First-time DUI penalties in Pennsylvania for general and high BAC

Drunk Driving
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

The penalties for any crime you wind up charged with will be progressive, depending on a variety of factors. When you allegedly commit a criminal act in Pennsylvania, your previous criminal record and the specific circumstances of the purported offense will influence exactly how the courts might penalize you.

Those accused of driving under the influence (DUI) offenses generally have the most lenient consequences for a first offense. However, those consequences can still be relatively significant if certain aggravating factors play a role.

The presence of children in the vehicle, whether or not the driver caused a crash, and whether someone got hurt or property wound up damaged can all impact the charges someone faces. Even in a standard DUI without injuries or property damage, the penalties can vary. The amount of alcohol in someone’s body, as measured by their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will influence what penalties they could face if they plead guilty or wind up convicted in a court of law.

What are the penalties for a standard first-time DUI?

The legal limit for someone’s measured BAC during a traffic stop is 0.08%. Anyone testing at that level or above will likely face DUI charges regardless of their driving habits at the time of the traffic stop or their arrest.

In cases where someone’s BAC is over the legal limit but not rated as high, a first DUI offense will result in a misdemeanor charge that carries a loss of their license for up to six months and a fine of up to $300. There may also be an obligation to complete special education programs for alcohol safety when driving and even substance abuse treatment. 

Those with a higher BAC will face more significant penalties

Not that long ago, 0.10% was the cutoff for any DUI in Pennsylvania. However, now a BAC of between 0.10% and 0.159% is considered a high-BAC DUI. The penalties for a first offense include the loss of your license for up to 12 months, between 48 hours and six months in prison, and a fine of between $500 and $5,000.

For those with very high BAC which tests at 0.16% or higher, a first offense means 12 months without a license, between 72 hours and six months in prison, and a fine of as much as $5,000. In other words, the higher someone’s BAC is at the time of the arrest, the more significant the penalties become.