Heeney & Associates P.C.
Phone: 215-262-8707 Fax: 610-302-3062
103 Grandview Road, Boyertown, PA 19512


Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do

By the time you read this, the holiday season will be over. The leftovers will be memories. Unwanted gifts will be returned. Those who celebrate the holidays with plant life will have already taken down their Christmas tree and be waiting for someone to haul it away. However, at the time this article is being drafted, the celebration of the New Year is upon us and one thing comes to mind. Not the glittering, bright ball of Times Square. But, the aftermath of a national holiday that encourages the consumption of alcohol: Driving Under the Influence. Or, as it is known under the new law in Pennsylvania: Driving After Imbibing Alcohol or Utilizing Drugs.

Most people are aware that the new law has lowered the necessary blood-alcohol level to 0.08%. However, most people are not aware of the rest of this statute and the consequences of violating it. Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, section 3802 divides offenders into one of three categories dependant on their blood-alcohol level at the time of their arrest. The first category is for those possessing a BAC of at least 0.08%, but less than 0.10%. These offenders are those with “general impairment.” The second category is of those possessing a BAC of at least 0.10%, but less than 0.16%. These offenders are said to have a “high rate of alcohol.” The last category is of those possessing a BAC of at least 0.16% or higher. These people are said to have the “highest rate of alcohol.” Note that the rates for minors and commercial or school vehicle drivers are far lower.

Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, section 3804 tells you what happens if you are caught driving with a BAC that exceeds the legal limit. The severity of a conviction depends on how many previous arrests you have for driving after imbibing and your BAC. For example, those in the first category of BAC (“general impairment”), a first offense can mean up to six months of probation, a $300 fine, drug and alcohol treatment, and alcohol highway safety school attendance. Don’t forget that you’ll be paying probation supervision fees and court costs on top of the fine. Bet on shelling out $1,000 by the time you’re done. Luckily, your license won’t be suspended because of the violation alone (though keep in mind that many DAI stops involve other traffic violations and you may be subject to a license suspension because of the points accrued from them). If it is your third offense within the past ten years and your BAC was over 0.16%, you will be incarcerated at least one year (up to five years), you will pay a minimum fine of $2,500 (again, not counting court costs, supervision fees, etc.), and be compelled to undergo drug and alcohol treatment. You also lose your license for 18 months.

This article is meant to inform, not judge. People must be aware of the possible legal consequences before they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. People must also be aware of the real consequences of DAI. The scenarios involving vehicles and alcohol are endless if one has a vivid imagination. For some DAI offenders, a twelve month license suspension is tantamount to losing their jobs. For other DAI offenders, the alcohol and suspension of license is the least of their worries, because they struck and injured others in the course of driving after imbibing. And others are never tried in court, because they did not survive their own motor vehicle accidents.

While this article is not meant to preach, it does have a moral: Don’t Do What I Wouldn’t Do. And I wouldn’t drink if I didn’t have a designated driver already committed to staying sober. Having represented those who were charged with DAI, I do know that I never want to sit in their shoes or deal with any of the negative consequences, whether it be probation or worse. Cheers!

DISCLAIMER: This column is a service providing only general legal advice. The information is not meant to be acted upon without proper legal assistance. As with all such matters of the law, anyone requiring legal help is strongly encouraged to seek the aid of an attorney.

Copyright 2014 Heeney & Associates, a Boyertown, PA Law Firm.