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Pittsburgh drunk driving: Q and A

Law enforcement officers in the city of Pittsburgh are constantly on the lookout for individuals who are driving while impaired. Drunk driving can carry significant penalties if one is ultimately convicted -- particularly for repeat offenders. Anyone charged with DUI is likely to have a lot of questions. This week's column will answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Question number one is: What is needed for one to be charged with DUI? In Pennsylvania, the average adult can be charged with DUI if he or she is found to have a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher or if an officer simply suspects him or her of driving while impaired. If the individual is a commercial driver, then the BAC requirement is .04 percent or higher. If the suspect is under the age of 21, the BAC requirement is lowered to .02 percent or higher.

Question number two is: What are the penalties associated with a DUI conviction? It all depends on one's BAC level and the number of offenses on his or her record. A first time offender with a BAC of .08 percent will receive the lowest level of punishment; whereas, a repeat offender or a person with a BAC of .16 percent or higher will receive the highest level of punishment. Penalties range from probation, minor fines and rehabilitation programs to license suspension, months behind bars, treatment programs and hefty fines.

Question number three is: Is there an alternative sentencing option for first-time offenders? Yes, in Pennsylvania, there is something called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. This is a court-mandated treatment program. If one chooses this route, one must attend all classes, therapy sessions and required court hearings for two years. If one completes the program, criminal charges will be dismissed.

A drunk driving charge is no joke in Pittsburgh. Anyone, resident or visitor to the city, who ends up facing a DUI charge can help themselves by seeking legal counsel as soon as possible. With an experienced criminal defense attorney at one's side, fighting for case dismissal or charge and penalty reduction may be possible.

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