Will I go to jail for a DUI in Pennsylvania? This is a question that I am often asked and the answer depends on a number of factors.
First, if you are found not guilty, the answer is NO! You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. You do not have the burden of proving your innocence, so keep that in mind throughout the criminal court process. However, if the case against you is overwhelming, you should know the factors that contribute to mandatory minimum DUI jail sentences.
First, DUI laws in Pennsylvania operate on an escalating scale. A second or third-offense will carry more severe penalties than a first-offense. It is also important to note that this escalating scale resets every ten years. So, if you were convicted of a DUI twelve years ago, and you are charged again, the new charge will be charged as a first-offense.
Second, DUI laws and diversionary courts (such as ARD) are available to defendants when certain pre-conditions are met. I’ve included a few examples below to illustrate the parameters of the law.
Example #1: The accused was stopped at a routine traffic stop and was charged with DUI. They have never had any prior substantial criminal matter on their record. They have had a few traffic tickets here and there, but no misdemeanor or felony convictions. This individual would likely be permitted to enter a diversionary court and jail would not be a condition in their case.
Example #2: The accused was convicted of a misdemeanor possession of a small amount of marijuana fifteen years ago. Aside from this incident, the accused has been a model citizen. They are arrested for a first-offense DUI. In Philadelphia, this individual would likely be denied entry into a diversionary court such as ARD because of the prior conviction. Other counties operate differently than Philadelphia and some allow entry into their diversionary courts when the prior offense occurred more than ten years ago. Be sure to discuss the particulars of any prior offenses with your attorney before the attorney begins negotiations in your case.
Example #3: The accused was stopped at DUI checkpoint and was charged with DUI for having alcohol and marijuana in their system. One year ago, the accused was charged with felony robbery, but found not-guilty. Aside from this incident, they have no prior arrests or convictions. This individual would likely be permitted to enter the ARD program because the felony charge ended with a not-guilty verdict. Thus, there would not be jail as a condition of their case.
Third, as you probably know, DUI laws vary depending on the blood alcohol content (BAC) in your system. In Pennsylvania, there are three tiers of BAC levels - .08 to .10%; .10 to.16%; and .16 and above. If you are charged with a first-offense in the lowest tier, there is no mandatory minimum jail time. The middle tier carries a 48 hour mandatory minimum, and the highest tier carries a 72 hour mandatory minimum. Now, keep in mind that everything related to your case is up for negotiations – this includes which tier you are charged under. A knowledgeable attorney will not only seek to reduce your charge, they will seek to reduce which tier you are charged under, thereby reducing the penalties.
If you, or someone you know, is charged with a DUI, contact Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Michael F. Niznik for a free case evaluation. Our office is located in Center City and we can be reached at 267-589-0601.