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Driving drunk in the state of Pennsylvania is never a good idea, and since the state underwent an overhaul of its DUI (Driving Under the Influence) penalties in 2004, convicted drivers face even harsher consequences. The state has developed three tiers of fines and penalties that apply to drivers convicted of driving with a specific blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit. In addition to more severe penalties for those with a higher BAC when arrested, a DUI will stay on a driver’s record for 10 years, which will have a substantial impact on car insurance rates.
Basic DUI laws for the State of Pennsylvania
The state of Pennsylvania does not allow operation of a motor vehicle by any driver with .08 percent BAC or higher. Pennsylvania limits commercial drivers to a legal BAC limit of .04 percent, and minors is subject to the no tolerance law. This nationwide law prohibits minors from diving with a .02 percent or higher BAC. Pennsylvania laws also cover marijuana, cocaine and other controlled substances such as inhalants.
Pennsylvania also enforces the implied consent law, meaning drivers suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs have agreed to undergo a breath, blood or urine test by accepting their driver’s license and the driving privilege that comes with it.
Penalties Associated With A DUI in Pennsylvania
The state has broken penalties into tiers, based on the subject’s BAC at the time of his arrest. The lowest penalty level starts with .08 percent, which is the legal limit in all states. Drivers with a BAC from .01 percent to .159 percent will receive higher penalties, and subjects with BAC of .16 and above will receive the most severe penalties.
For a first-time offender, penalties include jail time from a possible six months of probation to six months of jail time for the first two tiers of BAC violation. For the highest BAC tier, jail time ranges from three days to six months. Fines range from $300 for the lowest BAC tier to $5,000 for the highest tier.
A first-time offender in the lowest BAC tier receives no license suspension. For second and third-tier BAC convictions, however, first-time offenders will lose their license for 12 months. In addition, third-tier offenders will have a requirement to attend an alcohol highway safety school, and may need to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Both second and third-tier convicted drivers may get a restricted license for commuting to work, after 60 days of suspension.
First-offenders who tamper with an installed ignition interlock device or get caught driving without it will have the required interlock period extended for another 12 months. Second and subsequent offenders will lose their license for 12 months, and will need to keep the interlock device for another 12 months after regaining their license.
SR-22 Requirements in the State of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not require the SR-22 form for drivers who have a DUI conviction. However, individuals who relocate to Pennsylvania with an SR-22 requirement from a previous state of residence still need to maintain the policy for the mandated time period without a lapse.
Pennsylvania participates in the Driver’s License Compact (DLC), an interstate agreement to share out-of-state driving violations with a driver’s home state. A driver who gets convicted of a DUI in another state will receive sanctions as if the offense had taken place in Pennsylvania.
Effects of a DUI on the Cost of Car Insurance
Car insurance premiums will increase as soon as a driver receives any kind of penalty on his driving record, even for just one point on a minor speeding ticket. Once a driver receives a DUI conviction, her driving history will reflect the DUI for 10 years. If she has not committed any other offenses, the state will completely clear the conviction from her record.
The perceived risk of a driver accounts for a substantial amount of the risk profile that underlies insurance premiums, and individuals with a DUI conviction fall into the high-risk driver category, which makes insurance harder to find, especially at affordable rates. Retaining an attorney to work on reducing or eliminating penalties and fines, and possibly getting a reduced conviction instead of a DUI may help reduce insurance rates. Additionally, drivers need to shop around for insurance at several different companies, since every insurer uses its own proprietary methods to calculate policy premiums. Even in the high-risk policy category, substantial price differences will exist between insurance company quotes, so it is well worth the time to shop around.
Pennsylvania Car Insurance Companies for High-Risk Drivers
When looking for auto insurance as a driver who falls under the high-risk category, it helps to look for insurers who handle “non-standard” policies. “Non-standard” insurance covers any type of drivers who find it very tough to get affordable coverage, if they can get coverage at all. Due to a more competitive insurance industry and tougher drunk-driving laws, the non-standard insurance industry has experienced a lot of growth and many new insurers now specialize in this type of coverage exclusively.
Another option is an assigned-risk policy, which many know as the “insurance of last resort.” This coverage fills in for those who cannot find insurance anywhere else, and since the state mandates coverage, it provides this as the answer for those people. Unfortunately, assigned risk insurance costs a lot. Again, shopping around to get quotes from as many non-standard insurance companies as possible is key, since they compete for business and rates do vary substantially based on many other factors besides a DUI conviction, such as prior good driving history, state of residence, other drivers in the household, age, gender and type of car driven. The General Car Insurance Company, AIS Insurance and Progressive Insurance are just a few of the companies that offer non-traditional insurance and provide free, quick quotes online.