State DUI Laws

DUI penalties vary by state. Select your state below to read more about your state’s law.

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Pennsylvania DUI Laws

Pennsylvania DUI laws are confusing. Here is what you need to know.

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From the second you start interacting with an Officer, s/heis noting everything you say and do to use as evidence in their case against you.

  • Stay in your car and leave your seatbelt on unless the Officer asks you to step out.
  • Provide identification.
    • Note: How easily you find your driver’s license, registration and insurance will be noted on the Officer’s report.
  • You are allowed to politely refuse to take field sobriety tests (FSTs).
    • When you do field tests, you are giving evidence that can be used against you.
    • There is no law requiring you to do these tests.
    • Some officers will tell you they will take you to jail if you don’t do the tests, but the officer is going to take you to jail anyway.
  • If asked to take Chemical Test (breath, blood or urine test) once arrested you should do so, but you should request a private consult with an attorney before doing so.
    • When your driver’s license was issued, you agreed to take such a test if ever pulled over as stated under the Implied Consent Law. Refusal to submit to the Chemical Testing is an automatic license suspension or revocation, bigger reinstatement fees and fines, probation, alcohol and drug evaluation (if necessary) and participation in Alcohol Highway Safety School.
  • You do not have to give consent for the police to search your car. They can only do so if you agree to a search, have been placed under arrest, evidence is in plain view, your car has been impounded or they have probable cause. If none of these rules apply, politely refuse and do not explain why.
    • Remember, your words can be used against you in the case.
    • Usually, the search question is veiled and phrased like:
      • You don’t have a problem with me looking in your car?
      • You don’t mind if I look in your car, do you?
      • I’m just going to take a quick look inside, okay?
    • You can politely refuse to answer questions.
      • Usually, the officer will ask you a few questions about what you’ve had to drink.
        • A simple response of “I can only answer your questions on the advice of my attorney” can go a long way in the outcome of your case.
        • You don’t have to call an attorney right then. That simple statement effectively stops any questioning by invoking your constitutional rights.
        • Even when the Officer reads Miranda rights to you, the answer should be the same.
      • After the Officer is done with the street investigation and places you under arrest, you will most likely be taken to a hospital, police station, or jail to take a chemical test. Afterward, you will most likely be taken to jail.
      • After completing the test, the officer may give you a form asking whether you want to preserve a sample of your test or waive a sample. Always ask that a sample be preserved.
      • As soon as the police have taken their tests, immediately make a clear request for the opportunity to obtain an independent blood draw.
        • Your attorney can explain the benefits of this simple request, as they can be huge!
  • It is not required by law to have an attorney for your case, but if you don’t have one, there is little to no chance you will have your charges reduced or waived. Judges have little patience for self-represented defendants.
  • Consult with a few private attorneys to see what the best strategy for you is.
    • There is usually no cost to do this and will provide insight to your options.
    • A public defender may be able to help, but their efforts will be limited to the criminal side of the case and will be unable to assist you with the Pennsylvania DOT actions that occur concurrent with the DUI.
      • For most people, the loss of their license is the biggest problem that arises as a result of their DUI.
    • Request for a copy of your police report at the headquarters of the department involved in your arrest.
      • This is not mandatory, but you will be able to have more fruitful consultations with attorneys in developing your defense strategy.

Administrative Law Court – Motor Vehicle Hearings

  • Schedule an Administrative Driver License hearing at the Pennsylvania DOT within 10 days of your arrest to avoid automatically losing your license.
    • When dealing with the Pennsylvania DOT court, you are guilty until proven innocent but if you request this hearing, your license will not be suspended until the hearing is held and you are convicted.
    • This is a strict timeline and a request for a hearing is not accepted after the 10-day period.

Criminal Court – City, County and State Courts

  • Preliminary Hearing: At the Preliminary Hearing, you will be read the charges against you and a prosecutor will have to prove that a crime was committed.
    • This hearing typically occurs within 3-10 days of your arrest.
  • Formal Arraignment: At the formal arraignment, a judge will be assigned to you and you will see the evidence and reports pertaining to your case. You will also enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
    • You can also request acceptance into the ARD program at the arraignment. This program is usually for people that have been convicted of a DUI for the first time and has a lesser punishment than having a DUI on your record.
    • The Formal Arraignment typically occurs 30-60 days after your Preliminary Hearing.
  • Pre-Trial: In Pennsylvania, every county has a different process for Pre-Trial. The important thing to know about this hearing is that your attorney can ask for all evidence and information regarding your case from the District Attorney and police officers involved.
    • A plea bargain can be negotiated at this stage.
  • Trial: At the trial, the jury will deliver a guilty or not guilty verdict. You will then be sentenced by the judge if you are found guilty.
  • Studies show if you complete your DUI penalties you only have an 8% likelihood of getting another DUI and if you don’t complete them, you have a 28% likelihood of getting another DUI.
    • You are 3.5 times less likely to get another DUI by completing your penalties.
  • Getting through your penalties is no easy task and requires more understanding than most people have about DUIs and penalties.
  • These penalties are not created to be effortless or painless but knowing the who, what, when and whys will make your process getting through the penalties much better.
  • With your DUI, you will find timing is everything.
    • Starting a penalty too early or too late will cause issues and cost you valuable time and money.
    • Selecting the right providers for you will reduce these mishaps.
  • The systems administering the various penalties come from different governing bodies and they don’t always align properly and often don’t make sense.
  • It is no secret that DUIs are complicated, each one a little different than the other.
  • Comparing multiple providers and making sure they are the right one for you will be the best way to make it to the finish line.
  • Depending on the number and severity of your DUI, your license may either be suspended or revoked.
    • Once your suspension or revocation period is over, you can apply to have your license reinstated.
  • To get your license reinstated, you must complete all requirements of your court order, which include a CRN evaluation, Alcohol Highway Safety School, treatment, and pay all fines, costs and fees in full.
    • You will also need to file for SR22 insurance once you get your license reinstated.
    • An ignition interlock may also be a requirement for your case and is something you will need to verify with your lawyer.