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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: April 1, 2011
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The federal government and individual states decided some years ago to beef up their efforts against drunk driving. To that end, many states have enacted tougher laws to prevent driving under the influence (DUI), as well as stronger punishments.

Implied Consent

The laws and rules pertaining to receiving a driver’s license in Philadelphia contain an Implied Consent clause. This clause states that any person who is legally operating a motor vehicle within Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania has agreed to submit to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test if one is requested by an officer of the law who has suspicion that the driver is DUI.

Refusing The BAC Test

Pennsylvania law states that anyone who refuses a BAC test can lose the legal privilege to drive for a minimum of 12 months. The 12 months of suspension applies to the person’s first refusal to submit to the test. If the person is stopped again by a police officer under the suspicion of DUI, and refuses the test again, the suspension period rises significantly.

The burden of proof in this type of case is lower than for a criminal charge and is easier to demonstrate. An experienced Philadelphia DUI attorney will usually inform a client it is in that person’s best interest to comply with the test, if it is specifically requested by law enforcement officials.

Losing A Driver’s License For DUI

Philadelphia and PennDOT will begin two separate actions for the same person after being arrested for a DUI and refusal. One case is a criminal case prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office resulting in possible prison time, fines, license suspension, and highway safety school. The other case is a civil case involving the person’s driver’s license.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) will oversee the civil case regarding the license suspension for the refusal. An appeal of PennDOT’s decision to suspend can be filed in the court of common pleas.

Possible Penalties

A PennDOT agent will look at two items to make a judgment about the length of the person’s license suspension. The first item will be the person’s BAC from the test administered by the officer or the refusal. The second item will be the person’s previous record, if any exists. The following chart explains how these items determine a person’s punishment.

BAC Level Offense Punishment
BAC between .08 and .10 First Offense Possible to keep license
BAC between .08 and .10 Second offense or higher License suspended for 12 months
BAC between .10 and .16 First offense License suspended for 12 months
BAC between .10 and .16 Second offense License suspended for 12 months
BAC between .10 and .16 Third offense License suspended for 18 months
BAC higher than .16 First offense License suspended for 12 months
BAC higher than .16 Second offense or higher License suspended for 18 months

Driving With A Suspended License

Although a person may have a driving suspension, it may be possible to continue driving. Pennsylvania has allowed some DUI defendants to obtain an occupational limited license (OLL) that allows them to drive on a limited basis. This option is for two classes of people; first time offenders or people with an 18-month suspension for a first-degree misdemeanor with no more than one prior DUI conviction.

For the people that have committed their first DUI offense, they must first complete the initial 60 days of their 12 month license suspension term. Prior to the expiration of 60 days, a petition for the OLL can be submitted to PennDOT.

For the people that have the higher BAC and have been notified that their licenses will be suspended for 18 months, they will have to wait until the first 12 months of their suspension is finished before they can request an OLL. In addition, these people must agree to have an interlock mechanism placed on their automobiles.

Avoiding License Suspension

People that have been arrested on their first DUI offense may be able to avoid a license suspension altogether. There is a program known as the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) that allows people to keep their driving privileges. A municipal court judge in Philadelphia must approve the District Attorney’s request for the defendant to be admitted to this program. It usually consists of a highway safety school, as well as a probation period of one year.


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