School Bus Driver Drops Off Kids, Charged With DUI
Posted in General on January 12, 2015
While people may not think that they could be charged with DUI for riding a bike or horse while intoxicated, most people would just be appalled to find out that some bus drivers are charged with driving under the influence while transporting children. A 42-year-old bus driver near Chicago dropped the children off at school, at which point a school employee smelled the odor of alcohol on the woman’s breath. The police were contacted, arrived at the school, administered field sobriety tests, and then arrested the bus driver for suspicion of DUI.
Driving Under the Influence Charge for Driving a Bus While Drunk
Almost everyone knows that the legal limit for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is .08%, but some people do not realize that the legal limit is much lower for minors or if the driver is operating a bus or commercial vehicle. Under Pennsylvania law, a person can be charged with DUI under 75 Pa.C.S.A. 3802(f)(1)(ii) if the alcohol concentration is .02% or greater within two hours of driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of the movement of a school bus or school vehicle. I am sure that most parents believe that a bus driver should be charged with a DUI if they have any alcohol in their system, but the law only allows for DUI charges for the relatively low level of .02%. However, I suspect that if a bus company finds out that a driver had any level of alcohol in his or her system, the driver would be fired.
Pennsylvania DUI Penalties
Pennsylvania DUI penalties are broken down into three levels, and those three levels are primarily based upon blood alcohol levels. You may expect that driving a bus while drunk would fall into the highest level of penalties, but the DUI charge only falls into the middle range of penalties. Yet another example of the Pennsylvania legislature doing something that doesn’t make sense.
The DUI law was relatively recently changed to somewhat increase driving under the influence penalties if there was a passenger under the age of 18 in the car. Normally, a first offense of DUI is an ungraded misdemeanor, but, under 75 Pa.C.S.A. 3803, having a minor passenger increases the grading to a first-degree misdemeanor. Normally, for a first-offense DUI in the middle level of penalties, a person faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 48 hours incarceration, $500.00 fine, and a 12-month suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges. Under the sentencing enhancement for a DUI with a minor passenger, the penalties for a first offense increase to a minimum of $1,000.00 fine and 100 hours of community service. Not much of an enhancement or increase.
It should also be noted that the penalties referenced are only mandatory minimums, which means that a judge could impose a more severe sentence when deemed appropriate. A judge could believe that driving a busload of kids while under the influence warrants a more severe punishment than the mandatory sentences. I also want to take the time to thank the Centre Hall and Penns Valley bus drivers that safely deliver my kids home from school every day.