Motorcycle DUI Penalties

I haven’t written about the very important subject of driving under the influence (DUI) in a few years, but it is important to keep this subject in front of riders.

Pennsylvania motorcycle lawsGiven that riding season is finally in bloom, I want to touch on the topic of DWI/DUI as many riders will end up at destinations where alcohol is being served.   I want to inform all of you that the penalties for DUI/DWI are getting harsher and more expensive every year in Pennsylvania, and across the nation.

Though I have written on this in the past, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit merits renewed discussion.

The .08 blood alcohol content limit to drive in Pennsylvania means that just two beers (or drinks) in rapid succession will put us close to the limit, especially if not ingested with food.

Also keep in mind that two beers often leads to three or four, and that’s when we start getting into trouble with control of the bike, slowed reaction time, and bad decision making.

So. not only do the penalties for DUI seriously affect your lifestyle, but also the act of drinking and driving – even if you are not arrested for DUI. Any motorcycle accident has the potential to injure you for life.


Pennsylvania has been taking the goal of eliminating DUI very seriously since passing “Act 24” back in 2003. That Act drops the blood alcohol content limits and introduced alcohol treatment into the penalty packages for DWI/DUI offenses*.

The first time you are convicted for drunk driving in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania you will receive:

  • Six months probation and a $300 fine if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was between .08-.099 at time of arrest.
  • Two days to six months in prison, a $500-$5,000 fine and a 12 month drivers license suspension, if your BAC was from .10-.159.
  • Three days to six months in prison, a fine from $1,000-$5,000 and a 12 month drivers license suspension if your BAC was above .16 or detection of a controlled substance.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.

The second time you are convicted for a DUI in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania you will receive:

  • Second degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Five days to six months in prison and a fine between $300 and $2,500 if your BAC was between .08-.099. You will also receive a 12 month drivers license suspension.
  • 30 days to six months in prison, a $750-$5,000 fine and a 12 month drivers license suspension if your BAC was from .10-.159.
  • 90 days to five years in prison, a fine between $1,500 and $10,000 and a 18 month drivers license suspension if your BAC was above .16 or detection of a controlled substance.
  • Mandatory alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • You will be required to install an ignition interlock device (a.k.a. an ignition breathalyzer) on all of your vehicles for one year.

The 3rd time you are convicted for a DUI in Pennsylvania you will receive:

  • First degree misdemeanor charge.
  • 10 days to two years in prison and a fine between $500 to $5,000 and a 12 month drivers license suspension if your BAC was between .08 -.099 .
  • 90 days to five years in prison, a $1,500-$10,000 fine, and a 18 month drivers license suspension if your BAC was between .10 -.159.
  • If your BAC was above .16 or detection of a controlled substance, you will face one to five years in prison, a fine of $2,500 to $10,000 and a 18 month drivers license suspension.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • You will be required to install an ignition interlock device on all of your vehicles for one year.

For 4th and subsequent offenses you receive:

  • First degree misdemeanor charge.
  • Automatic license suspension for 18 months.
  • One to five years in prison.
  • Fine ranging from $1,500 to $10,000.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment.
  • Ignition Interlock system for one year.

Now I know that every one of you reading this column understands that if you are convicted of DWI/DUI, there are penalties.  However, experience has taught me that most of the public doesn’t understand how severe the penalties and license suspensions can be. 

Unlike most other criminal offenses, there is very little room to plea bargain on a DUI/DWI. Most states and our Commonwealth have mandatory fines, jail terms and license suspensions. 

As a result, many riders are very upset when they learn that they may lose their license for up to a year – even for a first offense.

Are you familiar with Implied Consent?

Pennsylvania has an “Implied Consent” law which means all drivers on Pennsylvania roadways agree to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine if a law enforcement officer suspects that they are under the influence of drugs, and/or alcohol.

So, you never want to refuse to submit to a roadside “sobriety” test. If you do, your drivers license will be suspended for one year on the first refusal.

That’s right, you are considered guilty of a DUI if you refuse a test.

Furthermore, each time you refuse this test the penalty will be increased. Thus refusal to submit to testing can result in harsher penalties than an actual DUI!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Also, be aware of the greater risk of motorcycle accident injury when riding after drinking. And guess what. You won’t have a leg to stand on in allocation of fault in a motorcycle accident claim when the insurance companies find out you were driving while under the influence.

Please be careful if you know you will be out drinking – a designated driver is always a great idea!

In my next article we’ll look at underage DUI!

I hope you find this information informative. I can be reached at 1-888-292-5352 (1-888-CYCLE-LAW).

*source: http://www.dmv.org/pa-pennsylvania/automotive-law/dui.php

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