One of the main crimes under the Vehicle Code is Driving Under the
Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance (DUI). 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802.
In 2003, Pennsylvania lowered its threshold blood alcohol concentration
(BAC) from 0.10% to 0.08%. See former 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3731(a)(4)(i)
(relating to driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled
substance). The current DUI law provides that a person “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.” 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(a).
Pennsylvania adopted a three-tiered approach to alcohol-related DUI
offenses based upon the alcohol concentration in an offender’s breath or
blood. The BAC levels do not relate to the time of driving, but instead
relate to the BAC level at the time of testing, which must be within two
hours of driving.
Pennsylvania’s three-tiered approach is as follows: (1) General impairment:
0.08% to 0.099%; (2) High BAC: 0.10% to 0.159%; and (3) Highest BAC: 0.16%
and up. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(a)(b)(c). Further, this DUI law provides the
following BAC levels for: (1) commercial drivers, a BAC of .04%; (2) school
bus drivers, a BAC of .02%; and (3) minors, a BAC of .02%. The lowest tier
“general impaired” also includes circumstances where the offender’s alcohol
concentration is not known but the offender has imbibed a sufficient
quantity of alcohol so as to be rendered incapable of safe driving. An
individual who has either a controlled substance in his blood or who
refuses to provide a blood or breath sample faces the same penalty as a
third tier “highest BAC.” 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3804(c).
Penalties range from probation, house arrest and incarceration. In
addition, a person convicted of DUI might be required to attend a highway
safety school program, and pay fines and court costs. The severity of the
penalties increases with the higher the BAC level, and with the overall
number of total DUIs convictions for that individual. For example, a first
offense general impairment DUI carries the possibility of six months of
probation with a $300 fine; whereas a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction
can result in a term of imprisonment of one year and possibly up to five
years of incarceration and a fine ranging from $1,500 up to $10,000. Being
convicted of DUI can also affect an individual’s life in a variety of ways,
such as: loss of employment, the inability to be employed for certain jobs
in the future, higher insurance rates, license suspension, and having that
conviction on your driving records for years, or possibly-forever.