Pennsylvania DUI Laws

Pennsylvania laws state that drivers over the age of 21 cannot have a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. The threshold is lower for minors and commercial drivers.
Written by Georgina Grant
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Pennsylvania
laws state that drivers over the age of 21 cannot have a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. Commercial drivers cannot exceed 0.04%, and minors and school bus drivers cannot exceed 0.02%.
Every year, over 10,000 people are killed on the road due to drunk driving crashes in the U.S.
Driving
while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a dangerous crime, and penalties vary state to state. But even for a first-time offense, drivers will be forced to pay up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees.
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What is a DUI?

A DUI refers to driving under the influence while a DWI means driving while intoxicated or impaired. In some states, the charges are OUI (operating under the influence) or OWI (operating while intoxicated).
Each state determines the difference between these charges, but Pennsylvania uses the term "DUI" in its state laws.
A DUI charge could mean that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even if the drugs weren’t illegal—you can get a DUI charge from prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs if they make you impaired.

DUI in Pennsylvania

It is illegal to operate a vehicle in Pennsylvania if you are "under the influence" of drugs or alcohol. In this case, being "under the influence" means that you are incapable of operating a vehicle safely.
It is also illegal to operate a vehicle if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of:
  • 0.08% or higher if you’re 21 or older
  • 0.04% or higher if you’re a commercial driver
  • 0.02% or higher if you’re under the age of 21
  • 0.02% or higher if you’re a school bus driver
Even if you aren’t driving, you can be convicted of a DUI if you are in actual physical control of the vehicle.
A judge or jury will determine whether you were in actual physical control based on a number of factors, including whether or not the vehicle was running, whether you were sleeping, and where in the vehicle you were found.
Pennsylvania, like every state, has an implied consent law, which stipulates that drivers consent to be tested if they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
If you are lawfully arrested for a DUI, you must submit to a breath or blood test.
If you refuse testing, the DMV will revoke your license for 12 to 18 months, and you’ll have to pay a $500 fee to get your license reinstated. For subsequent offenses, your license will be revoked for 18 months, and you’ll have to pay $1,000 to $2,000 to get it back.

Penalties for DUI in Pennsylvania

Penalties in Pennsylvania differ based on your BAC level and some other circumstantial factors surrounding your arrest. If you had a minor in the car, for example, you will face stiffer penalties.
You will be convicted of a General Impairment DUI if:
  • Your BAC was at least 0.08% but no more than 0.10%
You will be convicted of a High Rate of Alcohol DUI if any of the following conditions apply:
  • Your BAC was at least 0.10% but no more than 0.16%
  • You were operating a commercial vehicle
  • You are under 21 years old
  • You caused an accident that led to injuries, property damage, or loss of life
You will be convicted of a Highest Rate of Alcohol DUI if any of the following conditions apply:
  • Your BAC was at least 0.16%
  • You refused to take a breathalyzer test
  • You have controlled substances in your blood
Convictions in Pennsylvania will remain on your driving record for 10 years.

First offense

Penalty
General Impairment DUI
High Rate DUI
Highest Rate DUI
Fine
$300
$500 to $5,000
$1,000 to $5,000
Jail
6 months probation
2 days to 6 months
3 days to 6 months
License suspension
No
1 year
1 year
SR-22 requirement
No
No
No
Community service
Up to 150 hours
Up to 150 hours
Up to 150 hours

Second offense

Penalty
General Impairment DUI
High Rate DUI
Highest Rate DUI
Fine
$300
$500 to $5,000
$1,000 to $5,000
Jail
6 months probation
2 days to 6 months
3 days to 6 months
License suspension
No
1 year
1 year
SR-22 requirement
No
No
No
Community service
Up to 150 hours
Up to 150 hours
Up to 150 hours

Third offense

Penalty
General Impairment DUI
High Rate DUI
Highest Rate DUI
Fine
$300
$500 to $5,000
$1,000 to $5,000
Jail
6 months probation
2 days to 6 months
3 days to 6 months
License suspension
No
1 year
1 year
SR-22 requirement
No
No
No
Community service
Up to 150 hours
Up to 150 hours
Up to 150 hours
Motorists convicted of a DUI are required to to complete an alcohol abuse evaluation and treatment. Additionally, a judge can require alcohol highway safety classes and attendance at a victim impact panel.
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Does a DUI impact car insurance in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Insurance companies take DUI convictions very seriously, and you’ll be classified as a high-risk driver going forward. This means that your auto insurance rates will increase.
It can be hard to find affordable insurance with a DUI on your record, so you’ll probably need to look at a number of different providers to find the right policy.
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Other effects of a DUI

Besides conviction penalties and higher insurance rates, DUIs can impact your life in other ways.
License revocation: After getting a DUI, you may have your license revoked, especially if you have multiple DUIs or a more severe conviction.
Ignition interlock device (IID): These devices stop you from starting your car if you have any alcohol on your breath. If you get your license revoked after a DUI in Pennsylvania, you will be required to install an IID on your vehicle for at least one year after your license is reinstated.
Background checks: DUIs appear on background checks, which could hurt your job prospects in the future.

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