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Drunk Driving Accidents

What is the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers in Pennsylvania?

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers in Pennsylvania determines what BAC counts as legally drunk, depending on the type of driver:

  • Non-commercial Drivers (21 years and older) – BAC of .08+
  • Commercial Drivers – BAC of .04+
  • School Bus Drivers – BAC of .02+
  • Drivers Under 21 Years Old – BAC of .02+

What are the Penalties for Drunk Driving in Pennsylvania?

Suspension and Revocation of Driver’s License

If a driver is convicted for the first time of a DUI with a BAC of less than .10, his or her driver’s license will not be suspended or revoked. However, if the person’s BAC is .10 or higher or if the person has had DUI convictions in the past, then a grading system will apply to determine how long his or her driver’s license will be suspended (12 to 18 months). If the person has three prior DUI convictions, then his or her driver’s license can be revoked for five years as the driver is identified as a habitual offender. If there are further DUIs in the future (within a five year period), then the driver will have an additional two years of revocation for each offense (on top of the five years). Thus, on a driver’s fifth DUI, he or she will face up to nine years of driver’s license revocation for the fifth offense.

General Impairment Penalties

If a Pennsylvania driver has a BAC between .08 and .10, he or she is considered to be generally impaired. The driver can face the following penalties, depending on the number of offenses the driver has for DUIs and general impairment in the past:

  • First Time Offenders – Mandatory minimum six months of probation, $300 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Second Time Offenders – Five days imprisonment, $300 to $2,500 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Third Time Offenders (and subsequent offenses) – Ten days imprisonment, $500 to $5,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.

High BAC Penalties
High BAC penalties apply to drivers who have a BAC between .10 and .16. Drivers with a high BAC DUI can face the following penalties:

  • First Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 48+ hours, $500 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Second Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 30+ days, $750 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Third Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 90+ days, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Fourth Time Offenders (and subsequent offenses) – Mandatory prison term of 1+ years, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.

Highest BAC Penalties
Highest BAC penalties apply to drivers who have a BAC of .16 or higher. Drivers with the highest BAC DUIs can face the following penalties:

  • First Time Offenders – Mandatory minimum 72 hours imprisonment, $1,000 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Second Time Offenders – Mandatory minimum 90+ days imprisonment, $1,500+ fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Third Time Offenders (and subsequent offenses) – Mandatory minimum one year imprisonment, $2,500+ fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.

Special Penalties for DUIs with High BAC and Damages
If a drunk driver has a high BAC and causes an accident that results in injuries or damages to property, then the driver will face the following penalties:

  • First Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 48+ hours, $500 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Second Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 30+ days, $750 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Third Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 90+ days, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Fourth Time Offenders (and subsequent offenses) – Mandatory prison term of 1+ years, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.

Special Penalties for Commercial and School Bus Drivers
If a commercial or school bus driver gets convicted of a DUI, he or she faces the following penalties:

  • First Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 48+ hours, $500 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Second Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 30+ days, $750 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Third Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 90+ days, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Fourth Time Offenders (and subsequent offenses) – Mandatory prison term of 1+ years, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.

Commercial drivers will be disqualified from commercial driving for one year, except in the case of hazardous materials transport, in which case it will be for three years. Second time offenders are disqualified from commercial driving for life. This can be reduced in some situations, but cannot be less than ten years.

Special Penalties for Minor Drivers
Whenever a driver who is under the age of 21 gets a DUI, the driver’s license will be suspended for six months automatically, no matter the age. However, drivers who are under the age of 18 with a DUI face Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Act which can include probation, commitment to an institution, and/or fines. Drivers who are over 18, but under 21, face the following penalties:

  • First Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 48+ hours, $500 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Second Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 30+ days, $750 to $5,000 fine, Alcohol Highway Safety School, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Third Time Offenders – Mandatory prison term of 90+ days, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.
  • Fourth Time Offenders (and subsequent offenses) – Mandatory prison term of 1+ years, $1,500 to $10,000 fine, drug and alcohol treatment programs, up to 150 hours of community service.

Ignition Interlock Restricted License
Anyone who has committed a second DUI offense within ten years of the first must apply for an ignition interlock restricted license. This can only be issued after the suspension of the driver’s license is over, and the ignition interlock restriction can be lifted after one year.

More Drunk Driving Laws in Pennsylvania

What is the Dram Shop Statute in PA?
In Pennsylvania, the Dram Shop Statute allows drinking establishments to be held liable for injuries that are caused by accidents that result from DUIs associated with the establishment continuing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or to an underage person.

What is the Social Host Law in PA?
In Pennsylvania, the social host law allows social hosts (adults serving alcohol at private functions) to be held responsible for injuries that are caused by accidents that result from DUIs associated with minors who have been served alcohol by adults. This law does not apply to adult drunk drivers.

What are the penalties for serving alcohol to a minor in PA?
In Pennsylvania, when an adult serves alcohol to a minor (including parents who allow children to drink at home), this is a third degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and fines up to $2,500. The first violation calls for a fine of at least $1,000 and subsequent violations are at least $2,500. 

What are the penalties for licensed drinking establishments serving liquor to minors in PA?
In Pennsylvania, whenever a bar or other drinking establishment serves liquor to a minor, the owner/operator/server will face three months to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The establishment can also face the loss of its liquor license.

What are the Limited Tort Waiver restrictions in PA?
In Pennsylvania, if a person chooses an auto insurance policy with Limited Tort instead of Full Tort, then the driver loses all rights to seek damages for pain and suffering in most situations. DUI convictions are an exception to this rule, and a victim of a DUI auto accident can still sue for pain and suffering. Other exceptions include accidents where the victim dies or suffers a serious and/or permanent bodily impairment, disability, or disfigurement.

What to Do After an Accident

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