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I've been charged with DUI...what now?

The Pennsylvania DUI statute, 75 Pa.C.S. Section 3802, defines driving under the influence of alcohol as driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbiding a sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of a vehicle.  This is called "general impairment."

The DUI statute also provides for specific instances where the driver's blood alcohol concentration is between 0.08% and 0.10%, between 0.10% and 0.16%, 0.16% and higher, or when the individual has controlled substances in his or her blood.

For first offense DUIs that are general impairment and in the 0.08% to 0.10% range, the mandatory minimum sentence upon plea or conviction is 6 months probation, a $300 fine, court costs, and no license suspension.  First offense DUIs in the 0.10% to 0.16% range carry a mandatory minimum of 48 hours in jail to up to 6 months, $500-$5000 fine, court costs, and a 1 year license suspension.  For DUIs in the above 0.16% category and those involving controlled substances, the mandatory minimum is 72 hours to 6 months in prison, $1000-$5,000 fine, court costs, and a 1 year license suspension.

The jail penalties and collateral punishments only increase if the DUI that are you charged with is your 2nd or 3rd within the previous 10 year period.  For example, a 3rd offense DUI in the highest tier or for controlled substances could land you a state prison sentence.

For people convicted of first offense DUIs, there may be an alternative to you, known as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD program.  It is a diversionary program designed for first time offenders.  It allows an individual to forego any mandatory jail time, have a reduced license suspension, and keep the charge off their criminal record.  The general terms of the ARD program in Lancaster County are as follows:

General Impairment and 0.08% - 0.10%:  1 year ARD, no license suspension, 30 hours community service, pay $600 program fee, drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling if deemed necessary, CRN evaluation, and Alcohol Highway Safety School.

0.10% - 0.16%:  1 year ARD, 30 day license suspension, 40 hours community service, pay $600 program fee, drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling if deemed necessary, CRN evaluation, and Alcohol Highway Safety School.

0.16% - 0.20%:  1 year ARD, 60 day license suspension, 40 hours community service, pay $600 program fee, drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling if deemed necessary, CRN evaluation, and Alcohol Highway Safety School.

Refusals:  1 year ARD, 60 day license suspension (in addition to 1 year PennDOT suspension for refusing), 80 hours community service, pay $600 program fee, drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling if deemed necessary, CRN evaluation, and Alcohol Highway Safety School.

0.20% - 0.24% and Controlled Substances:  1 year ARD, 60 day license suspension, 80 hours community service, pay $600 program fee, drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling if deemed necessary, CRN evaluation, and Alcohol Highway Safety School.

The most important thing you can do when charged with a DUI is hire experience criminal defense counsel to represent you.  Trying to navigate the criminal courts can be difficult.  Also, you may not know that either (a) you're eligible for a program such as ARD, or (b) your case has a defense to it and would be worth taking to trial.

You could significantly harm your future if you act hastily in trying to resolve a DUI on your own.  For example, a guilty plea or conviction will be on your criminal record for at least 10 years until after you finish your probation/parole.  If you do ARD, you are never convicted, and you can have the charge expunged from your record once your complete the program.  If you simply plead guilty, you will also be subject to much more significant license suspensions and requirements in order to get your license restored.

If you find yourself charged with a DUI, call the attorneys at Chan & Associates about representation.  

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