Many people who are arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and drugs find themselves uncertain of what their arrest means. Your arrest for a first offense DUI can have serious consequences, even if you don't have a prior criminal record. Because those penalties are so serious, it's important to get legal help right away from a qualified drunk driving defense lawyer.
Consequences of a First Offense DUI in Scranton
In Pennsylvania, penalties for DUI are scaled to your blood alcohol levels and have three tiers. Tier 1 offenses are for blood alcohol levels of .08% to .099%; Tier 2 offenses are for blood alcohol levels of .10% to .159%; and Tier 3 offenses are for blood alcohol levels of .16% and higher, drug related DUIs, and chemical test refusals.
Mandatory minimum penalties for even first offense DUIs are set by Pennsylvania law. The minimum penalties for Tier 1 DUIs are up to six months of probation and a fine. The minimum penalties for Tier 2 DUIs are 48 hours to 6 months confinement, a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000, and a one year license suspension. The penalties for Tier 3 DUIs are 72 hours to 6 months confinement, a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, and a one year license suspension.
Pennsylvania has a strict "implied consent" law, which states that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence, you must take a chemical test. A refusal to submit to chemical testing will result in an automatic one year license suspension, separate and apart from any additional criminal penalties you may face. Moreover, you can still be convicted of DUI even if you refuse the chemical test.
While most people's concern is avoiding jail and being able to keep their license, you need to think about all of the long-term consequences which can result from being convicted of DUI. For example, when you are able to get your driver's license back, you'll need car insurance and must provide proof of insurance to resume driving. Unfortunately, car insurance for people with even a single conviction for drunk driving can be extremely costly.
Your DUI conviction is also going to show up if you have to undergo a background check for work or for volunteer opportunities, and you likely will be required to disclose the conviction if you apply for any academic programs to advance your education. This means the conviction can affect your opportunities for a very long time to come. If you are arrested again for impaired driving within 10 years of the prior conviction, the first conviction will also mean you face much more severe penalties for a second offense.
One option for first time DUI offenders is to enter the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The ARD program is a diversionary program that places defendants on a term of probation for a period of at least six months and up to two years. During the probationary period, defendants will perform community service and participate in other programs. ARD for Tier 1 defendants carries no license suspension. For Tier 2 and Tier 3 defendants, the license suspension is thirty and sixty days, respectively. If you successfully complete the ARD program, the DUI charge will be dismissed and expunged from your record. However, if you are arrested for another DUI within a 10 year period, it will be viewed as a second offense.
The first thing our office will examine in your case is whether the arrest was lawful and whether any defense to the charges exists. If the arrest was not lawful or a defense exists, we will vigorously and aggressively defend your rights.
You want to do everything you can to avoid conviction, even if it's your first offense. There are different options for responding to charges, so get legal help from a qualified professional to discover your best course of action.