What to do if you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania

Posted on May 18th, 2015

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In the State of Pennsylvania, there are mandatory minimum sentences for cases of driving under the influence. This means that if you plead guilty or are convicted of the charge of driving under the influence, there is a required minimum jail sentence and license suspension that you must receive. The judge has no discretion but to give you at least the minimum amount of incarceration and license suspension. This means that the judge cannot give you a lesser sentence, and is allowed to give you more. Our included important chart shows the mandatory minimums and other penalties—please view it here: ThePhillyLawyers DUI chart

As can be seen from the chart, you must first ascertain whether it is your first, second, third, or subsequent DUI charge within the last 10 years. Then you must ascertain what your blood alcohol level is: .08% to .099% is the lowest level; .10% to .159% is the second level and above .159%, or refusing to submit to a blood or breath test, or having drugs in your system is considered the third level. Depending on which DUI offense this is and what your blood alcohol level was will determine the minimum sentence that you receive.

How can you receive better than the mandatory minimum?

The first choice is to apply and be admitted to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program (ARD) with the District Attorney of your local county. With this program, you do not receive jail time, you do not receive a conviction, and your license suspension is far less for a first-time offender with no prior criminal record. For those at the lowest level of blood alcohol content, there is no license suspension. Then, for those at the second level with ARD, there is a 30‑day suspension, and for those at the third level there is a 60‑day license suspension.

How do I get into ARD?

You need a lawyer who is familiar with the procedure in your local county. This lawyer will help you navigate through your preliminary hearing, arraignment, and all other necessary steps to ensure that you do everything possible to get into this program. If you are ineligible for ARD, then your options are limited.

There are many obstacles to receiving a sentence below the mandatory minimum. You need a lawyer who understands how to possibly get around these obstacles. You must develop a strong argument showing that you deserve less of a suspension and less jail time.

Some factors considered when requesting a mitigated sentence below the mandatory minimum are:

  • your employment
  • who is dependent on you
  • who depends on your employment
  • why you need your driver’s license

One example is a single parent with minor dependents whose health insurance is contingent upon their parent working and driving. Such people have an argument for a sentence below the mandatory minimum. If you believe that you deserve a sentence below the mandatory minimum, you must note all your mitigating factors and present them to your attorney.

Treatment is another factor that may help convince the District Attorney to give you a sentence below the mandatory minimum. Obtaining treatment beyond the minimum required demonstrates remorse and a dedication to sobriety.

In addition, if you have a strong case that you were not in fact driving under the influence, this is another reason for your local District Attorney’s Office to give you a mitigated sentence below the mandatory minimums.

All of these considerations require an attorney who is experienced in both drunk driving cases and your local ARD procedures. R. Emmett Madden and ThePhillyLawyers have successfully helped many clients charged with DUI to be admitted to ARD and have acted as their advocates in the courts throughout the whole process.