Getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Pennsylvania can have serious consequences. This is true regardless of whether you are under 21. In Pennsylvania, DUI is a serious crime, and underage “zero tolerance” DUI cases are treated like DUIs involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10%.

A DUI during college can lead to fines, jail time, and other criminal consequences, impacting your academic and post-college careers. DUI arrests can lead to disciplinary action in many cases, and prospective employers will consider your DUI arrest when deciding whether to extend an offer of employment.

What You Need to Know When Facing a DUI as a College Student in Pennsylvania

With this in mind, there is a lot you need to know when facing a DUI as a college student in Pennsylvania. For example:

1. Underage Drunk Drivers Do Not Get a “Free Pass”

If you are under 21, you cannot expect to get a “free pass” for a DUI. While some states have relatively lenient underage DUI laws, Pennsylvania is not one of these states. If you are between the ages of 18 and 21, you will be tried as an adult, and even if you are being charged under Pennsylvania’s “zero tolerance” statute, you can still face the same penalties as someone arrested with a much higher BAC.

Additionally, judges in Pennsylvania take DUI cases very seriously. Driving under the influence is dangerous—not only for drunk drivers and their passengers but also for other motorists and pedestrians. The judge will not go easy on you, and if you do not prepare an effective defense, you can expect to face substantial criminal penalties in court.

2. Pennsylvania’s DUI Penalties Are Substantial

Regardless of whether you are a full-time Pennsylvania resident or attending college from out of state, you can be convicted and sentenced under the Commonwealth’s DUI laws. These laws impose substantial penalties, which increase the higher your BAC.

With that said, if you are under 21, you face the same penalties as someone of age with a BAC of 0.10% at the time of their arrest. This is true whether your BAC was 0.10% or 0.02% percent.

  • Underage “Zero Tolerance” (0.02% or above BAC) DUI Penalties – Up to six months of jail time, a $5,000 fine, and a 12-month driver’s license suspension
  • 21 or Over with a BAC of 0.080% to 0.099% – Six months of probation and a $300 fine
  • 21 or Over with a BAC of 0.100% to 0.159% – Up to six months of jail time, a $5,000 fine, and a 12-month driver’s license suspension
  • 21 or Over with a BAC of 0.16% or Above – Up to six months of jail time (72 hours minimum), a $5,000 fine, and a 12-month driver’s license suspension

Remember, these are the penalties for first-time offenders in cases that do not involve aggravating factors. If you have a prior DUI conviction, caused an accident, or had a minor in your vehicle, the consequences of a conviction could be far more significant. In all cases, DUI arrests can lead to several other costs.

3. A DUI Arrest During College Can Also Have Academic and Career Consequences

If you get arrested for DUI while in college, you can also face disciplinary action by your school. While different schools’ disciplinary rules vary, potential consequences can range from mandatory alcohol education to loss of scholarships and financial aid and potentially even suspension or expulsion. Since colleges’ standards for imposing academic discipline differ from those that apply in criminal court, you can potentially face these consequences even if you can avoid a DUI conviction.

Regardless of whether you face disciplinary action at school, a DUI arrest can also negatively impact your career prospects after graduation. Your arrest will go on your record, and prospective employers who conduct a background check will see that you have been arrested for drunk driving.

4. You May Qualify for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)

If this is your first DUI arrest, you may qualify to participate in Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. If you qualify for ARD, you can resolve your DUI case without a conviction—and without a permanent stain on your criminal record.

When entering the ARD program, you must undergo alcohol counseling, perform community service, and meet specific requirements. However, if you complete these requirements successfully, your DUI case will not be prosecuted. Additionally, upon successfully completing the program, you will be eligible to file for expungement, meaning that your DUI arrest will be wiped from your public criminal record. Once this happens, prospective employers will no longer see your arrest when conducting background checks (though your arrest record will still be available to the police and prosecutors).

5. You May Have a Variety of DUI Defenses Available

Regardless of whether you qualify for Pennsylvania’s ARD program, you may have a variety of DUI defenses available. Some of these defenses may allow you to seek a favorable plea deal, while others may entitle you to have your DUI charge dismissed entirely. For example, depending on the facts of your case, some of the defenses you may have available include:

  • Violation of your Fourth Amendment rights (unlawful traffic stop or DUI arrest)
  • Unreliable breath test or field sobriety test (FST) results
  • You weren’t driving under the influence
  • You weren’t in “actual physical control” of a vehicle
  • Inadequate evidence to prove your DUI beyond a reasonable doubt

Discuss Your Pennsylvania DUI Case with Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman

If you are facing a DUI as a college student in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact us promptly to discuss your case in confidence. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with DUI defense lawyer Brian Fishman, call 267-758-2228 or tell us how we can reach you online today.