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The Pennsylvania DUI Guide


For Attorneys







 Driving under the Influence of Alcohol

Driving After Imbibing

Driving While Impaired

Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition




 Criminal Charges










Occupational Limited License Application


Requesting your PA Driving Record


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What is the difference between a DUI, DAI, DWI, OVI, OWI, OVI, DWAI, OUI etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have different names for the crime.  For example, in New York and New Jersey and other states the charge is known as driving while intoxicated or DWI.  Ohio uses the term OVI for operating a vehicle under the influence.  Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and most other states use the term DUI (driving under the influence).


Pennsylvania's vehicle code uses the following language:


§ 3802. Driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance.

(a) General impairment.--

(1) An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle.


Emphasis supplied.


As you can see, Pennsylvania law refers to both "driving under the influence" (DUI) and driving "after imbibing" (DAI).  The terms DUI and DAI are essentially synonymous under Pennsylvania law.  This website also uses these terms interchangeably.


I just got arrested for a State of Pennsylvania DUI offense.  What happens now?


ISSUE ONE:  The Pennsylvania Implied Consent Proceeding:  Your Pennsylvania license (or your right to drive in Pennsylvania if you're not a Pennsylvania license driver) was most likely suspended for 12 months if you refused to submit to a chemical (blood, breath, urine) test.  Read your paperwork carefully.  There is a right to appeal this suspension but strict deadlines apply.  Speak to a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer as soon as possible if you refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test.



ISSUE TWO:  The Pennsylvania DUI / DAI Criminal Case:  Separate from the implied consent suspension for refusing a chemical test is the criminal charge for driving under the influence.  Under Pennsylvania law, an individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the vehicle. 


Further, Pennsylvania makes is unlawful to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if an individuals blood test or breath test reveals 0.08 percent alcohol within two hours of having driven, operated or had actual physical control of a vehicle.  [The BAC limits are lower for minors (0.02%) or those driving a commercial motor vehicle (0.04%).]  The penalties for DUI generally increase the higher the blood / breath alcohol.  Refer to the chart below.


Important:  The implied consent case and the criminal DUI / DAI case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Pennsylvania driver license be revoked / suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Pennsylvania driver license (or your right to drive in Pennsylvania if you do not have a valid Pennsylvania license) may be suspended in the implied consent proceeding for refusing a chemical test for alcohol and / or drugs.  Again, you may challenge this suspension if you (or your attorney) act quickly.  Keep in mind that challenging the suspension will not necessarily overturn the suspension; rather, it provides you with a chance to overturn the suspension.



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DUI charge, you may also lose your license (or your right to drive in Pennsylvania if you don't have a valid Pennsylvania license) for a year or more.  This suspension will generally vary from no suspension to 18 months.  Talk to your Pennsylvania DUI lawyer for possible suspension and revocation lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a DUI arrest e.g. excessive tickets, hit and run etc.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended / revoked?


Driving while your license is suspended for a DUI related offense should be avoided as it is a new crime.  Penalties include fines and jail time.  If you're still on probation, you also face a probation violation sanction as well.  Talk to a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer if you're facing a charge of driving while operated privileges are suspended or revoked.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted / conditional / probationary / occupational limited license?


First time Pennsylvania DUI offenders may be eligible for an Occupational Limited License (OLL) after serving 60 days of their suspension.  Individuals whose licenses are suspended for 18 months (for DUI or refusing breath or chemical testing) and have either one or zero prior DUI offense may be eligible for an OLL with an ignition interlock after serving 12 months of their suspension.  Talk to your Pennsylvania DUI lawyer about whether you qualify and how to apply for an OLL.  OLL's are not available to drive commercially. 


What goes on at my first Pennsylvania court hearing?


Your first court appearance is often called an arraignment, an initial appearance, or a preliminary hearing.  At this appearance you receive formal notice of charge or charges against you.  This charging document is commonly called a complaint; a citation; or an indictment.  At the first court appearance, you may apply for a court appointed counsel if you cannot afford to retain your own PA DUI attorney.   


Is a DUI in Pennsylvania a misdemeanor or felony charge?


Unless your DUI offense involved serious injury to another person, you Pennsylvania DUI offense will be a misdemeanor crime.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an Pennsylvania DUI / DAI charge?


Upon conviction of an Pennsylvania DUI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including drug and alcohol screening / evaluation / treatment / education .  A range of minimum penalties is set forth below: 





General Impairment

Incapable of Safely Driving
BAC 0.08 - 0.99 %
$300 fine $300 - $2500 fine $400 - $2500 fine
alcohol highway safety school alcohol highway safety school
  12 month license suspension 12 month license suspension
  five days to
six months jail
ten days jail to
two years prison
  one year ignition interlock device one year ignition interlock device
  1st PA DUI 2nd PA DUI 3rd PA DUI

High BAC
BAC 0.10 - 0.159 %
DUI with a Minor Driver
DUI in Commercial Vehicle
$500 -  $5000 fine $750 - $5000 fine $1500 - $10,000 fine
alcohol highway safety school alcohol highway safety school
12 month license suspension 12 month license suspension 18 month license suspension
48 hours to
six months jail
30 days to
six months jail
90 days jail to
five years prison
  one year ignition interlock device one year ignition interlock device
  1st PA DUI 2nd PA DUI 3rd PA DUI

Highest BAC
BAC 0.16 % or greater
Controlled Substance DUI
Incapable of Safely Driving and BAC Refusal
$1000 - $5000 fine $1500 - $10,000 fine $2500 - $10,000 fine
alcohol highway safety school alcohol highway safety school
12 month license suspension 18 month license suspension 18 month license suspension
72 hours to
six months jail
90 days jail to
five years prison
one year to
five years prison
  one year ignition interlock device one year ignition interlock device

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Pennsylvania DUI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly.  Plea bargaining and charge reduction are two areas that any experienced Pennsylvania DAI / DUI lawyer would discuss with the prosecutor on the client's behalf.  Negotiating your BAC level may be a possibility.  For a first offense, an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition may be available.  See below.

