PA DUI First Offense: Lawyer Up or ARD?


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I'm in PA 65 and rarely drink any more due to heart issues and generally being grown up and old now. Things have been rough for a while personally. I live in an RV. My son is a Marine combat vet who has been in the VA hospital long-term battling PTSD and has had other challenges. I've been fighting to keep him alive, as half of his platoon died in Sangin Valley when they served and most of the remainder have take their lives since coming home.

So I was going to help him on weekends, investing a lot of time in that. On Feb 24 he said take a weekend off, go have fun, as he had a weekend pass and was going to use it doordashing. I went to a show I wanted to see. I had two coronas before, and per my receipt had three beers there. They didn't have Coronas so I let the server surprise me. I think the guy at my table bought me one.

I was counting. Based on the BAC tables and time duration I should have been OK. But I didn't factor that whatever the server was giving was probably some high-powered homebrew or whatever, in pints not 12 oz Corona bottles.

Anyway, got pulled over on the way home, was at .12 according to the blood test. I got charged with 75 $ 3802 $$ A1 (lead) DUI Gen Impl/Inc of Driving Safetly - 1st Off, 75 $ 3802 $$ B* DUI High Rte of Alc (Bac .1 - <.16 1st Off, 75 $ 3714 $$ A Careless driving.

I have some documented traumatic brain injury from military and other accidents, and I take venlafaxine (effexor) for depression/anxiety. I wobbled slightly at the start of the roadside test because I was asked to walk directly into the high beams of the patrol vehicle on a slanted, broken up asphalt country road. I believe I executed it again perfectly at the booking station. But I guess the blood test doesn't lie.

The police were nice, and respectful, thanked me for being a veteran myself, and said to just do the ARD and it will be fine. I'm worried about the insurance expense, of course, but mostly a suspension where I won't be able to get to my son if I need to (he lives 4 hours away).

Thanks for any help, I'm just destroyed over my stupidity in this and I know my son will feel responsible even though it was my own dumb fault.
Thanks for any help, I'm just destroyed over my stupidity in this and I know my son will feel responsible even though it was my own dumb fault.

I suggest you speak to a couple local attorneys, if you can afford to hire one.

If not, appear in court as directed.
Plead NOT GUILTY and request the judge to appoint a taxpayer funded public defender. There's nothing you can do to remediate the matter with which you've been charged.

You can, however, find an Alcoholics Anonymous support group, nearby. Join it, get out ahead of the emotional side by seeking help with what the prosecutor will likely call an alcohol problem.

Good luck.
The police were nice, and respectful, thanked me for being a veteran myself, and said to just do the ARD and it will be fine.

Never take legal advice from a police officer. They will tell you anything to get you to cooperate and incriminate yourself.

If ARD means Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition read the statute and study it carefully.

More information at:

Then hire an attorney and review your options. Even if you go the ARD route you still need an attorney to make sure it's done right. You won't have a clue.
Thank you. My driving record was clean before this. Now I noticed there's some other traffic stuff on another page they charged me with (failing to stop at stop sign, etc). I will talk to some attorneys. Getting a mailbox full of them! Can anyone tell me what approx cost for this sort of thing is? I think I can pay it and won't qualify for public defender.

Pennsylvania's DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a misdemeanor and felony DUI in Pennsylvania.

  • To understand Pennsylvania's DUI laws, it's important to know how the state defines "under the influence" and what is included in the state's broad definition of "driving."
  • Penalties for a Pennsylvania DUI conviction typically include probation or jail time, fines, license suspension, and ignition interlock device requirements.
  • The severity of Pennsylvania DUI penalties depends on factors like the number of prior convictions, the driver's blood alcohol concentration, and whether the offense involved an accident or minor passengers.
  • Participation in Pennsylvania's "Accelerated Rehabilitative Program" can result in the dismissal of DUI charges.

Like other states, Pennsylvania prohibits impaired driving. Pennsylvania has a number of classifications of DUI (driving under the influence) offenses that can carry different penalties.

License Revocation for Pennsylvania DUI Convictions

While a first-offense general impairment DUI does not carry mandatory license suspension, all other DUI convictions have a mandatory suspension period. A driver convicted of DUI will be suspended for the following periods:

  • 12 months for a second- or third-offense general impairment DUI, a first or second-offense high-rate DUI, or a first-offense highest-rate DUI, and
  • 18 months for a third-offense high-rate DUI or a second- or third-offense highest-rate DUI.
A driver who refuses testing and is convicted of DUI will serve both suspensions back-to-back.

Pennsylvania's Ignition Interlock Requirements

After serving the license suspension period, drivers are required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) for one year. During this time, the driver is only allowed to operate vehicles equipped with an IID.

Drivers can also apply to begin the IID period early and gain restricted limited driving privileges while serving the suspension. Offenders with prior DUI offenses must serve at least half of the suspension period prior to installing the IID and obtaining restricted privileges.

Pennsylvania's Underage DUI Laws

As previously noted, drivers who are under the age of 21 can be convicted of a DUI for operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more. The penalties a driver faces for this type of DUI conviction are the same as those all other drivers face for a DUI conviction.

However, drivers who are under the age of 21 can also be cited for a violation for being caught driving with a measurable amount of alcohol in their system that's less than .02%. This type of violation carries a $100 fine and a three-month license suspension.

Pennsylvania's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition

Pennsylvania has a DUI alternative sentencing program called the "Accelerated Rehabilitation Program." Participants in the program must complete a highway safety program, substance abuse treatment, and six to twelve months of court-supervised sobriety and license suspension. Successful completion of the program results in the dismissal of the DUI charges.

