Motorists that drive impaired because of alcohol or drugs are one of the leading causes of accidents and fatalities in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28% of all traffic deaths were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers alone. Marijuana use was involved in 16% of all accidents. Whether you are at fault for causing an accident while driving impaired or were struck by a drunk driver in a crash, there’s a lot to know and consider about Pennsylvania DUI and DWI accidents DUI AND DWI Accidents Overviews
A DUI/DWI accident occurs when one, or both, parties are under the influence of any illicit substances (marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, etc.), or are over the legal BAC (blood alcohol content/concentration level of .08%, and cause an accident. These accidents and the resulting case and punishments have primarily to do with the intoxication level of the at-fault driver(s). For example, if the driver’s BAC is very high or there was a severe injury/death caused by their carelessness, some states will charge a felony DUI with reasonable jail time. Conversely, if the accident is minor and it is a first DUI/DWI offense for the driver, they may only have to pay small fines and damages.
Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause After an Accident
During an accident, an arriving officer may decide to hold motorists and even issue a field sobriety test temporarily. Also if both drivers are sober, the accident gives the officer enough reasonable suspicion to measure a driver’s possible impairment. After a field sobriety test, the officer may then decide to issue a BAC test, which can lead to enough probable cause to make an initial arrest for driving drunk.
Pennsylvania DUI Penalties and Laws
Pennsylvania DUI penalties work on a tier system that looks at the driver’s BAC level and whether the driver has any prior DUI offenses. For BAC levels,Pennsylvania uses a tier system that breaks down each BAC range into its level. The higher the BAC, the more severe the penalties.
- .08% – .099%
- .1% – .159%
- Over .16%
Common PA DUI/DWI penalties based on the number of prior offenses *:
|Penalty||Offense 1||Offense 2||Offense 3|
|Minimum Jail Time||6 Months Probation (no jail time) or 2 days to 6 months||Five days to 5 years||Ten days to 5 years|
|Fines||$300 to $5,000||$300 to $5,000||$500 to $10,000|
|License Suspension||None to 1 year with the possibility of a restricted license after 60 days||One year to 1.5 years||One year to 1.5 years|
|Interlock Ignition DeviceRequired||No**||Yes, one year||Yes, one year|
* It’s important to note that the figures provided in this chart are not definite and can vary. They are also subject to laws changing. The statistics we’ve provided are common penalties to give you a reasonable expectation of the type of fines and other obstacles you could be facing.
** Pennsylvania has an implied consent law regarding chemical testing for DUI charges. This means that you are required to submit to a breathalyzer. Refusal to take the chemical test will result in a license suspension and a required IID (interlock ignition device), even for your first offense.
The reason that many of the penalties for PA DUIs vary so much is it is dependent on your BAC level. For example, if it is your first offense and your BAC is between .08% and .99% (tier 1), you’ll face very minimal penalties (no jail time, $300 file and little-or-no license suspension. But, if your BAC is in a much higher tier, then you’ll be looking at a more severe penalty like a longer jail sentence, heftier fine, and automatic license suspension.
Pennsylvania also has stricter “acceptable” BAC limits for individuals under the age of 21 and those driving a commercial vehicle.
- Drivers under the age of 21 have a BAC limit of .02%
- Commercial vehicle operators have a BAC limit of .04%
Some states allow you to plead guilty for a “wet reckless” charge, especially for first offenders. This is a reckless driving involving alcohol charge that carries slightly less weight than a DUI. Many first offenders opt to plead guilty for a wet reckless to avoid having a DUI on their record. Pennsylvania has a state statute that prevents the wet reckless plea.
Negligence and Causation For DUI Accidents
In any accident case, you not only have to determine the at-fault driver, but you also have to provide evidence of whether or not that individual acted negligently, and that the accident was caused as a result of that negligence. Negligent behavior in automotive accidents is anything that breaches the assumed duty of care for all drivers. We are all tasked with driving safely and responsibly and within the laws and rules of the road. When an accident occurs, negligence is assigned to the party that acted in a way that breached this proper, safe conduct.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a drunk driver, negligence is typically very easy to prove because their BAC level is ideal evidence that supports your case that they acted in a way that broke the ordinary duty of care. However, drunk driving negligence is not always directly linked to causation.
To explain, let’s pretend that Driver A is stopped at a red light. Her BAC is over the legal .08% limit. The light turns green, and she proceeds through the intersection. Driver B is sober, but runs his red light and strikes the vehicle of Driver A. Even though Driver A technically acted negligently by being above the legal intoxication level; her actions did not cause the accident. She may still face state penalties for her DUI, but Driver B cannot reclaim and damages for the incident. On the other hand, Driver A may be able to supply enough evidence to demonstrate B’s negligent behavior in running the red light, which lead to the cause of the accident and then claim damages.
Why You Need A Lawyer After A DUI/DWI Accident
The right DUI accident attorney is essential, whether a drunk driver has hit you or you struck another driver while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
For an at-fault, drunk or high driver, the right DUI lawyer can better guarantee that you face lighter penalties and can argue on your behalf too, possibly lessening the damages owed as a result of the accident.
Victims of DUI/DWI accidents that were not the intoxicated party want to contact the right Pennsylvania accident attorney because drunk driving accidents can be incredibly severe and even fatal. If you have been injured, as the result of a DUI accident, or an immediate family member or spouse has been killed by a drunk driver, you want to be certain you recover the maximum amount in damages from the at-fault driver.
Damages associated with DUI accidents can include:
- Property damages: this is commonly the damages done to your vehicle, but if a DUI accident occurs on your property, you could also assess property damages for a broken fence, ruined landscaping, etc.
- Medical Expenses: again, DUI/DWI accidents can be very severe; you may have thousands of dollars worth of medical expenses that you do not want to be left paying for
- Loss Of Wages: if your injuries from the accident caused you to miss work, the negligent, at-fault party should be held accountable to pay you for your lost income
- Pain And Suffering: these are physical and emotional pains/sufferings caused as a result of the accident; these are harder to define than the previous damages. A jury will typically decide how much you are awarded in pain and suffering damages. That said, the amount they reward can be significantly impacted by your DUI accident attorney’s ability to showcase how the accident has negatively impacted your quality of life since the incident
- Punitive Damages: drunk drivers that caused an accident may also have to pay punitive damages, mainly if someone was severely or fatally injured
If you’ve been the victim of a DUI accident in Philadelphia, you don’t want to delay seeking damages for your DUI accident, especially once medical bills start to add up or you’re losing income. If you are in the hospital, as a result of your injuries, the best DUI accident lawyers, like the team at the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky, will be willing to meet you at the hospital to discuss your case.