Act 24, which lowered Pennsylvania's legal limit of alcohol from .10 to .08, was signed into law on September 30, 2003. The new Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Law creates a tiered approach toward DUI enforcement and treatment, and includes many changes to the penalties, terms of suspension, fines and other requirements. The combination of an individual's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level, and prior offenses, determines the licensing requirements and penalties.
The new law focuses on treatment for first-time DUI offenders, rather than strictly punishment and suspension. There are now three levels of DUI: General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC) High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC) Highest BAC (.16% and higher) Under the new DUI law minors, commercial drivers, school vehicle or bus drivers, and offenders involved in an accident that injures someone or causes property damage may be subject to the high BAC penalties even if their BAC is not in the high category.
Offenders who refuse breath or chemical testing may be subject to the highest BAC penalties. The following charts show the penalties for each of the BAC categories: General Impairment penalties (Undetermined BAC, .08 to .099% BAC) No prior DUI offenses ungraded misdemeanor up to 6 months probation $300 fine alcohol highway safety school treatment when ordered 1 prior DUI offense ungraded misdemeanor 12 month license suspension 5 days to 6 months jail time $300 to $2,500 fine alcohol highway safety school treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock 2 or more prior DUI offenses 2nd degree misdemeanor 12 month license suspension 10 days to 2 years prison $500 to $5,000 fine treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock The new law creates a higher set of penalties for those having higher BAC levels.
It allows for treament at all levels, and requires alcohol highway safety school for all first and second time offenders. High BAC penalties (.10 to .159% BAC) No prior DUI offenses ungraded misdemeanor 12 month license suspension 48 hours to 6 months prison $500 to $5,000 fine alcohol highway safety school treatment when ordered 1 prior DUI offense ungraded misdemeanor 12 month suspension 30 days to 6 months prison $750 to $5,000 fine alcohol highway safety school treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock 2 or more prior DUI offenses 1st degree misdemeanor 18 month license suspension 90 days to 5 years prison $1,500 to $10,000 fine treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock 3 or more prior DUI offenses 1st degree misdemeanor 18 month license suspension 1 to 5 years prison $1,500 to $10,000 fine treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock For those at the highest BAC levels, the new law has strict penalties, but also allows for treatment.
This even-handed approach allows for individuals to receive counseling for their alcohol problem, while still penalizing those who choose to continue the dangerous practice of drinking and driving. In addition, drivers under the influence of controlled substances and those who refuse breath or chemical testing are subject to the highest BAC category penalties. Highest BAC penalties (.16% and higher) or Controlled Substance No prior DUI offenses ungraded misdemeanor 12 month license suspension 72 hours to 6 months prison $1,000 to $5,000 fine alcohol highway safety school treatment when ordered 1 prior DUI offense 1st degree misdemeanor 18 month license suspension 90 days to 5 years prison $1,500 to $10,00 fine alcohol highway safety school treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock 2 or more prior DUI offenses 1st degree misdemeanor 18 month license suspension 1 to 5 years prison $2,500 to $10,000 treatment when ordered 1 year ignition interlock The following outlines specific components of the new law, and changes from the previous law that impacts DUI drivers.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level for per se* DUI is lowered to .08%.-Effective September 30, 2003Penalties for DUI will be based on BAC and prior offenses.-Effective February 1, 2004 Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Requires courts to impose suspensions for BAC ARDs based on the following BAC ranges: Less than .10% - no suspension, .
10% to less than .16 - 30 day suspension, or .16% and above - 60 day suspension -Effective February 1, 2004 License Suspensions Suspensions will be imposed as follows: BAC below .10% and incapable of safe driving: No suspension for first offense if the driver meets certain criteria; 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense. BAC greater than or equal to .10% and less than .
16%: 12 month license suspension for first and second offense. 18 month suspension for third or subsequent offense. BAC greater than or equal to .16%: 12 month license suspension for first offense. 18 month suspension for second or subsequent offense. Out-of-state DUI convictions: No suspension for first offense; 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense. -Effective February 1, 2004 DUI Treatment and Evaluation Treatment and evaluation processes are geared to rehabilitation.
-Effective - Phased-In Through 2009 Ignition Interlock Drivers who receive a second or subsequent DUI violation on or after September 30, 2003, can no longer serve an additional one year suspension in lieu of obtaining an ignition interlock device. Drivers are required to install ignition interlock on all vehicles owned (including leased) before driving privileges can be restored. -Effective September 30, 2003 Additionally, the following exemptions and penalties have been added: Financial Hardship Exemption:Drivers may apply for an exemption from the requirement to install the ignition interlock device on all of their vehicles.
If the exemption is granted, ignition interlock installation will only be required on one vehicle.-Effective February 1, 2004 Employment Exemption:Under certain circumstances, ignition interlock restricted drivers may operate employer owned vehicles but only in the course and scope of employment. The employee must notify the employer of the ignition interlock restriction and carry proof of employer notification on a PennDOT form.
The employer owned vehicle cannot be a school bus/vehicle or large passenger vehicle.-Effective February 1, 2004 Ignition Interlock Violations:Individuals convicted of driving without or tampering with the ignition interlock device will have their ignition interlock period extended 12 month from the date of conviction for the first offense and will have their driving privileges suspended for 12 months for the second or subsequent offenses.
Upon restoration they must comply with ignition interlock for 12 months. Individuals, whose driving privileges are suspended during the ignition interlock period for a non-ignition interlock violation, must complete the ignition interlock period upon restoration.-Effective February 1, 2004 Occupational Limited Licenses (OLL's) First time DUI offenders may be eligible for an OLL after serving 60 days of their suspension.
