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Driving Under the Influence can carry mandatory prison time and lengthy license suspension if convicted. The law sets three tiers of intoxication.
The lowest tier, General Impairment, is found in subsection (a)(1) and (a)(2) of the DUI law. All individuals charged with DUI are charged with General Impairment, which is proven when the officer believes that the individual is impaired in his ability to operate a vehicle safely, when the BAC is between .08 - .10% or if there was a refusal of testing. There is no mandatory jail time or license suspension for a first offense conviction for General Impairment or when the BAC is below .10%. For a second offense in 10 years there is a mandatory minimum of 5 days and for a third offense the mandatory jail time is 10 days minimum.
Section 3802 (b), “High Rate”, applies where the BAC is between .10% and .16%. If convicted of this subsection, there is mandatory incarceration of 2 days in jail for a first offense in 10 years, 30 days in jail for a second offense, and 90 days in jail for a third offense. There is a one year driver’s license suspension for a first offense or second offense and an 18 month suspension for a third offense in 10 years.
Section 3802(c), “Highest Rate”, applies when the testing results are above .16%, or if drugs are present. These sections require mandatory jail time of three days in jail for a first offense, 90 days in jail for a second offense and one year in jail for a 3rd or subsequent conviction.
All of the above jail sentences are mandatory minimum sentences. That means that a judge has no discretion and must sentence the motorist to the mandatory minimum set by the legislature. The judge cannot give less jail time by law, but he is free to give more than the minimum jail time.
If a motorist refuses to submit to a chemical test of their breath or blood, there is a mandatory one (1) year license suspension imposed by PennDOT. This suspension is consecutive to any suspension for the DUI case which means it gets added to any additional suspension. If you refused chemical testing, it is best to contact an attorney immediately, as there have been occasions where I have been able to speak with the officer before notice of refusal was sent to PennDOT and the client did not lose their license because Penndot was never notified of the refusal.Intermediate Punishment
While mandatory minimum sentences require a judge to impose minimum jail sentences, the judge does have discretion as to where the sentence is served and if it may be served on Intermediate Punishment. Intermediate Punishment refers to serving all or part of the sentence in a facility other than the county prison.
If the judge allows you to serve the sentence on Work Release, all or part of the jail sentence is served in a minimum security facility. People on house arrest are permitted to leave the facility to go to work, and if you are unemployed, the prison will find a job for you. The facility is more like a dormitory than a prison and you are required to return to the facility immediately after work.
House Arrest is by far the preferred place to serve a jail sentence because the individual serves the sentence in his own home. Most counties use a GPS ankle bracelet to track the individual who is usually permitted to leave the house to go to work. Some counties even permit a short time outside the home to run errands, see a doctor or attend AA or other treatment appointments.