DUI vs DWI in Pennsylvania
Getting arrested is never fun, especially for drunk driving. Anyone looking in their rear-view mirror and seeing flashing lights after a night out knows that they might be in serious trouble.
If they have been pulled over and had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher or appeared to be impaired by drug use, which was proven after a blood test, they were likely charged with a DUI or DWI.
What’s the Difference Between DUI and DWI?
DUI stands for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and DWI stands for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. While for practical purposes there is no difference, the name changes depending on the state you’re in.
Nationwide, there are subtle distinctions, but the standards are all very much in line with each other.
What Constitutes a DUI or DWI?
For someone to be charged with a DUI or DWI, their blood alcohol concentration (the BAC) needs to be 0.08 percent or higher. The process starts with a test, an arrest, and then sentencing.
Levels of Impairment
Sentencing is dependent on the level of the DUI, ranked based on the blood alcohol concentration level. The three levels are:
- General impairment
- High blood alcohol concentration
- Highest blood alcohol concentration
General impairment is defined as .08 percent up to .099 percent BAC.
High BAC ranges from .10 percent up to .159 BAC.
The highest BAC includes anything from .16 percent or higher. Sentencing guidelines become strict in every state at the highest BAC level of impairment.
Pennsylvania DUI drug laws are different for first-time offenders and underage drivers. It’s important to be aware of the Zero Tolerance Law. This law means that there are serious consequences for those under the legal drinking age of 21 who drive with any amount of measurable alcohol in their blood.
While blood alcohol concentration is a common measurement for a DWI or DUI, if the driver is impaired by drugs, most of the consequences are the same, but what changes are the arresting procedures.
Since the breath test can be conducted to test for alcohol but not for drugs, a blood test must be done, usually after the arrest. The officer needs to have the suspicion that the driver is impaired, which is why they pulled them over in the first place.
A driver can be charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania if there is a schedule one controlled substance found in the driver’s blood. If there is any metabolite of a schedule one substance in the driver’s blood or the driver appears under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree that impairs their ability to drive safely, they can also be charged.
A metabolite of a substance is like a chemical signature that a drug was present even if the drug is not still in their system.
There are many nuances to how a DUI may be charged, which may be dependent on a first-time DUI offense or a second or subsequent offense. They also often hinge on the three tiers of charges based on the three levels of DUI from blood alcohol concentration level.
There are also minimum sentencing standards and guidelines that the court is required to follow. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation handles the driver’s license implications, sometimes taking them away or suspending the driver’s license in some cases if a driver is charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
The accused must be an active participant in the defense of those charges.
If you need to understand your DWI or your DUI charges or need a DUI lawyer in Pennsylvania who can fight for you, it’s time to call us for a free consultation.