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Can I be charged with a crime if my BAC is below the legal limit?

Many Pennsylvanians will drink alcohol at special occasions such as holidays or weddings. Some even choose to drink alcohol on a more regular basis, for example, at happy hour following the workday. In either case, most Pennsylvanians will make sure they do not drive drunk. They will either not become intoxicated in the first place, or they will make alternate arrangements for getting home, such as riding with a designated driver or hailing a taxi cab. However, instances of drunk driving do occur.

Pennsylvanians may already know that it is illegal for a person to drive if their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or greater. This is known as "per se" driving under the influence, which means that no further evidence is needed to convict the motorist of DUI. However, a motorist in Pennsylvania could also be convicted of DUI even if their BAC is below 0.08 percent if there is sufficient evidence to show that the motorist had consumed alcohol and, because of that, was incapable of driving safely.

The penalties that follow a DUI conviction depend on how many prior DUI offenses a motorist has and their BAC level. In general, the penalties will be stricter for those who have one or more prior DUI offenses on their record, or if their BAC is greater than 0.10 percent. For example, a first-time DUI with a BAC of 0.08 is an ungraded misdemeanor. However, if a motorist's BAC measures 0.08 and the motorist has two or more DUI offenses on their record, this is a second-degree misdemeanor. And, if a motorist has two or more DUI offenses on their record and has a BAC of 0.10 percent, this is a first-degree misdemeanor.

As this shows, drunk driving is not tolerated in Pennsylvania, even if a motorist's BAC is below the legal limit in certain circumstances. The penalties for DUI can include fines, the possible suspension of the motorist's driver's license and even potential jail time. These penalties could change the course of a person's life forever. Therefore, motorists who have been charged with DUI will want to ensure they understand all their legal options, so they can make informed decisions regarding their defense.

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Butler, PA 16001

Phone: 412-342-8000
Fax: 724-284-9402
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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 724-602-4583
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