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What Parents Need to Know About DWI and DUI

Cocktail Lesson at Infusion Bar

All states have enhanced their statutes concerning impaired driving and, in many cases, have designated a difference in how the charges are assessed. Some states do not make the distinction, but still file charges in a similar manner. The difference often is based on driving under the influence of controlled substances. The level of punishment is also enhanced, as in states like Pennsylvania.

For instance, anyone charged with a DWI in Pennsylvania should always retain an effective criminal defense attorney because of the potential impact of an impaired driving conviction. Though the fourth conviction is not a felony, like in many other states, the punishment for all offenders can be extensive and the blood alcohol content levels are assessed at .02 for individuals under the age of 21 or driving a commercial vehicle and .08 as the state standard. The terms are practically interchangeable in all states.


Driving-while-intoxicated normally refers to simple charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, the first offense does not include suspension of driving privileges. The same is not true for multiple offenders. Both second and third offenses will result in an automatic suspension period of one year. In most states, the first offense carries a 30-day suspension of driving privileges while the defendant attends a verified alcoholic driver education program.

Even though there are no additional drug charges, a DWI can be much harsher than a DUI because states have used a tiered approach to the charges. The minimum blood alcohol content level is .08 for the state to assume the driver is intoxicated. The level of .10 enhances the charge and the level of .16 is classified as an aggravated charge and carries a tougher punishment in terms of incarceration and fine. The court has upward jurisdictional latitude, but the minimums are set by the statute. Court power to reduce the charges have been impeded.


Driving-under-the-influence has a much broader application to the particular offense. The arresting officer can request a blood test for other possible intoxicants, which can be problematic if the driver is also under the influence of controlled substances. Though the blood system can be assessed as clear in a short time frame for many drugs, marijuana is an example of the type of drug that stays in the body system for up to 30 days.

Testing positive for marijuana can also result in additional possession charges in some courts and establishes a criminal drug history for the defendant. For this reason, many potential defendants refuse the test, which can result in automatic license suspension on the first charge. This can also require retaining an experienced attorney in order to limit the damage from prosecution. There is essentially no way for the court to establish an intoxication level from a controlled substance test. Results are either positive or negative, so charges are usually simple misdemeanors.

Some states do not designate DUI or DWI as a felony unless there are additional charges. Other states have made the fourth offense an automatic determination by grand jury indictment as to whether the case should be pursued as a felony. Felonious driving-under- the-influence convictions normally carry an incarceration period of one to five years in a state facility, but most drivers with previously clean driving histories are eligible for probation. However, it is a qualified privilege and normally does not happen without experienced and effective representation that understands how to build a case that is acceptable to the court for a potential plea bargain.

Pennsylvania is undoubtedly one of the strictest states when it comes to DUI and DWI enforcement. Penalties for these charges are sometimes far more harsh than those related to some violent crimes. This makes it necessary for anyone charged with a DWI in Pennsylvania to get legal help to avoid these detrimental repercussions. 

A paralegal who stays on top of the latest DUI and DWI laws, Kelly Kovacic writes articles to keep parents informed. As was mentioned, the consequences of DWI charges can be devastating. If your son or daughter is facing these charges, Attorney Steven E. Kellis has the expertise and years of experience to protect their rights and and help them reclaim their life.



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