What about Pennsylvania's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)?

If this is your first DUI arrest, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.  ARD is an alternative to trial, to conviction, and to some of the mandatory penalties a conviction brings.  To be eligible for ARD, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • First DUI offense and no other prior misdemeanor, felony or ARD disposition (in at least 10 years);   

  • No serious bodily injury (other than yourself) as a result of any collision / accident;  

  • No passenger under 14 in the vehicle you were operating;

  • You must have had a valid driver’s license (not suspended, revoked, or cancelled) at the time of DUI arrest;

  • You must undergo a Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluation prior to admission into the ARD program, and participate thereafter in any recommended treatment or counseling;

  • You must apply for ARD at the time of your preliminary hearing.

Note:  other restrictions may apply.  If you are eligible for an ARD and elect to enter the program, the court must impose the following suspension based on your BAC:

  • 0.10 % or less - no suspension;
  • 0.10 % to less than 0.16 % - 30 day suspension; or
  • 0.16 % or greater - 60 day suspension.

While an ARD is not for everyone, it should be give strong consideration by most eligible individuals.

Will an Pennsylvania DUI go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  A DUI conviction will go on your Pennsylvania driving record and will stay on your record forever.  A successful court supervision will not go on your driving record.

Just how much jail / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI in Pennsylvania?

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • your prior driving record especially your DUI / DAI history (including any DUI's outside of Pennsylvania);

  • your level of intoxication / BAC (BAC's of 0.16 or greater generate the most severe penalties);

  • whether there was a collision involved;

  • whether there was bodily injury to another person in the collision;

  • which Pennsylvania county or court your case is in;

  • what judge you are sentenced by;

  • whether there was a passenger / child in your car;

  • whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.

I am licensed to drive in a state other than Pennsylvania and I was arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania.  Will my driver license be suspended?

Pennsylvania only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the State of Pennsylvania.  However, Pennsylvania and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Pennsylvania will report a DUI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Pennsylvania licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI / DWI / OVI / OWI / OUI charge in another state, Pennsylvania will suspend your license when it learns of the conviction. 

What happens if I was on probation for another offense when I was arrested for my Pennsylvania DUI?

Committing a new offense while you're on probation for a previous crime creates two problems.  First, you face the new Pennsylvania DUI charge.  Second, you face a probation violation hearing for failing to obey all laws.  The most serious scenario is when you receive a new PA DUI offense when you're already on probation for a previous DUI conviction.  When this happens, its in your best interest to speak to an Pennsylvania lawyer as soon as possible.

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


A ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device (typically 0.025%), the motor vehicle will not start.


If this is your second or greater DUI conviction, you will likely have to install and maintain an ignition interlock device for at least one year.  Talk to your Pennsylvania DUI attorney for more information.

What will an Pennsylvania DUI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your DUI one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Pennsylvania insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed. 

Pennsylvania does NOT require the filing of an SR-22 for a DUI conviction; however, if you have an SR-22 requirement due to a DUI / DWI conviction in another state and then you move to Pennsylvania, you must continue to meet the requirements of your previous state's SR-22.  If you live in another state and get convicted of a Pennsylvania DUI, your home state may require you to file an SR-22 in order to reinstate your license in your home state.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get an Pennsylvania DUI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Pennsylvania DAI / DUI convictions and certain chemical test refusal suspensions.  Learn more here.

I'm not a United States citizen.  Will a Pennsylvania DUI / DAI conviction result in my removal from this country?

Probably not.  Typical, PA DUI / DAI offenses (no priors; no injuries) are not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal.  It is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer about your pending DUI charge. 

Keep two points in mind.  First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms.  Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any DUI conviction.  Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked drivers license.

I missed my Pennsylvania court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things follow.  At a minimum, the Pennsylvania court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (known as a bench warrant).  Talk to an attorney as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself in court on my Pennsylvania DAI / DUI or other criminal charges?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including an Pennsylvania DUI charge.  Keep in mind that Pennsylvania DUI defense is a complex area of the law as shown by the information in this website.  If you cannot afford to hire your own attorney, you definitely should apply for court appointed counsel to represent you.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at the implied consent (refusal appeal) proceeding.

Websites, including this one, provide general Pennsylvania DUI / DAI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Pennsylvania Drunk Driving - DUI - DWI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or DAI / DUI charge that you have.  Pennsylvania attorneys are governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  This site is not a solicitation for attorney services; rather, it is purely informational.  2013.


Pennsylvania DUI lawyers provide drunk driving DUI) and criminal defense assistance to the Pennsylvania communities of:  Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown, Erie, Lancaster, Alleghany County, Blair County, Philadelphia County.  Pennsylvania lawyers / attorneys may accept Visa, American Express, Discover, and MasterCard credit cards. 


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