MAY 26, 2016
Drunk Drivers beware! The State of Pennsylvania may be making some harsh updates to DUI penalties. Logue Law Group will continue to track this, but it does not look good for those of you who choose to drink and drive. Sean and his team of Pittsburgh DUI Attorneys would like to remind you that you can also get a DUI for being under the influence of certain prescription drugs, even if they are prescribed by your doctor.
Update: October 3, 2017
In August 2017, changes to DUI laws here in Pennsylvania went into effect that require a first-time offender to have a device installed on their vehicle that checks for Blood Alcohol Content before allowing the ignition to start the vehicle. Installed at offender cost, an ignition interlock device checks the breath of the person in the driver’s seat and only allows the car to start if the BAC is below the legal limit of .08%. The device gives a person multiple attempts to get it right. If the BAC is too high on the first try, the ignition interlock locks the ignition up for five minutes. A second failed attempt locks it up for thirty minutes.
In addition to having this device installed in their vehicle, first-time DUI offenders will be allowed to drive to work, though they must have an ignition interlock license to do so. The device must remain installed in the vehicle for a year.
The ignition interlock costs about $100 per year, and must be installed by a mechanic approved by PennDOT.
Under the old law, a first-time DUI conviction meant the loss of the offender’s driver’s license for a year.
The new law also states that drivers who refuse to submit to a blood-alcohol test on a first offense will be allowed to install the device and drive after serving six months of a license suspension, no matter how long their suspension is. Under the previous law, the driver would have their license suspended for anywhere from one year to 18 months.
And in case a driver has someone else breathe into the interlock device and then the driver tries to drive drunk, the device tests randomly while the car is in motion with the driver behind the wheel. This is called a “rolling re-test.”
In the past, ignition interlock devices were only offered to drivers who were repeat DUI offenders.
One of the driving influences behind the change in the law is the number of people whose jobs were in jeopardy because their license was suspended. Lost jobs, or even reduced hours because an employee could not find a ride to work, led to offenders who had no money to pay fines and no way to support their families. Many people chose to drive under suspension, which often led to even more legal and financial problems.
Beyond just employment and money issues, parents whose licenses were suspended for DUI often missed out on family events and participation in their children’s activities.
Update July 1, 2019:
An additional change has been made to DUI laws in Pennsylvania that went into effect on Christmas Eve last year (December 23, 2018).
Now, if a person is charged with a third High-DUI offense, they could be facing a conviction for a felony. A High-DUI offense is one in which the person’s blood alcohol content is 0.16 percent or above.
The same charges will apply to anyone facing their fourth or subsequent DUI.
If a person who has been driving while intoxicated causes someone else to die, he or she could face a first-degree felony, which will come with five additional years of prison time.
For those convicted of driving without a license, the prison term for committing aggravated assault goes up by two additional years.
The new law also increases the fines and jail terms associated with the summary offense of driving under suspension from a previous DUI. Now, a conviction on that charge will come with at least $500 in fines and as many as 60 days in jail for a first offense. A second offense comes with a mandatory minimum jail term of 90 days and a fine of $1,000.