Just about everyone gets nervous when a patrol car turns on its lights and sirens behind them. If this was your first encounter with police, you were more than likely anxious. When the officer approached your vehicle, you may have wondered whether the wine, beer or other spirits that you had before getting behind the wheel would come back to haunt you.
The officer believed that enough evidence existed that you were driving under the influence and arrested you. Now, you face charges. Since this is the first time you have faced DUI charges, you may have options. Some of them have been part of Pennsylvania law for a significant amount of time, but others are new.
First, the criminal charges
When it comes to the criminal charges, you may be eligible for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, which is a diversionary program. If you successfully complete this 12-month program, the court may dismiss the charges against you and possibly even expunge them from your record. That is, if it's not possible to get the charges dismissed due to some other circumstance, such as a false positive on your breath test.
Second, the administrative penalties
In most cases, the arrest for DUI is enough for you to lose your license for a time. However, a new Pennsylvania law that went into effect this year could allow you to keep your license if your blood alcohol concentration was .10 or above in a first offense. You could have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle for a minimum of one year and receive a restricted license that allows you to drive to work. Prior to the passage of the law, only repeat offenders had the option of using such a device to be able to drive.
You would be responsible for all costs associated with the installation, maintenance and monthly fees (which run about $100 per month). A PennDOT-approved mechanic must install the device. Your vehicle will not start if it detects alcohol on your breath. You can try again after approximately five minutes, but if the machine still detects alcohol, your vehicle won't start for at least 30 minutes.
Third, the legal process
Avoiding a conviction and keeping your license under these programs may not necessarily be an easy process. You may have a better chance at entering into ARD and keeping your license with an attorney on your side advocating for you.