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Pennsylvania Court Explains Sentences for First Offense DUI Convictions

Generally, the Pennsylvania courts must abide by statutory guidelines when sentencing people convicted of DUI crimes. As such, sentences that exceed the maximum penalties under the guidelines may be deemed unlawful. The court can consider aggravating factors when issuing sentences, however, and in some cases, such factors could result in an increased penalty, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued in a Pennsylvania DUI matter. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to speak to a dedicated Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to determine your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was arrested and charged with DUI, which was his first offense. He pleaded guilty, and in exchange, the Commonwealth withdrew several other criminal charges and recommended a sentence in the low-end of the standard range. During the defendant’s colloquy, the court noted that the offense was graded as a first-degree misdemeanor, which was not typical for a first offense DUI, due to the fact that there was a minor in the car at the time of the defendant’s arrest.

Allegedly, the court further explained that the defendant could face up to five years imprisonment. The defendant confirmed that he understood and admitted to the elements of the crime, including the fact that a child under the age of two was in his car when he was arrested. The court sentenced the defendant to three years imprisonment. He went through numerous rounds of appeals, arguing in part that his sentence was illegal because it exceeded the maximum penalty for first-time offenses under the statutory guidelines.

Sentences for First Offense DUI Convictions

On appeal, the defendant argued that because he was a first-time offender, the court only had the right to sentence him to six months in prison, pursuant to the statutory guidelines. The court ultimately found that the defendant’s argument lacked merit. Specifically, the court found that the ignored the aggravating factor of having a minor in the car at the time of his arrest and the impact said factor had on his sentence.

The court explained that while generally, a first time DUI offense was an ungraded misdemeanor that carried a maximum penalty of six months in prison, the grading provisions of the Vehicle Code expressly provided that parties who violate the DUI statute with a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense commit a first-degree misdemeanor. In such instances, the courts have the authority to impose a sentence of up to five years in prison. As the court only sentenced the defendant to three years’ incarceration, his sentence was within the statutory guidelines. As such, it was affirmed.

Meet with a Seasoned Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

A conviction for a DUI crime can carry a substantial penalty, even if it is a first-time offense. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential defenses. Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who can assess the facts of your case and formulate compelling arguments in your defense. You can contact Mr. Cooper via the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.