

2 days - 6 months

$500-5000

12

2nd       

30 days - 6 months

$750-5,000

12

3rd

90 days - 5 years

$1,500-10,000

18

4th or more

1 year - 5 years

$1,500 - $10,000

18

TIER THREE

1st

3 days - 6 months

$1,000-5000

12

2nd

90 days - 5 years

$1,500-10,000

12

3rd

1 year - 5 years

$2,500-10,000

18

 

In addition to those penalties , the drivers will be subject to some or all of the following:

  • Alcohol Highway Safety classes
  • CRN evaluations, which are designed to red-flag people with drinking problems
  • Drug and Alcohol Counseling as directed
  • 12 months of ignition interlock
  • Community Service

Despite the mandatory minimums listed above, the courts in Lancaster County use their own standard set of penalties that in some cases calls for more jail time than the mandatory minimum. On the other hand, Lancaster County has also implemented an Intermediate Punishment Program which allows a straight jail sentence to be substituted with a successive combination of jail with work release, house arrest with electronic monitoring and then intensive supervision by probation officers.

Because the stakes are so high, and because the penalties are numerous and complex, the help of legal counsel is recommended should you find yourself charged with DUI. 

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