Forty-five states have enacted what are commonly called “felony DUI” laws. The laws vary from state to state, but they all possess a common feature: after a specified number of drunk driving convictions within a given time period, a subsequent DUI conviction is automatically converted from a misdemeanor to a felony. For example, in Georgia, a fourth DUI offense within a ten-year period constitutes a felony. Only five states and the District of Columbia have not enacted felony DUI laws, and Pennsylvania is one of the five. It has no felony DUI law. (The governor of Colorado, one of the states without such a law, recently called upon the state legislature to pass a felony DUI law.)
This fact, however, does not mean that a second or third conviction for driving while intoxicated does not carry additional penalties in Pennsylvania. The most common example is the difference in penalties between the first and second DUI conviction. The first such offense is punishable by not more than six months of probation and a fine of up to $300. A second offense is punishable by a fine of $300 to $2,500 and mandatory imprisonment for not less than five days. If a second offense involves bodily injury or death or damage to a vehicle, it can be punished for imprisonment of not less than 30 days and a fine ranging from $750 to $5,000.
The possibility of harsher penalties for subsequent offenses makes even a first-time drunk driving charge a serious matter. The services of a criminal defense attorney with knowledge and experience in the area of Pennsylvania’s drunk driving laws can provide significant help to anyone facing an accusation of drunk driving.
Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, “DUI Felony Laws,” Revised March 2014, accessed on Jan. 26, 2015