If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Pennsylvania, you are likely concerned about how the charge and subsequent conviction will affect your future. Specifically, you may be concerned about whether or not you will face jail time as a result of your conviction.
DUI charges are serious, and not knowing what to expect from a first-time offense can be scary. However, the question as to whether or not you will go to jail after your first DUI offense depends largely on your blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of your arrest as well as other factors specific to your situation.
DUI penalties are tied to your BAC
Pennsylvania law categorizes determines DUI penalties based on the driver's blood alcohol content level. If your BAC level is between .08 and .099, this is considered general impairment. A first-time general impairment offense will typically not involve jail time in and of itself.
However, if you refused breath or chemical tests - or you caused an accident that resulted in injuries, fatalities or property damage - you will likely face enhanced penalties, which could include time behind bars. Also, if you are under 21 years of age and are convicted of DUI, you could go to jail for as long as six months, regardless of your BAC level.
If your BAC was higher than .099, you have more reason to fear facing jail time, even if it was your first offense. The state considers a blood alcohol content between .10 and .159 percent as high, while a BAC of .16 or more is considered the highest. Jail time for a first offense for high BAC ranges from two days to six months, and first-time offenders with BACs above .16 could face anywhere from three days to six months in jail.
If you were caught driving under the influence of controlled substances, you will face the same penalties associated with the highest BAC level.
You can fight a DUI charge
Pennsylvania treats DUI charges very seriously. Whether you actually serve any jail time or not, a DUI conviction will impact almost every area of your life.
Because of what is at stake, it is in your best interests to retain the services of an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. An attorney will be able to review all of the aspects of your case and advise you as to the best course of action. He or she will also scrutinize all of the evidence against you, including the reasons behind the initial traffic stop, to help protect your rights and ensure a fair hearing.