Pennsylvania’s driving under the influence laws take a graduated approach to penalties. For example, the more alcohol that is present in a driver’s blood, the higher the penalties may be.
However, blood alcohol content alone may not lead to a harsher penalty, and a harsh penalty may not be solely the result of BAC.
DUI convictions have three levels
In general, the three levels of DUI convictions in Pennsylvania do have a link to BAC. A driver with an illegal BAC of 0.08% to 0.099% may face a General Impairment charge. However, 0.1% to 0.159% may result in a High BAC charge, and 0.16% and higher may result in a Highest BAC charge.
First time offenders are not likely to face jail time for a General Impairment conviction, although repeat offenders probably will. Judges frequently order treatment along with fines, traffic safety school and ignition interlock requirements for repeat offenders and those receiving High BAC or Highest BAC convictions.
Multiple factors lead to highest charge
According to a recent news report, a driver already facing other charges now also faces a Highest BAC charge after law enforcement pulled him over. The news report does not state the driver’s BAC in this case but lists earlier charges alleging driving with a suspended license, driving without an ordered ignition interlock device and driving with a BAC of 0.025% while under orders to use an ignition interlock device. The Highest BAC charge may not refer to his BAC due to the other relevant factors.
Research shows treatment reduces recidivism
One of the differences in Pennsylvania compared to many states in the country is the focus on treatment. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania recognize that penalizing alcohol-related incidents does not necessarily reduce the likelihood of repeat behavior, but treatment does. Thus, local judges may be slow to order stiff penalties. Understanding a judge’s focus may help in creating a defense strategy that leads to a more productive outcome.