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Drunk driving charges in Pennsylvania

In many places across the country, including Pennsylvania, legislation related to drunk driving has become stricter over the years. In 2003, Act 24 lowered the legal blood-alcohol content level from .10 to .08 and created a series of penalties that depend on the BAC level of the accused driver and their prior history with DUI charges. People in certain categories, including minors, truck drivers, school bus drivers or those involved in injury crashes, can be targeted for stricter enforcement.

The first and most basic level of drunk driving charges in Pennsylvania is general impairment. This is applied to those with .08 to .099 BAC levels. If the offender has not had a prior DUI offense, the charge is considered an ungraded misdemeanor. Nevertheless, the penalties can be significant -- a $300 fine and up to six months probation. The penalties, as well as the grade of misdemeanor, rise for subsequent offenses, which may be accompanied by one-year license suspensions, jail time, ignition interlock installation and significantly more costly fines. For a third or later offense, an offender could face up to two years in prison.

The penalties also become stricter if the accused driver is stopped with a "High BAC" of .10 to .159. Offenders with a first-offense High BAC could receive a 12-month license suspension, a fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail. Again, penalties increase for subsequent charges.

The penalties for drunk driving charges can have a major impact on an offender's life. Jail time, costly fines and a criminal record can follow a person for years to come. However, a criminal defense lawyer can help an alleged DUI offender present a strong defense that may avoid a conviction.

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