Pennsylvania “Impaired Driving” Laws – Strict but Fair?

by annbailey on November 3, 2012

While every state in the union has enhanced the driving-under-the-influence statutes of their particular state, Pennsylvania has taken a political approach to the upgrade of their impaired driving laws. The law is generally straightforward, but there are conditions of expunction and minimal punitive adjudication that other states do not employ. Pennsylvania’s impaired driving laws are based on a three-tier prosecution, dependent upon the level of intoxication of the driver. The laws are also alcohol-specific in terms of severity of the charge. Driving under the influence of illegal drugs will put the charge in the strongest application of the law, which is not necessarily the case in non-aggravation dui arrest cases.

The Toxicology Structure
Typical driving dui charges result when the driver’s blood alcohol content, on an official BAC calculator, registers between .08 and .099 blood alcohol level. This is a simple case of impaired driving and can be downgraded by the prosecutor to reckless driving with an experienced and effective DUI attorney. The defendant will not be able to negotiate this result in most local courts, but a credible, impaired-driving attorney can build a case that is acceptable for both parties in the case. The focus of an initial intoxicated driving charge is a minimal punishment for those that show no pattern of unconcern for the law and are not driving while overly intoxicated. Aggravated intoxication can be assessed beyond the .159 level, which is twice the legal limit for an acceptable and simple case adjudication. Anything above .16 is considered aggravated, and additional charges can occur based on mitigating circumstances of the arrest.
Driving Under the Influence of Illegal Drugs
This is simple. The politics of illegal drug use in Pennsylvania are clear. Alcohol is a legal substance, even if a driver is found guilty of drunk driving. Illegal drugs are illegal whether you’re driving or not, and there is a near zero-tolerance policy for that on the books in this state. Any driver that is found to be under the influence of illegal drugs can count on the strongest level of criminal charges and will also be found responsible for any illegal drug detected in their system. The defendant can expect an additional possession charge in most cases. They can also expect a maximized penalty for impaired driving under the influence of an illegal substance. This can also occur when driving under the influence of a legally prescribed medicine in the wrong situation.

Selective Expunction
Drivers convicted of multiple offenses of impaired driving can forget about having their case expunged. It is a qualified privilege and many attorneys will not motion the court unless the argument is politically expedient. An expunged charge is effectively the sealing of the arrest and conviction record. The charge will only expire from the record at the end of the state-determined time period. In addition to non-qualification, a fourth DUI will result in the case being sent to grand jury and assessed in circuit court as a felony, which lasts a lifetime on the record.

The Pennsylvania law is kind to first time offenders that truly show that they know their behavior was not acceptable. The state has little patience for multiple offenses in a specific time period. In addition, driving under the influence of illegal drugs is pursued aggressively by all prosecutors and includes additional charges that can affect every aspect of a defendant’s life. If you make a practice of driving under the influence, it is a good idea to call an experienced DUI attorney beforehand to be there when the arrest actually occurs. If you drive under the influence, rest assured it will.

A former news writer, Ann Bailey files this article to benefit anyone planning to drive in Pennsylvania.  The PA law offices of Steven E. Kellis offer dui advice to anyone arrested for impaired driving offenses, and provide a free BAC calculator on their website to help a driver predetermine their likely tolerance for alcohol consumption before imbibing and driving.

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