Pennsylvania DUI Laws

At the beginning of 2004, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania significantly changed its laws that pertain to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In an effort to curb drivers from operating a vehicle while intoxicated, law makers rewrote the book of DUI—and the consequences for a DUI conviction suddenly became much more severe. That’s why it’s important now more than ever to hire an experienced, qualified DUI defense attorney if you’ve been charged with DUI in Pennsylvania. Our lawyers are dedicated professionals that are ready to fight for your rights.

Before we go into any detail about the DUI laws in the Keystone Commonwealth, there’s one in particular that may affect you—it’s known as the Implied Consent Law. As a licensed driver in Pennsylvania, you have essentially given the state permission to request a blood, breath or urine test if police suspect you are DUI. If you refuse (legally the state cannot force you to take a chemical test) you’ll face three days in jail and a one-year license suspension. You have a right to request a hearing with PennDot, but you must do so within 30 days of receiving a notice of suspension from PennDot.

Pennsylvania’s legal limit

Like every other state or Commonwealth, Pennsylvania has a blood alcohol content limit of .08%. In Pennsylvania, if you were found to be in physical control of a vehicle (driving, operating), your blood alcohol content cannot reach this level within two hours of operating a vehicle. If police administer a breath test and your results read at this level then you’ll be arrested for DUI. If your BAC was between .08% and .10% this is considered general impairment. For anything higher than .10%, you’ll face harsher penalties the higher your actual BAC was.

DUI does not pertain to just alcohol—it also applies to the use of controlled substances. If there is any amount of a controlled substance found in your blood within two hours of operating a vehicle, you can be arrested for DUI. These new DUI laws are complex, which means you need a lawyer that specializes in this area of law.

Pennsylvania Blood Alcohol Content

In the State of Pennsylvania, you are considered to be driving under the influence (DUI) if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or more. Your BAC can be determined by three different types of chemical tests: blood, breath or urine. Of these three tests, a blood test is considered to be the most accurate, but like the other two, mistakes can occur that may affect your test results. If you have been arrested for drunk driving because your BAC was over the legal limit, you should immediately contact a qualified Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney for representation!

What is blood alcohol content?

This is simply the amount of alcohol found in your bloodstream. If your BAC was 0.08%, this means that .08 grams of alcohol were found in every 100 mL of your blood. Since alcohol metabolizes in your liver, blood alcohol content varies from person to person. This means that though you may have had less to drink then someone else, your blood alcohol content may actually be the same or higher.

For example, on average your liver can metabolize about one standard drink each hour. This may be a 12 oz. can of beer (4-4.5% alcohol), a 4 oz. glass of wine (15-20% alcohol) or one 1.5 oz. shot (30-50% alcohol). But depending on factors such as your weight, whether you are male or female (females almost always register a higher BAC) and if your stomach is empty, your blood alcohol content may register higher than you think. Also, the more body fat you have, the higher your BAC will be. This is because alcohol does not absorb in fatty tissue and is concentrated in a smaller body mass.

Obviously, the more you drink, the higher your blood alcohol content will be. But now that you know there are many factors that can determine your BAC, you shouldn’t rely on just how many drinks you’ve had in a certain number of hours. And remember, to be convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania, the prosecution does not have to prove that you were “drunk.” They only have to prove that your blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. So, yes, you can be charged for driving under the influence even when you are not intoxicated!