Philadelphia DUI Defense Lawyers

Philadelphia DUI Defense Lawyers

The charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is among the most frequently charged offenses in Pennsylvania. DUIs are unique in that they are more or less just as frequent across all ages, races and socioeconomic status. A DUI charge is nothing to take lightly. It can have drastic consequences including a loss of one’s driving privileges, fines and court costs, probation and even jail-time. Also, a conviction can also take a heavy toll on a person’s occupation and personal life. If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, continue reading below and learn the important facts about Pennsylvania DUI law.

The most important thing to do following a DUI arrest is to call a lawyer experienced in DUI law. For a free consultation call the attorneys at Erik B. Jensen law at 215-546-4700.


A person may be subject to liability of DUI if he or she is operating a vehicle or even if they just have the ability to operate a vehicle, while intoxicated. This means a person may be found guilty even if they are intoxicated and simply sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, or any other vehicle, while the engine is off.

In Pennsylvania, there are several types of DUI violations. The level of offense is determined based on a person’s blood alcohol lever (BAC), drug content in one’s blood, or the existence of prior DUIs within the last 10 years.


General impairment is the term of art used when a person’s BAC is between 0.08% and 0.10%. Also, a person can be subject to this charge even when there is no BAC evidence. This may occur when the BAC evidence is suppressed, or if a person refuses to submit to a breath test. (NOTE: NEVER REFUSE…SEE BELOW).


A first time General Impairment DUI, with no damage to another vehicle or property, is an “ungraded misdemeanor.” This carries a Mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months probation, $300 fine, attendance of alcohol highway safety school (AHSS), and up to 150 hours of community service.


The Pennsylvania Accelerated Rehabilitation Program (ARD) is a diversionary program that allows a defendant to eventually have their charge dismissed, and the record of their arrest expunged. It is eligible for first-time DUI offenders, as long as there was no one in the vehicle below the age of 14 at the time of the DUI, and there was no serious bodily injury or death of another person as a result of the DUI. It requires those eligible to submit to supervision (under the probation department), payment of court costs, and participation in rehabilitative classes and/or community service. After successfully completing the program, the charges are dismissed and the defendant can petition to have their record of arrest expunged. You should always take advantage of this program, and it is important to always discuss your options with you attorney.


The penalties for a second General Impairment DUI (within a 10- year period) are harsher. This conviction carries a mandatory minimum of 5 days or as much a 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, attendance of AHSS, a loss of license for a year followed by the a year having an ignition interlock device installed on his or her vehicle. Additionally, the defendant will undergo a full drug and alcohol treatment program and may be required to complete up to 150 hours of community service.


If a person’s BAC level is higher (0.10% to 0.159)% or if someone is injured or if property is damaged as a result of an accident, the penalties become even more severe. Depending on the severity of the injury, the defendant may be liable for the aggravated assault by vehicle, which is a felony. (See below). However, if the injuries are non life-threatening, a defendant may face a misdemeanor charge, a fine of up to $5,000, lose their license for a year, and spend at least 48 hours or as much a 6 months in jail. These sanctions are in addition to the any community service the judge imposes, alcohol and drug treatment if necessary, and the possibly required attendance of a victim impact panel program.

A SECOND OFFENSE involving a higher BAC or bodily/property damage, carries a minimum of 30 days or as much as 6 months in jail. Also, in addition to the penalties listed above, a defendant will have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for a year following their license suspension.


Driving under the influence of alcohol is not the only way to get a DUI in Pennsylvania. A person may be guilty of DUI if they drive with any Schedule I controlled substance (including marijuana), or any schedule II or III controlled substances without a valid prescription, in their blood. Also, this charge applies to inhalants, or any combination of drugs and/or alcohol that impair ones ability to drive safely.


The penalties for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance or driving with a BAC of 0.16% or over carries the same set of penalties. The defendant, if convicted, will be subject to of at least 72 consecutive hours or as much as 6 months of incarceration as well as much as a $5,000 fine for a first offense.

Penalties For A Second Offense

carries a mandatory minimum of 90 days incarceration, and unlike the lesser charges, a DUI at this level is not limited with regard to jail time. A judge may sentence the offender to incarceration of a period of over 6 months if he or she deems it necessary. Likewise, the fine imposed is set at a minimum of $1,500, but this fine is also unlimited, and is discretionary with the sentencing judge. And in addition to AHSS, community service and drug and alcohol treatment, a second offense requires a suspension of driving privileges for 18 months followed by the installation of an ignition interlock system.


The short answer is no. When you received your license and began driving, whether you knew it or not, you are deemed to have given what’s referred to as “Implied Consent.” This means you have already consented to any chemical testing, including breath, blood or urine, for the purpose of determining the alcoholic or drug content in your blood. Therefore, a refusal to take a test will result in an automatic suspension of your driving privileges for a year.

Additionally, you are not doing yourself any favors in court by refusing. The prosecutor can use your refusal against you by drawing an “adverse inference,” and arguing that you refused because you knew you were intoxicated and guilty of DUI. Also the penalties and fines for a conviction accompanied by a refusal are much more severe. Among other sanctions, a first offense DUI refusal conviction will cause you to spend 72 hours or as much as 6 months in jail and pay a $5,000 fine.


A DUI is most often charged as a misdemeanor, however, under certain circumstances involving serious bodily injury and/or death, it can be charged as a felony. These charges are extremely serious and carry prison time and other harsh penalties. DUI charges involving serious injury or death include aggravated assault while under the influence, and homicide while under the influence.


A person who negligently causes serious bodily injury while driving under the influence is subject to aggravated assault by vehicle, which is a second-degree felony. Serious bodily injury is “any bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” In PA, the maximum sentence if convicted can include 10 years in jail and a maximum $25,000 fine. Unlike the misdemeanor DUI offenses, the key factor in this charge is whether the DUI caused the serious bodily injury. Therefore, the fact that a person may have only been slightly over the legal limit (e.g. a BAC of 0.81 %) is no defense to a conviction.


If a DUI violation, regardless of the level of BAC, causes the death of another person, the driver is likely to be charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, which is also a second-degree felony. Like aggravated assault by vehicle, the homicide does not need to be intentional, the prosecutor needs only to obtain the underlying DUI conviction and prove that the DUI caused the homicide. In PA, the sentence if convicted is at least 3 years consecutive jail time for each death resulting from the DUI, and a maximum $25,000 fine.

Needless to say, it is vital to hire an attorney immediately and as soon as you know you may be subject to a DUI charge. For a free consultation about your DUI, or if your friend or loved ones has a pending DUI, call the experienced attorneys at Erik B. Jensen law at 215-546-4700 or contact us here.