If you are convicted for a first-time DUI below a .10% BAC in Pennsylvania, you will face significant penalties with long-term consequences for your life (not the least of which is skyrocketing insurance rates and the reputational damage of a criminal record for drunk driving), but you will likely not have to serve time in jail. But when another person is injured or killed in an automobile accident for which you are charged for a DUI, the outcome can be far different, with the potential for a felony record and years in state prison.
Pennsylvania’s Aggravated Assault by Vehicle DUI Law
Under Pennsylvania state law, when a driver “negligently causes serious bodily injury to another person as the result” of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she can be convicted of a second-degree felony. The penalty for a second-degree felony includes a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years behind bars.
As discussed in other posts, Pennsylvania does not require that a person have registered a .08% BAC to be considered to have illegally driven under the influence. While that BAC reading will be sufficient to establish illegal behavior, prosecutors in Pennsylvania can also bring DUI charges where it can be established that the driver had imbibed “sufficient amount of alcohol such that the individual is rendered incapable of safely driving.”
Thus, any car accident in which a person is seriously injured (whether a passenger in the driver’s own car, a passenger or driver in another car, or a pedestrian or bicyclist) and a driver was found to be under the influence of alcohol could invite a felony prosecution with the potential for up to a decade behind bars.
Pennsylvania’s Homicide by Vehicle DUI Law
As its name suggest, the Pennsylvania “Homicide by vehicle while driving under influence” law (Section 3735 of the Pennsylvania state code) covers situation in which a person is killed as a result of a driver driving while under the influence of alcohol. As with the serious injury by vehicle law, a conviction under this section is also considered a second-degree felony with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Unlike the serious injury law, however, the homicide law imposes a mandatory minimum of three years in prison for every fatality caused by the driver’s intoxicated driving.
Presenting Your Best Defense in a DUI-related Felony Charge
While these criminal penalties are strict and should be taken very seriously, there are numerous strategies that an experienced DUI defense attorney can pursue in defending your interests.
Keep in mind that prosecutors must prove every aspect of a DUI felony charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that not only must a defendant’s impairment by alcohol or drugs be proven beyond a reasonable doubt but also the causal connection between any injury or death and the alleged impairment. Car accidents are frequently caused by any number of reasons other than impairment by a driver, and an experienced DUI defense attorney can present evidence which calls into question the alleged causal connection.
Furthermore, an experienced DUI attorney can work with prosecutors and present arguments to the court in favor of a mitigation of charges and/or a reduction in potential sentences and penalties. Speak to a Pennsylvania DUI attorney about your situation.
Speak with a PA DUI Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., in Montgomery County, we are committed to defending your rights. Call us today for a free consultation with a PA criminal defense attorney today regarding your DUI arrest.