Driving under the influence is always a serious matter. In the past, however, Pennsylvania law considered all DUI offenses as misdemeanors, which carry comparatively lighter penalties than felonies. Times have changed, however, and as of December 2018, DUI may now be a felony offense in Pennsylvania under certain circumstances. Even if it is not, the consequences may be more severe than they were in the past.
While it is preferable to avoid DUI under any circumstances, it may be helpful for you to understand when it may incur more severe penalties and possible felony charges.
Repeat offenses/excessive BAC
The type and severity of the charges you face for DUI depend largely on two primary factors: your BAC and your history of prior DUI.
According to the new law, while your first and second DUI are misdemeanors, your third is a felony if your blood alcohol concentration level is 0.16% or more. The legal limit for alcohol in Pennsylvania is 0.08% as of 2003, so a third-time offender with a BAC of at least twice that amount faces felony charges.
If you incur a fourth DUI, however, you will automatically face felony charges regardless of your blood alcohol level.
Under the new law, you will serve more jail time if a repeat DUI violation causes the death of someone else. This is true even if you did not intend to cause any harm.
Children in the vehicle
If you have a minor, i.e., someone under 18 years of age, in the vehicle while driving under the influence, it is a misdemeanor in the first degree. You can go to prison for up to five years if convicted.
Breaking other laws
Alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment. If you break other laws at the same time that you are driving under the influence, more severe penalties may result. This may include driving with a license that is invalid due to suspension or revocation.