While you may be living in and licensed to drive in Pennsylvania, you may not always be driving in state. This presents an interesting issue if you are arrested for an out of state DUI. How will you be punished? Will Pennsylvania find out about the DUI? Will your license be suspended? It is important that you understand PA DUI laws and what exactly is going to happen if you are convicted for an out of state DUI.
Out of State DUI: Process and Procedure
Depending on what state you are arrested in, the actual DUI process is generally very similar to Pennsylvania. You are pulled over, the officer may or may not conduct a field sobriety tests, you are arrested and brought to the police station or medical center for chemical testing, and then you are released later after sobering-up.
After being released you are given a court date and must go through that state’s criminal case process. Depending on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and if it was your first DUI offense, you may be admitted to a probationary program in lieu of an actual sentence, or you may simply be found guilty or innocent of your DUI offense after an actual trial. If you have pled guilty, are found guilty, or admitted to any pretrial diversionary program, this is viewed as a “conviction” by Pennsylvania. Now, you may be asking yourself, “what does it matter how Pennsylvania views my out-of-state DUI?”
Driver License Compact
The Driver License Compact (DLC) is an interstate compact used by the vast majority of states with the purpose of exchanging information concerning license suspensions and traffic violations of non-residents. Under this compact, states have an obligation to inform other states when one of their residents are convicted of a serious traffic violation outside of their home state, i.e. DUI offenses. The term “conviction” becomes very relevant in the respect, as the “home” state will only be notified if you are convicted out of state. The home state would treat the offense as if it had been committed at home, applying local state laws to the DUI offense.
There is no exact time frame in which the home state must be notified, but once they are alerted of your out of state DUI, you will receive a notice in the mail if any action is to be taken on you by your home state, typically within 4-6 weeks from the date of your conviction. At this stage, the question lawyers are frequently asked is, “will my license be suspended?”
License Suspensions for DUI
It is important to understand that license suspensions are not technically given by the court as a penalty for DUI offenses. It is actually an administrative penalty given by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, PennDOT.
Under Pennsylvania law, license suspensions are mandatory for any subsequent DUI offenses (no matter what your BAC was) and for first offenses if your BAC was .10% or above. However, if your BAC was less than .10% and it was your first DUI offense, there is no mandatory license suspension period. This is relevant to the topic of out of state DUI convictions, since under the current law as applied by PennDOT, if you receive an DUI, no matter what your BAC was, PennDOT treats this as if your BAC was under .10%. What does this mean? This means that there will be no suspension if a Pennsylvania resident does not have any prior DUI convictions (including a guilty conviction, acceptance into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, or any preliminary disposition) within 10 years from the out-of-state DUI.
The Pennsylvania legislature and PennDOT’s current application of the laws are intended to give first-time DUI offenders a break. This does not mean that your driving privileges won’t be suspended in the state in which you committed the DUI offense, but your Pennsylvania license will not be suspended. However, if you are applying for a new license in Pennsylvania while your driving privileges are currently suspended in an outside state, PennDOT has the ability to deny your application until your suspension is completed in the outside state.
PA DUI laws regarding out of state convictions may seem confusing but they are easy to navigate with the help of legal professionals. Remember, if you are facing DUI charges there are options that may allow you to avoid license suspension and time served. Contact The Martin Law Firm to find out your legal options.
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