Individuals whose licenses are suspended for 18 months (for DUI or refusing breath or chemical testing) and have no more than one prior offense may be eligible for an OLL with an ignition interlock after serving 12 months of their suspension. In addition, first time underage drinking violators may be eligible for an OLL.-Effective February 1, 2004 Expungement of Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) Records PennDOT will automatically expunge ARD records after 10 years providing a person's operating privileges were not revoked as a habitual offender and/or the person was not a commercial driver at the time of the violation.
-Effective February 1, 2004 Credit (Suspension) Individuals suspended for driving a vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock device or driving under a DUI-related suspension, with a BAC of .02% or greater cannot receive credit for their suspension until jail time has been served.-Effective February 1, 2004 Implied Consent/Breath or Chemical Testing Suspensions for individuals who refuse to submit to breath or chemical testing may be increased.
Breath or chemical testing may now be required for individuals who are arrested for driving under a DUI-related suspension or driving without an ignition interlock device.-Effective February 1, 2004 * "Per se" is a Latin phrase that means "by itself." Evidence that a person drove, operated or was in control of a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher is enough by itself to convict the person of DUI.
A person with BAC less than .08% might still be convicted of DUI is there is evidence that he or she imbibed enough alcohol to make him or her incapable of safely driving, operating or being in control of a motor vehicle.See Also: Ovi Ohio First Offense
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The first time any one is arrested can be a shock to that person and his/her family. Your mind begins to think of a million things at once: how do I get a lawyer, how much money is it going to cost, will I get a record, lose my job, lose my license, etc. Fortunately, for many first time offenders there is a program in Pennsylvania that allows someone to avoid a criminal record, jail, or a big fine.
That program is called the Accelerated Rehabilitation Diversion program, or ARD. WHAT IS THE ARD PROGRAM? ARD is a program run by the district attorney’s office of the county where the offense was committed. The DA’s office has to approve the person’s entry into the program after reviewing the offense and confirming that the defendant has never been convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania or the rest of the country.
If the DA rejects a person for the program there is no appeal to a judge. If approved you will be put on probation for a period of time (usually one year), pay court costs, and may have to do community service. If the defendant successfully completes the probation (gets in no further trouble) the charge will be dismissed and there will be no criminal record. One may even get the arrest expunged.
HOW TO GET INTO AN ARD PROGRAM If you are arrested it is important that you contact a criminal attorney immediately. At your first meeting tell your lawyer that you have no criminal record and that this is your first arrest. (DON’T’ LIE). Next comes the preliminary hearing at the District Justice court in the area where the offense was committed. Your lawyer will first speak to the arresting officer to make sure he/she will have no objections to the ARD program.
The officer’s opinion will be taken into account by the DA’s office. If there is no objection your lawyer will probably waive your hearing (no testimony) and have the case forwarded to the county court. At or before the arraignment your lawyer will make application to the DA for entry into the ARD program. Part of the application is waiving your rights to a speedy trial since it may take time for the DA to confirm that you have no record.
Of course, some crimes will not be approved for ARD such as homicide, aggravated assault with injury, drug dealing, etc. If you are approved you will be given a hearing date. REPRESENTATION AT AN ARD HEARING Your hearing will be before a judge either in a large group of first time offenders or by yourself. You will fill out a form indicating that you want to be admitted to the program and that you understand all your rights and responsibilities.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PLEAD GUILTY. The judge will ask you personally if you understand your rights and he will sign an order admitted you into the program. You will then be taken to the probation office where you will have to pay the costs of the program (a short term payment plan may be allowed at the discretion of the DA) and given the rules and regulations. If community service is ordered it will be set up for you.
BEING IN THE ARD PROGRAM Once in the program you will have to abide by any rules set down for you. This may include a drug evaluation (if for a drug offense) or anger management. THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE IS: DON’T GET ARRESTED AGAIN. If you get arrested it will be most likely be considered a violation and you will be removed from the program. Any time spent on probation or costs paid will be lost to you.
CAN I BE REMOVED FROM AN ARD PROGRAM? If you violate the terms of the program you will be removed from ARD after a hearing. The violation may be an arrest, failure to pay all court costs, failed drug test, etc. If you are found to have violated the ARD program you will be put onto the trial list for the crime as if you were never on the program in the first place. Your court costs will not be refunded.
If you then found or plead guilty you will have a criminal record. HOW TO COMPLETE AN ARD PROGRAM? Once you successfully complete the ARD program your probation will be over. The charges will then be dismissed. If asked afterwards by anyone, such as an employer, if you have ever been convicted of a crime you can say no. Your record will show the arrest with a note that the charges were dismissed.
EXPUNGEMENT OF AN OFFENSE AFTER AN ARD PROGRAM Once you have successfully completed the program you may file a petition with the Court to have your record expunged. This will erase even the record of the arrest off your record. (The only one who will have that information will be the DA since, if you are arrested again, you will not be eligible for the program.) The expungement does not automatically happen.
You must file a petition requesting that it occur. ARD FOR DUI If your first arrest is for Driving Under the Influence the above is the same. However, you will lost your license for anywhere from 30 – 60 days (unlike a conviction which causes a loss of license for a year.). Also, if there was a minor under the age of 14 in the car at the time you will not be admitted to ARD even if it is your first arrest.
Further, if you are found driving while your license is suspended you will go to jail for 60-90 days and a year will be added to the suspension. And, if arrested again for DUI you will be treated as a second time offender (even though the first DUI was technically “dismissed”). If you are arrested for a a crime it is imperative that you contact a lawyer immediately so he/she can better prepare your defense and determine if you are eligible for ARD.
The information presented is not legal advice, and your use of it does not create an attorney-client relationship. No recipient should act on the basis of any content included in the site without seeking the appropriate legal advice from counsel. Lawrence R. Dworkin, Esq. expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken based on any content of this site. Because every case is different, any prior results described on this web site do not guarantee or suggest a similar outcome.