November 6, 2018
Facing DUI Charges? Just How Drunk Were You?
What was a bad day – just got worse. After your boss announced he needed to lay you off, you decided to head to the local bar. After all, a couple of beers should make you feel better. You are upset, but figure you’re sober enough to head home and start driving there. However, the officer who pulls you over thinks differently. Before you know it, you’re facing DUI charges. Just how drunk were you?
When it comes to drunk driving charges, blood alcohol content (BAC) levels may be measured in one of two ways. Breath test procedures are actually outlined in 67 Pa.C.S. § 77.24. Alcohol breath tests are commonly referred to as breathalyzer evaluations. Test administrators must follow specified guidelines to determine BAC levels.
That said, blood alcohol content may also be determined by blood analysis. In the case of both alcohol breath tests and blood sample analysis, a BAC reading of over .08% is where your trouble starts. This is considered the legal limit defining when an individual is too drunk to drive.
Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania recognizes different levels of impairment. A person accused of driving while under the influence may fall into one of these three categories:
- General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)
- High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)
- Highest BAC (.16% and higher)
Impairment levels matter when it comes to assessing penalties such as fines, license suspension, jail time, and more. Additional factors such as the number of DUI convictions and the age and occupation of the defendant are considered in determining penalties.
DUI Charges and Impairment Levels
Under Pennsylvania, DUI laws, an individual may meet the criteria for General Impairment if it is determined his or her BAC level falls between .08 and .99%. However, the General Impairment classification only applies to drivers over the age of 21. Additionally, there must be no evidence of injury or property damage associated with the DUI charge.
Penalties associated with General Impairment levels for a first offense are the least severe. An ungraded misdemeanor will be added to the defendant’s record. Additionally, the defendant can expect to receive up to six months probation and a $300 fine. The judge may also order alcohol highway safety school and treatment.
Fines and other penalties increase according to the number of prior DUI convictions. For example, someone who has two prior DUIs and is found to be “generally impaired” could be ordered to pay up to $5,000 in fines and up to two years in prison.
High Impairment Level
The High Impairment level applies to drivers whose blood alcohol content level measures between .10 to .159%. However, some individuals may fall into this level even if their BAC level was lower. Minors, commercial drivers, school vehicle or bus drivers are considered to be “highly impaired” even if their blood alcohol level is less than .10%. Additionally, anyone who causes property damage or injury whose BAC is more than .08% will be classified in at least the High Impairment level.
Those found guilty of High Impairment level driving without prior DUIs are subject to an ungraded misdemeanor conviction on their record. They also face 12-month license suspension, up to six months in prison, and up to $5,000 in fines. The judge may also order alcohol highway safety school and treatment.
As you might assume, the penalties increase for multiple DUI convictions. The fines alone could be as high as $10,000. Additionally, those with three or more DUIs could be ordered to prison for up to five years.
Highest Impairment Level
Not everyone realizes that refusing a breath test results in the same penalties for those with the highest level of impairment. Meanwhile, those found under the influence of controlled dangerous substances to be operating motor vehicles at the highest impairment level. As far as alcohol impairment, those with BAC levels over .16% are considered to be at the most extreme level.
In addition to hefty penalties involving jail or fines, individuals found guilty of DUI who are determined to be of the Highest Impairment levels will be faced with a First Misdemeanor conviction. In case you were not aware, the latter has other consequences. You cannot hold a firearms license with a First Misdemeanor on your record. Additionally, you are legally prohibited from possession of any kind of gun.
The consequences for DUI charges could be life-changing. As experienced DUI attorneys, Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano can review your situation to determine your defense. Contact us to schedule an appointment.