First Time DUI in Pennsylvania
Being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) for the first time is a very upsetting and frightening experience. Most drivers in Cambria and Allegheny County are law-abiding residents who simply failed to realize that they were too impaired to drive safely. It can happen to anyone. State and local police are on constant watch for any kind of unusual behavior on the roads, and will occasionally set up DUI checkpoints to search for suspects.
If you or a loved one are facing charges in PA, you should consult with Tibbott & Richardson right away. A criminal defense lawyer experienced in DUI cases can provide you with a clear path to resolution, and get you the most favorable results in court. Contrary to popular belief, or what police may have told you; there are many possible defenses allowed under the law that can (and have) successfully fought against drunk driving charges.
Grading of Charges
A first offense DUI is an ungraded misdemeanor in the Commonwealth.* That means that if you decide to take your case to trial, you do not have the right to a jury trial, rather you have a right to a bench trial (trial before a judge). You will want to have a local attorney who has been practicing before the judges and magistrates that will decide your case’s outcome. This is true even if your case does not go to trial. As you can read below, the prosecution (district attorneys and police) can also play a vital role specific to first offenders, and you will need a lawyer who knows how local law enforcement operate in DUI matters.
*If your first DUI involved a passenger under the age of 18 years old, then your offense will be graded as a misdemeanor in the first degree, or M1, and your case will qualify for trial by jury.
|BAC Tier||Jail Time||License Suspension||Fine|
|.08 to .099||Up to 6 mo. Probation||—||$300|
|.10 to .159||2 days to 6 months||1 year||$500 – $5,000|
|.16 or higher||3 days to 6 months||1 year||$1,000 – $5,000|
*Completion of Alcohol Safety School is required for all convictions regardless of which tier you are charged with.
Pennsylvania uses a 3-tier system based on blood alcohol content – or BAC, in determining sentences. The higher your blood alcohol as found by chemical testing, the tougher the mandatory minimums and penalties you face.
In addition to the above penalties, a judge may also order an alcohol and drug evaluation, and depending upon the results, further require completion of an alcohol or drug abuse program.
ARD for 1st DUI Offense
If this is your first time being accused of drunk driving, then you may qualify for a unique alternative sentencing program in PA called alternative rehabilitative disposition, or ARD. Under the program, 1st offenders can essentially bypass the criminal prosecution of the offense by entering into an agreement with the prosecution and the court. If you complete all of the requirements under the ARD agreement, then you will be able to expunge the DUI charges from your public record and will not have the misdemeanor that would have been recorded were you found guilty. ARD can also significantly lessen the license suspension time for those who may be found guilty at the 2nd or 3rd BAC tier.
Please visit our ARD page for more information on the ARD program offered in Allegheny and Cambria Counties.
The best outcome for a 1st DUI offense is to have the case dismissed, and/or all charges dropped. This is the first option we will explore with you upon consultation. You should be aware of all of the options available to you in your case, and understand which resolution to pursue and how to obtain it. We can help.
Call us now for a free initial consultation to discuss your case. We are specifically trained to represent DUI offenses in Allegheny, Cambria and Indiana Counties. Let us clearly explain the legal process to you along with all of your options during a free case evaluation. Pittsburgh & Ebensburg: (412) 690-0225.