Pennsylvania is unique in the ways the laws are interpreted, with penalties based on your BAC (blood alcohol content) The 3 levels are: .08 to .099, which is lowest; .1 to .159, which has a higher penalty; and .16 and above, which has the highest penalty. If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, and are caught drinking and driving, what penalties you face depend on the situation. But as you’ll see, you do have legal options and rights.
Know Your Rights
You have a right to a lawyer and a right to a defense. That means you can hire a professional to handle your case and question what happened. You can question the arresting officer on a variety of questions. You have a right to defense in a court room, and this means you always have a chance. But some consider pleading guilty, hoping to avoid a long battle. This is a mistake; you do not have to plead guilty even if you were drinking; hire a professional lawyer and make no decisions without legal counsel.
Know the Penalties
The higher your BAC, the higher the penalty. In all 50 states, you face license suspension, jail time, and fines for a DUI or DWI. The more penalties you get, the more likely you’ll face felony charges. Pennsylvania is unique in its BAC level punishment. For a first time DUI with only a .8 BAC, for example, you might not even lose your license. But get two or three of these charges and you may face a felony. If you go above .16, even on a first offense you almost always get some jail time.
Question What Happened
Why should you question what happened? Because there are laws for police officers too. If you feel you were treated wrong – and there are a variety of things which may happen – you deserve a voice. A court room is not the time to get mean or attack someone, but it is a place to ask why you were pulled over and if your rights were broken.
Know Your Legal Options
You have a right to a professional Pennsylvania DUI lawyer. You have other options: you can defend yourself in court, or use a court appointed lawyer. But you get much less value from a court appointed lawyer, who will not specialize, who will not have the necessary time to defend you, and who will have no incentive. If you want to defend yourself, understand this rarely works. There is no room for learning on the job; you have to prepare an effective defense, and a professional lawyer is needed for that.
Avoid Multiple Pennsylvania DUI Penalties
If you get charged once, no matter your BAC level, leave it at that. The more charges you get, the bigger the penalties will be and the harder a defense will be.