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Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Laws

Pennsylvania

When is a Driver Considered to be Legally Drunk in Pennsylvania?

  • Non-commercial drivers age 21+ are considered legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .08 or more.
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles are legally drunk when their blood alcohol concentration is .04 percent or greater.
  • School bus drivers are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .02 or more.
  • Drivers under 21 are legally drunk when their blood alcohol concentration is .02 or more.

Penalties for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania

Driver's License Suspension and Revocation Periods

When a person is convicted of DUI with a BAC of less than .10, there is no driver's license suspension period for the first offense. Those who commit a DUI with a BAC level of .10 or higher, as well as those who have one or two previous DUI convictions are subject to a grading system that will determine the license suspension period, which ranges between 12 and 18 months. A person who has three DUI convictions, however, is a habitual offender and will have his or her driver's license revoked for five years. Each additional offense within a period of five years of a previous offense will result in an additional two-year revocation.

Penalties for General Impairment

In Pennsylvania, a driver is "generally impaired" if his or her BAC level is at least .08 but less than .10. Those who are convicted of DUI while generally impaired face the following penalties:

  • A first-time offender must undergo a mandatory minimum term of six months probation; pay a $300 fine; attend an alcohol highway safety school; and comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A second-time offender will be imprisoned for at least five days; must pay a fine between $300 and $2,500; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • For a third or subsequent violation, the offender will be imprisoned for at least 10 days; must pay a fine between $500 and $5,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.

Penalties for High Rate of Blood Alcohol

A driver has a "high rate of blood alcohol" when the individual's alcohol concentration is at least .10 but less than .16. Those who are convicted of DUI with a high rate of alcohol face the following penalties:

  • A first-time offender must undergo a mandatory minimum prison term of not less than 48 hours; must pay a fine between $500 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A second-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 30 days; must pay a fine between $750 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A third-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 90 days; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • For a fourth or subsequent violation, the offender will be imprisoned for at least one year; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.

Penalties for Highest Rate of Blood Alcohol

A driver has the "highest rate of blood alcohol" when the individual's alcohol concentration is .16 or higher. Those who are convicted of DUI with the highest rate of alcohol face the following penalties:

  • A first-time offender must undergo a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 72 hours; must pay a fine between $1,000 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A second-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 90 days; must pay a fine of at least $1,500; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • For a third or subsequent violation, the offender will be imprisoned for at least one year; must pay a fine of at least $2,500; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.

Special Penalties for Drunk Driving with a High Rate of Blood Alcohol that Causes Bodily Injury, Vehicle Damage, or Property Damage

When a drunk driver operates a vehicle with a high rate of alcohol and causes bodily injury, vehicle damage, or property damage, the following penalties apply:

  • A first-time offender must undergo a mandatory minimum prison term of not less than 48 hours; must pay a fine between $500 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school, and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A second-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 30 days; must pay a fine between $750 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A third-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 90 days; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • For a fourth or subsequent violation, the offender will be imprisoned for at least one year; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.

Special Penalties for Commercial Vehicle and School Bus Drivers

When a commercial vehicle operator or a school bus driver commit a DUI, the following penalties apply:

  • A first-time offender must undergo a mandatory minimum prison term of not less than 48 hours; pay a fine between $500 and $5,000; attend an alcohol highway safety school, and comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A second-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 30 days; must pay a fine between $750 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A third-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 90 days; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • For a fourth or subsequent violation, the offender must be imprisoned for at least one year; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service work.
  • Where the driver was a commercial driver at the time of the violation, the driver will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year for the first offense. If, however, the driver was transporting hazardous materials at the time, the disqualification period is three years. A second-time offender will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for life, which may or may not be reduced to a period of not less than 10 years.

Special Penalties for Minors

All drivers under 21 who commit a DUI are subject to an automatic six-month driver's license suspension, regardless of age. Drivers under 18 who commit a DUI will be punished under Pennsylvania's Juvenile Act. Punishment under that Act may include a term of probation, committing the child to an institution, and/or ordering the child to pay a reasonable fine.

A drunk driver who is at least 18 but under 21 faces the following penalties:

  • A first-time offender must undergo a mandatory minimum prison term of not less than 48 hours; must pay a fine between $500 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A second-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 30 days; must pay a fine between $750 and $5,000; must attend an alcohol highway safety school; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • A third-time offender will be imprisoned for at least 90 days; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • For a fourth or subsequent violation, the offender must be imprisoned for at least one year; must pay a fine between $1,500 and $10,000; and must comply with all drug and alcohol treatment requirements imposed by the sentencing judge. The judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.

Ignition Interlock

A person who commits a second DUI within 10 years of the first offense will be required to apply for an ignition interlock restricted license. The license may be issued following the driver's license suspension period. After one year, the offender may apply for a replacement license that does not contain the ignition interlock restriction.

Additional Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Laws

What is Pennsylvania's Dram Shop Statute?

Under Dram Shop, a licensed drinking establishment can be held liable for injuries caused by intoxication if the establishment served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated or to a minor.

What is Pennsylvania's Social Host Law?

Under Pennsylvania common law, adults who serve alcohol at private functions are "social hosts." If a social host serves alcohol to a minor and the minor is injured or the minor injures someone else because of intoxication, the social host may be liable to pay money damages to the injured person. Social host liability only applies to adults who serve alcohol to minors. Pennsylvania law holds that adults are responsible for the consequences of their own drinking.

Criminal Penalty for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

Under Pennsylvania criminal law, a person who furnishes alcohol to a minor commits a third degree misdemeanor. This law has been applied to parents who allow their children to drink at home. A third degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Under this law, a first violation requires a minimum fine of $1,000. For subsequent violations, the minimum fine is $2,500.

Criminal Penalty for Licensed Drinking Establishment Selling Liquor to Minors

If a bar serves alcohol to a minor, the establishment's owner, operator, or the server faces a term of imprisonment of three months to one year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The establishment can also lose its liquor license.

Pennsylvania Limited Tort Waiver Restrictions

In Pennsylvania, a person who chooses Limited Tort over Full Tort on an auto insurance policy waives the right to sue for pain and suffering caused by another driver in most circumstances. A DUI conviction, however, is one exception to this rule. If a limited tort policyholder is injured by a drunk driver and the drunk driver is later convicted of DUI, the victim can sue for pain and suffering. A victim may also sue for pain and suffering, even absent a DUI conviction, if the victim dies, suffers serious bodily impairment or permanent serious disfigurement.

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

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