Is DUI a Misdemeanor or Felony?

Believe it or not, but Driving Under the Influence(DUI) is on the top of the list of most common crimes in the state of Pennsylvania. We all make mistakes, but in terms of the law, driving under influence cannot be discharged with a simple police citation and a light fine. Here, you need help of a professional criminal defense lawyer, because almost all states, including Pennsylvania, have harsh DUI laws and extremely rigid methods of punishing citizens who are convicted of DUI. Even first-time DUI offense would lead to lasting consequences for you.

Below in this article, we will explain the difference between felony DUI and misdemeanor DUI, what to do when you get pulled over by the police, and what you should do if you're arrested for DUI. We hope that our article will be helpful and clarify all the questions about DUI laws and penalties in Pennsylvania. Take care of yourself and don't drink and drive.

A Breathalyzer Test | DUI Laws in PA

What does DUI stand for and what happens if you get a DUI?

First and foremost let’s figure out what exactly does DUI stand for at first. Driving Under the Influence or DUI or driving while impaired/driving while intoxicated (DWI) means that an individual has more than a prescribed amount of alcohol in their bloodstream while driving the vehicle. The state of Pennsylvania DUI law system practices the system of penalties where the amount of blood alcohol content (BAC) is a ground for charging a DUI.

Each case is judged individually and can be modified under different circumstances. Here we can see the most common types of DUI charges and what happens if you get a DUI:

  • General Impairment (BAC 0.08-0.09%) – Up to six months probation; $300 fine; no license suspension
  • High Rate of Alcohol (BAC 0.10-0.159%) – 48 hours to six months in jail; $500 - $5,000 fines; 12 months license suspension.
  • Highest Rate of Alcohol (BAC 0.16% and up) – Three days to six months in jail; $1,000 - $5,000 fines; 12 months license suspension.

Please keep in mind that these DUI penalties are minimal penalties without aggravating circumstances, so do not expect to walk out of this easily without the help of your Philadelphia DUI lawyer who has extensive knowledge of Pennsylvania DUI laws.

Driving While Impaired | DUI Laws in PA

If you are somehow weaving on the road or speeding, the police officer may suspect you of driving under the influence. In this case, the officer can test your BAC by using a special device known as the Breathalyzer. The big problem here is that these devices can indicate inaccurate results because of many factors. For example, diabetics have high acetone level in their blood that can be measured as ethanol. It is vital to mention here that almost 30 out of 100 people are undiagnosed diabetics. Another example of false results that can lead to DUI arrest is an individual's work with substances like paint or lacquers as the part of their job. Such substances contain enough alcohol to affect the test results.

If you are absolutely sure that your DUI charges are false, but you know that breath alcohol test would show positive result because of your job, diseases or even a diet, you need  legal help of a DUI attorney that can handle these issues or reduce your DUI penalty.

Pennsylvania DUI Penalties

Let’s imagine that you have been charged with a DUI. All your next steps and DUI penalties would depend, in great part, on your Philadelphia DUI lawyer and his knowledge of Pennsylvania DUI laws. Do not refuse the legal help from a DUI lawyer under any circumstances. The table below shows all possible DUI penalties.

General Impairment (BAC 0.08-0.099%)

Individuals Incapable Safe Driving

First OffenceSecond OffenceThird OffenceSubsequent Offence(s)

Ungraded Misdemeanor

6 months probation max.

No License suspension

$300.00 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

No Ignition Interlock

Ungraded Misdemeanor

5 days to 6 months incarceration

12 months License suspension

$500.00 to $2,500.00 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

1 Year Ignition Interlock

Second Degree Misdemeanor

10 days to 2 years incarceration max.

12 months License suspension

$500.00 to $5,000.00 fine

1 Year Ignition Interlock

Second Degree Misdemeanor

10 days to 2 years incarceration

12 months License suspension

$500.00 to $5,000.00 fine

1 Year Ignition Interlock

High Rate DUI (BAC 0.10-0.159%)

Minors with 0.2% BAC 

CDL Drivers with 0.4% BAC 

First OffenceSecond OffenceThird OffenceSubsequent Offence(s)

Ungraded Misdemeanor

2 days to 6 months incarceration

12 months License suspension

$500.00 to $5,000.00 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

1 Year Ignition Interlock

Ungraded Misdemeanor

30 days to 6 months incarceration

12 months License suspension

$750.00 to $5,000.00 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

1 Year Ignition Interlock

First Degree Misdemeanor

90 days to 5 years incarceration

18 months License suspension

$1.500.00 to $10,000.00 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

1 Year Ignition Interlock

First Degree Misdemeanor

1 years to 5 years incarceration

18 months License suspension

$1.500.00 to $10,000.00 fine

Treatment when ordered

1 Year Ignition Interlock

Highest Rate of DUI (BAC 0.16% and above)

Individuals who refused chemical tests

First OffenceSecond OffenceThird OffenceSubsequent Offence(s)

Ungraded Misdemeanor

3 days to 6 months incarceration

12 months License suspension

$1,000.00 to $5,000.00 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

ARD Eligible

First Degree Misdemeanor

90 days to 5 years incarceration

18 months License suspension

Minimum $1,500 fine

Alcohol Highway Safety School

1 Year Ignition Interlock

First Degree Misdemeanor

1 years to 5 years incarceration

18 months License suspension

Minimum $2,500 fine

1 Year Ignition Interlock

First Degree Misdemeanor

1 years to 5 years incarceration

18 months License suspension

Minimum $2,500 fine

1 Year Ignition Interlock

Treatment when ordered

There are no felony DUI charges in the chart, as you may have noticed. The point is that any DUI arrest is a complex process where many different factors must be taken into account. But before talking about felony DUI offenses, we need to gain a full understanding of misdemeanor DUI offenses.

When is a DUI a Misdemeanor?

As a rule, first DUI offense is a misdemeanor DUI in all 50 states. Misdemeanor DUI includes jail time, a fine, and probation if there are no aggravating circumstances. A big part of DUI offenses are misdemeanor but that doesn’t mean that you can handle a DUI pretrial conference or trial on your own. A better solution is to let an experienced DUI lawyer in Philadelphia assist you in preparing for your DUI case. Most DUI attorneys offer a free DUI case consultation to assess the seriousness of your DUI consequences and create the best trial strategy.

Drinking Alcohol Before Driving | DUI Laws in PA

When is a DUI a Felony?

Some circumstances can modify misdemeanor DUI to a felony DUI. A DUI conviction for a felony DUI has much more lasting DUI consequences than misdemeanor DUI. Here is a list of common situations when a misdemeanor DUI can be changed to a felony DUI:

  • Whether you have been charged with DUI more than three times for 10 years (even if all three DUI charges are misdemeanor.)
  • Whether you were involved in a DUI crash causing property damage, injuries, great bodily harm, or death (here you may need a help of personal injury lawyer also).
  • Whether you were under the influence of other drugs or refuse to take chemical tests.
  • Whether you had a minor child in the vehicle.
  • Whether driving with a suspended license.

And again, if you are facing a felony DUI, the wisest course is to enlist the help of a knowledgeable DUI lawyer. DUI laws in Philadelphia are extremely strict and may cause prison time, large fines, and long-term license suspension, as we mentioned before.

Law Office of John F. Rooney, V has extensive experience in handling all types of DUI charges. Let us help to take the justice back and defend your interests in court. Additionally, we provide DUI case consultation to evaluate all possible DUI consequences at no additional charge. We are trial lawyers that handle DUI lawsuits in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester counties. Schedule your free consultation today!

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