As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, law enforcement agencies across Pennsylvania are preparing to use DUI checkpoints and roving patrols to increase DUI enforcement measures. Law enforcement will be looking for people that are under the influence on both roadways and waterways. Piloting a boat while intoxicated can result in charges of Operating a Watercraft Under the Influence. Drug recognition experts are also participating and looking for drug-related impaired drivers.
Any Pennsylvania DUI conviction results in serious consequences. Generally, a first charge in 10 years is an ungraded misdemeanor offense. Mandatory minimum penalties can range from six months of probation up to 72 hours in jail, and the sentences can be higher depending upon the facts and circumstances. Many DUI convictions also result in a suspension of a Pennsylvania driver's license or driving privileges, a drug and alcohol assessment, and completion of the Alcohol Highway Safety School. Convictions of DUI also result in fines as well as payment of court and program fees.
A driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greatly affects the severity of the DUI charges that are filed and the sentence that is imposed. A minor, meaning someone under the age of 21, can be charged with DUI if their BAC is over .02. Adult drivers face different charges and penalties depending upon the precise BAC level, with drivers having a BAC over .16% receiving the most severe jail sentences and fines.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
Some first-time offenders may qualify for ARD. The following requirements apply to participate in the program:
- Must be the first DUI charge in 10 years;
- There were no serious bodily injuries or a death to any other person; and
- No passengers under the age of 14 were in the vehicle at the time of the offense.
Benefits of the ARD program include avoiding a jail sentence and shortening the length of a driver's license suspension. In addition, you can petition the court to have the criminal charges expunged or removed from your record upon successful completion of the ARD program.
Background checks have become a part of more employment and housing screening processes. For those who will be graduating from college and looking for jobs, competition is stiff. A DUI conviction might be all that separates two similarly situated candidates. The value of the ARD program is the expungement of the record will hopefully keep prospective employers or landlords from finding the criminal record in the future.
In order to participate in the Centre County ARD program, an application to participate in the ARD program must be filed on or before the preliminary hearing. A Centre County ARD applicant must also waive the right to a preliminary hearing, as well as the right to a speedy trial, right to file for discovery, and a relinquishment of the ability to file pre-trial motions. Many counties have similar time and waiver requirements with regard to ARD consideration and participation.
A consultation with an attorney is one way to determine whether you qualify for the ARD program and if that is the best course of action in resolving your DUI case. Following a DUI charge, you should contact a local DUI defense attorney to learn more about your rights.