However, drivers who have a prior DUI that occurred within the last ten years or had a passenger under the age of 14 are not eligible for this program.

Talk with a Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer

A DUI in Pennsylvania carries serious penalties, so getting legal assistance is important. An experienced DUI lawyer can explain what you're facing and the options that might be available to you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens when you get your first DUI in Pennsylvania?

When you get a first DUI in Pennsylvania, you face probation, the suspension of your license, a fine and required drug and alcohol counseling. You may also be convicted of a misdemeanor criminal offense. Under PA DUI laws, you will also be subject to harsher penalties if your BAC is above .10.

How likely is jail time for a first DUI in Pennsylvania?

Jail time is likely for a first DUI in Pennsylvania if you have a BAC of .10 or higher, if you are a commercial or bus driver or if you cause an accident while driving under the influence. PA DUI laws impose harsh penalties so it is a good idea to talk with an experienced drunk driving lawyer about your options.

Is a first DUI in Pennsylvania a felony?

A first DUI in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor, not a felony. However, depending on your BAC and the circumstances of your drunk driving charges, you can still face serious consequences under PA DUI laws. These consequences can include probation or jail time, a license suspension and a substantial fine.

How Much Are the Fines for a Pennsylvania DUI Conviction?

The amount of your fines will depend on whether you have any prior DUI convictions and what your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was at the time. According to state law, first offense DUI convictions can carry fines up to $5,000. Second and subsequent offenses carry fines up to $10,000.

These potential fines are daunting, but they are not the only costs associated with a conviction.

What Other Costs Come With a Pennsylvania DUI?

In addition to monetary fines, you must also pay all court costs and fees associated with your case. Depending on your county, you may have to pay more than $1,000.

According to Lancaster Online, your total costs after a DUI could reach as high as $10,000. That figure includes incidental expenses like paying for substance testing, towing and impound fees, the cost of seeking alcohol treatment, and expenses associated with a court-ordered monitoring device or ignition interlock system.

If you choose to participate in an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program, you will also face fees. You will have to pay an initial cost the day you enter the program and you may have a balance due after you complete it.

If you have to attend an alcohol highway safety course, you will have to pay those fees out of pocket. You will also have to pay a fee to get your driver's license reinstated.

Are There Other Consequences to a DUI Conviction?

Upon conviction for a DUI, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) can suspend your driver's license for as long as 18 months.

This means you will have to arrange alternative transportation to get to work and school and to run personal errands. The cost of using busses, taxis, or ridesharing services can really add up during this time.

Court dates and any time spent in jail will keep you out of work, so add any lost wages you may have to your total costs. If your employer fires you, getting a new job may be difficult with a DUI conviction on your permanent record.

Finally, consider the extra cost of car insurance that you will face after a drunk driving conviction. According to the Value Penguin, your car insurance rates may double after a DUI conviction.

Can anyone tell me what approx cost for this sort of thing is?
Lawyers defending drivers accused of various DUI offenses often charge anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 OR MORE to represent a person charged with 1st offense, DUI.

The guesstimate above doesn't address the aftermath of the trial and court fees, court fines, increased auto insurance rates (assuming a convicted driver can obtain auto insurance on the market) versus state insurance, as in SR22.

What is "SR-22 insurance?"

The term "SR-22 insurance" is somewhat misleading. An SR-22 is not a form of car insurance; rather, it is a certificate that your car insurance company files with your state on your behalf that proves you meet your state's minimum insurance requirements. In many cases, you must procure an SR-22 in order to reinstate a suspended license. However, Pennsylvania does not require drivers to file SR-22 forms after a driving infraction.

Just because Pennsylvania SR-22s are not a requirement does not mean you can get around the state's car insurance laws. To drive legally in Pennsylvania, all motorists must carry at least the following coverage types and limits:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $5,000 personal injury protection (PIP)
In Pennsylvania, PIP may also be called "first-party benefits" or "FBP."

Generally, car insurance companies will file these forms with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) directly. However, since SR-22s aren't used in this state, Pennsylvania car insurance companies likely won't have the ability to file these forms. You will likely still see insurance implications from a driving incident, though. If you've been convicted of a major violation, you'll probably still face a car insurance premium increase. If you need to find cheaper car insurance in Pennsylvania or if your carrier cancels your policy after a major violation, you may need to shop around and switch your coverage.

SR-22 Pennsylvania insurance costs

In states that require SR-22 filings, your insurer will likely charge around $50 to cover the cost of filing the SR-22 certificate with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent governing body. Because PA SR-22 insurance is not applicable in the state, drivers would not need to pay an additional fee to prove coverage. However, if your license was suspended in Pennsylvania, you may need to pay other reinstatement fees in order to get it restored.

If you incur a driving infraction that would necessitate an SR-22 in another state (like a DUI, for example), there are other costs to take into account. Major moving violations generally increase your car insurance costs, and once the dust settles, it may be worth your time to search for a cheaper deal. It may be a little more difficult with a less-than-spotless record — some of the best car insurance companies do not write policies for high-risk drivers — but it can be done.

Can anyone tell me what approx cost for this sort of thing is?

Check out the resources in this search.

Might give you some idea what costs are involved. I doubt that any of those sites will give you an estimate of the attorney fees involved. You'll have to call up and ask. My guess is a few thousand for a retainer and you pay by the hour for as long as it takes.