Under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, it is a criminal offense for you to drive, operate, or control the movement of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance/drug in an amount consumed that renders you incapable of doing so safely.  The offense is considered Driving Under the Influence, or a DUI.  This applies to drivers in Pittsburgh, Beaver County, Butler County, Washington County, Westmoreland County, as well as across Pennsylvania.

How is Your Alcohol Content Measured?

As it applies to alcohol, the Pennsylvania law determines your ability to drive by your blood alcohol concentration, or “BAC.” In Pennsylvania, there are three categories for BAC’s. First, for all drivers, regardless of age, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. This means that 0.08% of your blood is alcohol. Second, if you are a minor in Western Pennsylvania, under 21 years of age, you may not drive with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. This is Pennsylvania’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. Third, for commercial or school bus drivers, it is illegal for a commercial driver to drive with a BAC 0.04% or higher, and it is illegal to drive a school bus with a BAC of 0.02% or higher.

What Factors Determine the Seriousness of Your DUI?

When determining the seriousness of your DUI offense, there are a number of factors to consider.  Were you in an accident?  Was anyone injured?  Were there minor’s in the car at the time?  Most factors are dependent on your specific facts.  However, there are two factors in Pennsylvania that are constant to everyone’s DUI case.  The first factor involves the BAC. The second factor involves prior DUI offenses.

As mentioned above, a minor, commercial driver, and school bus drivers will be considered driving under the influence with a BAC of less than 0.08%. However, if ANY driver has a BAC of 0.08% or more, then the penalties change as the BAC goes up. There are three tiers of BAC’s above 0.08%.

0.08% – 0.099% (General Impairment)

0.10% – 0.159% (High Rate)

0.16% and higher (Highest Rate)

Once the BAC is determined, the penalties also vary based on prior offenses. According to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, if you have more than one DUI conviction, the penalties become increasingly worse with every subsequent conviction. The following chart makes it easy to visualize.

1st Conviction of DUI 2nd Conviction of DUI 3rd Conviction of DUI
0.08% – 0.099% –
6 Months in Probation
$300 Fine

  • Alcohol/Highway Safety School
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • No License Suspension
0.08% – 0.099% –
5 Days – 6 Months in Jail
$300 – $2500 fine

  • Alcohol/Highway Safety School
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 12 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.08% – 0.099% –
10 Days – 2 Years in Jail
$500 – $5000 Fine

  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 12 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.10% – 0.159%, Minors, Commercial/School –
2 Days to 6 Months Jail
$500-$5000 Fine

  • Alcohol/Highway Safety School
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 12 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.10% – 0.159%, Minors, Commercial/School –
30 Days to 6 Months in Jail
$750 – $5000 Fine

  • Alcohol/Highway Safety School
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 12 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.10% – 0.159%, Minors, Commercial/School –
90 Days – 5 Years in Jail
$1500 – $10,000 Fine

  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 18 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.16% and higher –
3 Days – 6 Months Jail
$1000 – $5000 Fine

  • Alcohol/Highway Safety School
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 12 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.16% and higher –
90 Days – 5 Years Jail
$ 1500 Fine

  • Alcohol/Highway Safety School
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 18 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System
0.16% and higher –
1 year – 5 years Jail
$2500 minimum Fine

  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • 18 Month License Suspension and will require an Ignition Interlock System

Can You be Charged With a DUI For Drugs?

Yes, the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code also covers driving while under the influence of a Controlled Substance/Drugs. According to the Code, it is illegal for you to drive under the influence of a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance without a medical prescription, or any metabolite of a Schedule 1 or 2 substance in the blood. Controlled substances include mostly illegal drugs, however, some medicines contain legal controlled substances.  Examples of controlled substances that violate the Vehicle Code include marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, crack, mushrooms, LSD, some anti-depressants, cold medicine, etc.

Additionally, it is illegal for someone to drive in Pennsylvania while under the influence of a combination of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol when the combination impairs your ability to drive safely.  It is even illegal to drive under the influence of any solvent or noxious substance. For example, you cannot drive after huffing chemical glue or inhaling any other chemical in gas form. There is no measuring system for this like a BAC. Therefore, the presence of drugs must be proven through the arresting officer’s observations. The Prosecutor must  then use blood samples to prove the presence of drugs and alcohol. The Prosecutor must also present evidence to prove that the drugs and alcohol were causing unsafe driving. This may be done by drawing inferences and the Prosecutor does not have to show the precise link between the drugs/alcohol and the impaired driving.

What is PA’s Implied Consent Law?

On a final note, Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code includes an Implied Consent Law. Implied Consent means that you, as a driver in Pennsylvania, agrees to submit to a chemical test of the blood, breath, or urine if an officer suspects that you are driving under the influence. If the you refuse, your driver’s license will be suspended for 1 year. Also, the driver is considered guilty of a DUI each time he/she refuses the test and the suspension increases with each subsequent refusal.

If you are being charged with a DUI whether in Pittsburgh, Beaver County, Butler County, Washington County, or Westmoreland County, give my office a call.  I will sit down with you for a no obligation consultation.  I will walk you through the process and make sure you receive the best possible result.  Usually, first time DUI offenders are eligible for a diversionary program, Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, that will allow you to avoid jail.

Call (412) 209-0657 and ask for Matthew Becker.