For someone with no criminal history, a conviction for drinking and driving in Pennsylvania does two things. One, it can get your driver’s license suspended, force you to pay a fine, and potentially send you to jail. Two, it will set you up to experience an even tougher sentence if you are convicted of a second DUI — or a third.
Let’s assume for a minute that you have been convicted or pleaded guilty to a charge of DUI at the lowest level of impairment, which is called “general impairment” and involves a blood-alcohol content of between .08 percent and .099 percent. Here are the potential penalties the judge can impose for a first offense:
Jail time: None, but up to six months’ probation is possible.
Fine: Up to $300.
Other: Alcohol highway safety school, addiction treatment.
Now, here are the sentencing possibilities for a second DUI offense:
Jail time: Between five days and six months.
Fine: $300 to $2,500.
Other: 12-month driver’s license suspension, one year ordered ignition interlock device in your vehicle, alcohol highway safety school, addiction treatment.
A third or subsequent DUI is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000, in addition to the other punishments.
Pleading guilty isn’t always the smart move
This information should make you think twice about automatically pleading guilty to a DUI charge. While a guilty plea can be the best course of action in many cases, other times, the evidence against the defendant is shaky enough to make taking the charges to trial worthwhile. If nothing else, the prosecutor may be willing to negotiate a plea deal rather than risk trial. You could avoid most of the penalties associated with DUI.