In 1977 the Alcohol Highway Safety Program in Pennsylvania was formalized as a result of revision of the Motor Vehicle Code (Title 75). This provided for DUI coordinators to be named in each county, under the auspices of the President Judge of each county. The DUI coordinator oversees the Alcohol Highway Safety School (AHSS), the Court Reporting Network (CRN) evaluations and proper referral of the offender for drug and/or alcohol treatment assessment. In Lawrence County, this process is overseen by the Lawrence County DUI Program.
.08 DUI Legislation – Pennsylvania
Act 24, which lowered Pennsylvania's legal limit of alcohol from .10 to .08, was signed into law on September 30, 2003. The new Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Law creates a tiered approach toward DUI enforcement and treatment, and includes many changes to the penalties, terms of suspension, fines and other requirements. The combination of an individual's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level, and prior offenses, determines the licensing requirements and penalties. The new law focuses on treatment for first-time DUI offenders, rather than strictly punishment and suspension.
There are now three levels of DUI:
- General Impairment (.08 to .099% BAC)
- High BAC (.10 to .159% BAC)
- Highest BAC (.16% and higher)
The new law creates a higher set of penalties for those having higher BAC levels. It allows for treatment at all levels, and requires alcohol highway safety school for all first and second time offenders.
For those at the highest BAC levels, the new law has strict penalties, but also allows for treatment. This even-handed approach allows for individuals to receive counselling for their alcohol and drug problem, while still penalizing those who choose to continue the dangerous practice of drinking and driving.
In addition, drivers under the influence of controlled substances and those who refuse breath or chemical testing are subject to the highest BAC category penalties.
The following outlines specific components of the new law, and changes from the previous law that impacts DUI drivers.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Levels
The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level for per se* DUI is lowered to .08%.
Penalties for DUI will be based on BAC and prior offenses.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
Requires courts to impose suspensions for BAC ARDs based on the following BAC ranges:
- Less than .10% - no suspension,
- .10% to less than .16 - 30 day suspension, or
- .16% and above - 60 day suspension
Suspensions will be imposed as follows:
- BAC below .10% and incapable of safe driving: No suspension for first offense if the driver meets certain criteria; 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense.
- BAC greater than or equal to .10% and less than .16%: 12 month license suspension for first and second offense. 18 month suspension for third or subsequent offense.
- BAC greater than or equal to .16%: 12 month license suspension for first offense. 18 month suspension for second or subsequent offense.
- Out-of-state DUI convictions: No suspension for first offense; 12 month license suspension for second or subsequent offense.
-Effective February 1, 2004
DUI Treatment and Evaluation
Treatment and evaluation processes are geared to rehabilitation.
Expungement of Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) Records
PennDOT will automatically expunge ARD records after 10 years providing a person's operating privileges were not revoked as a habitual offender and/or the person was not a commercial driver at the time of the violation.
"Per se" is a Latin phrase that means "by itself." Evidence that a person drove, operated or was in control of a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher is enough by itself to convict the person of DUI. A person with BAC less than .08% might still be convicted of DUI is there is evidence that he or she imbibed enough alcohol to make him or her incapable of safely driving, operating or being in control of a motor vehicle. This also applies to operating or being in control of a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance.