Second Offense DUI

The punishments for DUI offenses are designed to discourage people from repeating them, but they also include various chances for offenders to turn their lives around.

Unfortunately, that mostly applies to first-time offenders. By the time someone is facing charges for a second offense, DUI penalties are much stiffer. At that point, the state has less interest in rehabilitation and more interest in punishment. The following is what you should know if facing charges for a second offense DUI.

Pennsylvania DUI Laws

How Penalties Are Determined

Several factors are taken into account when judges determine penalties for defendants. The first factor is whether the defendant has any previous DUI convictions within the past 10 years in Pennsylvania or any other state.

Another important factor is how high the defendant’s BAC was at the time of the offense. Your BAC puts you into one of three tiers: General impairment (.08 to .099%), High BAC (.10 to .159%), or Highest BAC (.16% or higher). Higher tiers result in higher penalties. And if you refuse a breath test, you will usually be subject to the highest penalties.

Finally, other factors affect penalties in specific circumstances. For example, minors and commercial vehicle drivers face different penalties than the average driver.

Penalties for Second Offense DUI

Even though penalties in DUI sentencing can vary significantly, most offenders of a second offense DUI will face specific penalties.

Jail Time

Unfortunately, a second offense DUI comes with mandatory jail time. At general impairment, your sentence can be anywhere from five days to six months. If you are convicted at the highest BAC, you will face between 90 days and five years in prison.


At the lowest tier of impairment, a judge will fine you between $300 and $2,500 for a second offense DUI. That maximum fine jumps to $5,000 at the next tier and $10,000 at the top tier.

License Suspension

Your license will automatically be suspended for one year upon conviction of a second offense DUI. If you were convicted at the highest BAC, that suspension is extended to 18 months.

Ignition Interlock Device

Furthermore, restoration of your license isn’t automatic after a second offense DUI. Before you get your license restored, you must install an interlock ignition device on a vehicle for one year, at your expense. If you can’t or won’t, your suspension is effectively indefinite.

Alcohol Highway Safety School

As part of your sentence, you must enroll in and complete a PA alcohol highway safety school course. These usually cost a few hundred dollars and you are required to pay for them out of pocket.

Possible Alcohol Treatment Program

Finally, the judge may require you to enroll in and complete an alcohol treatment program, again at your expense. In many cases, enrollment in this program can be a way to avoid higher jail time or fines.

Legal Representation

It can’t be understated how important it is to hire a good DUI defense lawyer if you are arrested for a second offense DUI. By the time you are facing a second offense, most prosecutors and judges have little sympathy and are willing to throw the book at you to get you off the road.

A good attorney also ensures your rights are protected. Police and prosecutors may attempt to get you to incriminate yourself or attempt to use inappropriately obtained evidence. Your lawyer will prevent those violations of your rights.

Defense Strategies

Typically, your lawyer wants to avoid a trial, if at all possible. This can be done in a few ways.

The preferable way is for your lawyer to find that the prosecutor or the police committed some legal error that will cause the judge to dismiss your case. For example, if the police were using faulty equipment to determine your BAC, your lawyer might be able to get that evidence thrown out, leaving the prosecution without a case.

Alternatively, your lawyer will attempt to negotiate a plea deal. Prosecutors are usually less willing to negotiate in a second offense, but they still prefer a win to chancing a trial. 

Typically, your lawyer will try to minimize your jail time and fines. They may also be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce to a lower-tier impairment, which means you can avoid a first-degree misdemeanor on your record.

ARD Program

The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program is a pre-trial intervention program in PA designed to allow first-time offenders to avoid potential jail time and a longer license suspension. Additionally, it saves money for the state, which makes it beneficial for all parties involved.

Defendants accepted to this program don’t admit to the charges and are placed on supervision for up to one year. If they complete the program, their case is expunged after the DUI is dismissed. However, if they don’t comply, they will be removed from the program and go to trial.

Eligibility With a Second Offense DUI

Unfortunately, only first-time offenders are eligible for this program. If you are facing a second offense DUI, it is too late to take advantage of it.

Alcohol Highway Safety School and Treatment Programs

According to the Alcohol Addiction Center, roughly 30% of DUIs are second offenses or later. This suggests that many DUIs are committed by people who may have some form of addiction to alcohol.

You may not think you are an alcoholic. But if you are facing a second offense DUI, you may have some form of addiction. A treatment program might help you turn your life around and avoid future DUIs.

Treatment Programs

While a judge can order a treatment program, it isn’t mandatory after a second offense DUI.

Treatment programs aren’t easy, but they can be effective. It will typically take several weeks to complete. During the program, you will learn to understand your addiction, how to avoid it, and how it harmed you and others.

Typically, successful completion of a treatment program will help limit jail time, fines, or both. However, this means that if you don’t finish the program, you may face harsh penalties for leaving it.

Alcohol Highway Safety School

As a second-time offender, you will be ordered to complete alcohol highway safety school. This is not the same as a treatment program. While it will provide you with information that will help you avoid getting into DUIs in the future, it won’t help you stop drinking alcohol more than you should.

Homicide by Vehicle While DUI and Other Serious Offenses

All of the consequences of a second offense DUI discussed so far assume that you didn’t hurt anyone or cause any property damage while committing the DUI.

If you commit other crimes or cause an accident while committing a DUI, you will face much more serious consequences.

DUI-Related Homicide by Vehicle

The most serious charge you can face is a DUI-related homicide by vehicle. This means that you killed someone due to drunk driving.

This charge is a second-degree felony that carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.

Aggravated Assault While DUI

Similarly, if you don’t kill someone but only hurt them, you will face aggravated assault while DUI charges. This charge is also a second-degree felony, which means it carries the same potential penalties as the previous charge. 

However, you are less likely to get the maximum sentence in this case. It is just worth knowing that PA treats this charge as seriously as it treats homicide due to a DUI.

Consult an Experienced DUI Lawyer About Your Case Today

By the time you are facing a second offense DUI, you are facing jail time. And unlike with a first-time offense, there are no diversion programs that can prevent the charge from going on your record. Either your lawyer gets the charges dismissed or you will face serious consequences.

This is why you have to be as diligent as possible when choosing a DUI lawyer after a second offense DUI. The wrong lawyer will possibly result in years of jail time.

At McCormick & Vilushis LLC, we have years of experience helping defendants get the best sentence possible. Contact our law firm today to learn more about your legal options.

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