Dealing with any type of criminal charge could come as a shock. Even if police charge you with a relatively common offense, such as DUI, you likely do not have an extensive legal knowledge on the topic. Additionally, laws can vary from state to state, and as a result, you may need specific information when working to understand your particular predicament.
In Pennsylvania, state law adheres to a three-level system when it comes to DUI charges. The levels relate to your blood-alcohol content at the time of the arrest.
At the first level of DUI -- known as general impairment -- you could face charges if your BAC level falls in the range of .08 percent to .09 percent. If you have had no prior DUI convictions, the charge remains a misdemeanor, you retain your license and pay a $300 fine if convicted.
If this charge is a second offense within 10 years of your previous conviction, you could face a year of license suspension, a minimum of five days and maximum of six months in jail with potential for house arrest, and pay a $300 to $2500 fine upon conviction.
With a third or higher offense within 10 years of a previous conviction, the charge comes in as a second degree misdemeanor. Additionally, you could face one year license suspension, 10 days to two years in jail with potential for house arrest and a $500 to $5000 fine.
At a level two DUI charge, you must have a high BAC, which comes in the range of .10 percent to .159 percent. If convicted, you could face a year of license suspension, 48 hours to six months in jail with possible house arrest and a fine between $500 to $5000.
For a second offense, license suspension remains at one year, but possible jail time increases to a minimum of 30 days to six months with possibility for house arrest. When it comes to a fine, you could pay $750 to $5000.
For a third or higher offense, you face a first degree misdemeanor charge. With a conviction, you could face 18 months of license suspension and 90 days to five years in jail with possible house arrest. However, at the fourth or higher offense, house arrest is no longer a possibility. The fine at this level increases to $1,500 to $10,000.
At the highest level, your BAC must reach .16 percent or higher. For first offense, you could face a year-long license suspension, 72 hours to six months in jail with possibility for house arrest and increased fines of $1,000 to $5,000.
A conviction for a second offense results in an 18-month license suspension, 90 days to five years in jail with possibility of house arrest and a $1,500 to $10,000 fine.
For a conviction of a third or higher offense, you could face similar outcomes as a second offense, except jail time increases to one to five years with no house arrest at the fourth or higher offense.
Because these levels could result in serious consequences in the event of a conviction, you certainly want to better understand your criminal defense options when it comes to DUI charges.