The 9 Types of DUI Charges: How Serious Is Your Drunk Driving Case in Pennsylvania?

A Driving Under the Influence charge can happen to anyone and the majority of people who find themselves in this situation have no prior criminal history of any kind. In Pennsylvania, however, there are actually nine (9) types of DUI charges based on the circumstances surrounding the person’s arrest. You can and people often are charged with more than one DUI offense. DUI is codified under Title 75 Section 3802 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. In addition to DUI, this Title also covers other types of vehicle offenses having to do with driver’s licenses, registrations, and moving violations.

While most motor vehicle violations are graded as summary offenses, DUI is normally graded as an ungraded misdemeanor but there are situations where DUI is graded as a misdemeanor of the second or first degree for repeat offenders. There are nine (9) types of DUI charges and they are as follows:

  1. Section 3802(a)(1) – incapable of safe driving due to alcohol; no accident; no refusal.
  2. Section 3802(a)(2) – adult driver with a BAC of .08 to .099 within two (2) hours after driving.
  3. Section 3802(a)(1) – incapable of safe driving due to alcohol with accident resulting in bodily injury or damage to property.
  4. Section 3802(b) – adult driver with a BAC of .10 – .159 within two (2) hours after driving
  5. Section 3802(c) – adult driver with BAC of .16+ within two (2) hours after driving
  6. Section 3802(d) – driving under the influence of controlled substances
  7. Section 3802(e) – a minor driving under the influence with a BAC of .02+ within two (2) hours after driving.
  8. Section 3802(f) – commercial/school vehicle driver with a BAC of .04+(commercial vehicle or BAC of .02+ (school vehicle)
  9. Section 3802(a)(1) – Refusing a blood or breathalyzer test.

The lowest tier DUI offense section 3802(a)(1) without accident, won’t result in any license suspension but the highest tier, section 3802(c) and section 3802(d), will result in three(3) days in jail, and twelve (12) month license suspension for a first time offender.  All DUIs, regardless of the severity, may be eligible for ARD but ARD is a program reserved for people with no prior criminal history and obviously no other DUI offenses. ARD is a discretionary program and it’s not unusual for a DA’s Office to reject a person for the ARD Program even if the person has no prior criminal convictions but prior arrests.

Even if you are eligible for ARD, however, your criminal defense lawyer should evaluate your case to determine if the prosecution can establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with regards to all elements of a DUI offense. All DUI charges require that the prosecution prove that a person was actually driving the car at the time of the incident and while this may sometimes be obvious there are situations where police are called if the person is out of the vehicle at a time of their arrival. In addition to this element, the DA must also prove impairment.

It is important to remember that DUI, unlike many criminal offenses in Pennsylvania, has mandatory minimum sentence requirements.  Prior to going to trial on a DUI, your attorney may file Motions to Suppress Evidence in an attempt to exclude the results from the Breathalyzer or blood test from the criminal case against you. If the motion is granted the prosecution won’t be able to prove the more severe sections of the DUI statute but only maybe the less severe sections (3802(a)(1). A Motion to Suppress is therefore a strong defense tool and your attorney should consider it prior to proceeding to trial.

A Motion to Suppress questions whether police had reasonable suspicion or probable cause to initiate a DUI stop or arrest. It’s based on the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1 Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Even if the motion isn’t granted it still is a good opportunity for the defense to challenge the evidence against you and assist with establishing reasonable doubt in your case.  The DUI statute is complicated and for more information I encourage you to read my book, 5 Ways to Fight & Win Your Pennsylvania DUI Case, watch my videos, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.