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Penalties for first DUI Arrest. Am I going to Jail?

One of the most common questions I receive from potential clients is “what will happen to me for my first DUI”. While that is certainly a very fair question, the answer will be different for everyone depending on thefacts and circumstances of each individual case.Pennsylvania is one of the states that has mandatory minimum sentences even for first time offenders. Depending on an individual’s blood alcohol level and/or if there are any drugs in the system will be very important factors to look at.

Blood Alcohol Level <.10%
An individual with a blood alcohol level below a .10% is not looking at any jail time or any license suspension. They are however looking a mandatory 6months probation as well as a $300 fine.

Blood Alcohol Level .10%-159%
An individual with a blood alcohol level between a .10 and .159 is looking at a mandatory sentence of 48 hours no more than 6 months and a 1 year license suspension through PENNDOT. Fines can range from $500-$5000.

Blood Alcohol Level .16% or greater
An individual with a blood alcohol level of .16 or greater is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 72 hours no more than 6 months in jail and a 1 year license suspension. Fines can range from $1000-$5000.

Controlled Substances
If an individual is found to have a controlled substance in their system on its own or combined with alcohol they will be subject to the penalties of an individual with .16 or greater which is spelled out above.

If this is an individuals first DUI offense and they have no criminal record they MAY be eligible for ARD which was discussed in previous posts. In a nutshell ARD is a diversionary program for non-violent offenders. If accepted an individual would not do any jail time no matter what was in their systems. In addition rather then facing a 1 year drivers suspension there would only be a suspension of 0-3 months depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

It goes without saying that if a potential client is arrested for DUI I go through all of the options above. Another important option that everyone has is to take the case to trial. The Commonwealth must be able to prove the elements of a DUI in order to obtain conviction. Even individuals who are eligible for ARD have the absolute right to fight their case and take to trial if they feel they are innocent. I see way to often attorneys automatically just looking at ARD as the only option because it is a first offense. It is important to make sure that an attorney does everything that can be done to ensure the best result under the circumstances.  An example of where an individual may not want to take ARD is where the hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL).  A CDL holder even if accepted into ARD will be subject to a mandatory 1 year license suspension.  This is the case even if they are driving their own personal vehicle. Losing their CDL license to many means potentially losing their sole source of income and is just not an option.

Of course there is a lot more to look at when a person is arrested for a first offense DUI.  Some of the factors that can affect the outcome also include were there minors in the car, was there an accident with serious bodily injuries, was there an accident and the person left the scene, what was the initial reason for the stop.  All of of these things and more need to be discussed with a qualified DUI Attorney who will be able to assess all your options as well as go over any possible defenses.