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Penalties for drunk driving in Pennsylvania

Like most states, Pennsylvania has a number of laws that apply to driving a motor vehicle when the driver has consumed alcohol. This blog entry is intended as a summary of the state's DUI laws, not a comprehensive analysis. This post is intended only as a general guide and is not intended to impart legal advice.

The general prohibition against drunk driving states that no person may operate a motor vehicle "imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle." The statute defines impairment as a blood alcohol content of 0.08% as measured within two hours of the operation of a motor vehicle. A person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle may also be impaired by the use of various drugs or other substances that may reduce a person's perception or reaction times.

Penalties for drunk driving vary according to the circumstances and the driver's safety record. A first DUI offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a jail term not to exceed six months and a fine of $300. Penalties become more severe if the driver has prior DUI convictions. If an accident caused by the driver's intoxication results in bodily injury or death, the driver can be charged with a misdemeanor of the first or second degree depending on prior offenses. Persons convicted of DUI may also be required to attend a drug or alcohol treatment program and a course on alcohol highway safety.

Being charged with a DUI offense is not the same as a conviction. A defendant has a constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty by beyond a reasonable doubt. Anyone facing DUI charges may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in defending such cases. A knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney can provide a helpful analysis of the facts of the case and a useful estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or an outright acquittal.

Source: Pennsylvania Consol. Stat. Chapter 38, Driving After Imbibing Alcohol or Utilizing Drugs, accessed on Aug. 24, 2015

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