Your Pittsburgh DUI Case: The Basics

You only have one night in the Iron City. You better go out BIG. And you do. After spending all evening bar hopping in the South Side and later noshing on a trademark fried-potatoes-and-coleslaw-topped heart attack sandwich from Primanti Bros., you realize it's time to drive back to your hotel. Uh oh. Red and blue flashing lights behind you. You're getting pulled over by the Pittsburgh Police. Things just got real. An hour later you are sitting in the Allegheny County Jail wondering if your Steelers tickets are going to go to waste.

Here's some basic information if you've been charged with a Pittsburgh DUI.

What's a Pittsburgh DUI?

DUI stands for driving under the influence. You can be charged with a Pittsburgh DUI in two ways.

The first way is numerical -- if your blood-alcohol content (or BAC) is .08 or higher, you're violating the law. BAC is the measure of alcohol in your blood. A measurement of .08 means your blood contains .08 of a percent of alcohol.

You can also be charged with DUI if your BAC is less than .08. How is that possible? If an officer determines that your driving is significantly impaired due to intoxication from alcohol or drugs, regardless of your BAC, he or she can arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence.

If you are commercial driver, the law is even more stringent. You can't drive with a BAC of .04 or greater. Also, you may also lose your commercial driver's license for between one and three years. That means your job can be affected.

Drivers Under 21

Thinking about drinking and driving? Don't. Pennsylvania has zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving. If your BAC is .02 or higher, there are consequences: jail term ranging from two (2) days to six (6) months, your license will be suspended for a full year, and you will pay a fine of $500 to $5,000. Bottom line: if you are under 21 and have been drinking, don't even think of getting behind the wheel. It's just not worth it.

It's My First DUI. Is There a Special Program for Me?

Yes, there is. It's known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD. However, you'll have to be accepted into the program by the District Attorney.

ARD is a diversionary program, and you'll be enrolled for two years. You'll attend a court mandated DUI school, supervisory meetings, and pay any court ordered restitution. After you successfully complete the program, your charges will be dismissed and can be expunged from your record.

To be eligible:

  1. You must have no prior DUIs within ten years and no prior criminal convictions;
  2. No accident occurred resulting in serious injury or death; and
  3. You didn't have a passenger in the car 14 years old or younger.

Pittsburgh DUI Penalties

If you've committed a DUI in Pittsburgh, your penalty will depend on how high your BAC was, if you have prior convictions, and if you are charged with anything else. Keep in mind that multiple convictions will also result in harsher penalties. The Pennsylvania DMV has compiled a full list for those who are looking for more specifics.

If this is your DUI offense, here is what you might expect to receive in punishment:

  • Lowest penalty: BAC of .08 to .099
  • Higher penalty: BAC of .10 to .159
  • Highest penalty: BAC of .16 or more or controlled substances

Under the first tier, a first-time offender may receive up to 6 months probation, a $300 fine, alcohol highway safety school, and treatment, if ordered.

Under the second tier, the offender may receive a one-year license suspension, five days to six months in jail, $500 to $5,000 in fines, alcohol highway safety school, and possible court-ordered treatment.

Under the third tier, you face the harshest penalties. Why? Because the court found you were drinking and driving at a dangerously high level. Expect a one-year license suspension, 72 hours to 6 months jail, $1,000 to $5,000 worth of fines, alcohol highway safety school, and treatment when ordered.

What If I Refused the Chemical Test?

If you refused to take a blood or breath test, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Transportation probably suspended your license. Pennsylvania enforces implied consent laws, which means that anyone who has a driver's license agrees to submit to BAC testing if asked to do so by a police officer. Refusing to comply means separate and additional sanctions, including the suspension of your driver's license for up to one year.

If This Is My First DUI, Will I Have to Get an Ignition Interlock Device?

You might be wondering if you'll have to install an ignition interlock device. You know, that gadget designed to make sure you aren't drinking alcohol and driving. Anytime you attempt to start your car, you'll have to blow into it.

For a first-time DUI offense, you may be required to do so, although that is a rare occurrence. On a second or subsequent DUI offense, ignition interlock installation will be mandatory. Here's a useful guide to ignition interlock devices (PDF).

Remember, it's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If you see an impaired driver on the road, call 911. Finally, if you've been charged with a DUI in Pittsburgh, you may wish to consider speaking to an attorney.

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