Is it Worth it to Hire a DUI Attorney Even if My BAC Was Over the Legal Limit?

If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), you may be wondering whether it is worth it to hire a DUI attorney, especially if your chemical blood alcohol content (BAC) levels were determined to be above the legal limit. 

Even if you believe the state’s case against you is strong, with the right criminal defense attorney on your side, you may be able to clear your name of the charges against you or get them reduced to a less serious offense. For that reason, if you find yourself facing drunk driving charges, it is almost always in your best interests to hire a powerful DUI lawyer who can help you craft a strategic defense.

When You Can Be Charged With A DUI in Pennsylvania

Driving under the influence is one of the most common types of criminal charges across the state. Generally, if you are operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, or are in control of a vehicle, with a blood alcohol content found to be a level that reaches or exceeds .08%, you can be charged with drunk driving. You may face additional sentencing enhancements and penalties if your BAC levels exceed .10% according to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Law enforcement officials must have just cause to stop your vehicle. This means police cannot stop you for simply looking like someone who may be committing a criminal offense. You do not necessarily need to be driving erratically for the police to stop you. If you have a taillight out, fail to use a signal, or give them any other valid reason to conduct a traffic stop, then they have probable cause.

If police notice open bottles, smell alcohol, or see that your eyes are bloodshot, they may begin to suspect you are driving under the influence. If this is the case, police may ask you to complete a field sobriety test. Keep in mind you are under no legal obligation to agree to a field sobriety test. 

However, if law enforcement officials ask you to submit to a chemical blood alcohol test or breathalyzer, according to 75 Pa. C.S. § 1547(a), you must agree since Pennsylvania has implied consent laws. If you do not agree to a breath or blood alcohol test, you will be found in violation of the Commonwealth’s implied consent laws, which could carry a mandatory minimum one-year suspension of your driver’s license, even if you are ultimately acquitted of the DUI charges against you.

The Legal Limit Under PA Law

The prosecutor must show that the elements of the offense have been met for the jury to convict you. The legal BAC limit for motorists who have a standard driver’s license is .08%. 

However, those who hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are held to a higher standard. The legal limit for CDL holders is .04%, even if the commercial driver is not working at the time of the traffic stop according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Commercial Driver’s Manual. Drivers of school buses and vehicles, and individuals under the age of 21 cannot have a BAC level that exceeds .02%.

The Penalties Exceeding the BAC Limit 

If your BAC was over the legal limit, the criminal penalties associated with a conviction will vary depending on how high your BAC levels were and what the legal limit is based on your driver classification. For example, those who have a legal BAC limit of .02% (school bus drivers and underage drivers) could face:

  • Suspension of their driver’s license for three months
  • Fines of up to $5,000
  • Up to 48 hours in jail
  • Completion of an alcohol treatment program
  • Completion of an alcohol safety school program

CDL holders who are found to have BAC levels over .04% will face more serious penalties than someone who has a traditional driver’s license. Those with commercial driver’s licenses could face fines up to $5,000, have their driver’s license suspended for up to 12 months, and spend up to six months in prison if convicted.

Motorists convicted of a first-time DUI offense, with a BAC level of more than .08% but less than .1% will not have their driver’s licenses suspended. They will also be fined up to $300 but spend no time in jail. Instead, offenders can be placed on probation for up to six months. These penalties increase with the number of convictions and elevated BAC levels. Second-time offenders with BAC levels of less than .1% could spend up to six months in jail, have their driver’s licenses suspended for up to one year, and pay up to $2,500 in fines.

The Benefits of Having a DUI Attorney on Your Side 

Working with a DUI lawyer to clear your name of the charges against you is almost always in your best interest. Your criminal defense attorney will be responsible for helping you understand the potential consequences if you are found guilty.

More than that, we can help you build a powerful defense. We may be able to question the validity of the breathalyzer results, challenge forensic evidence that was mishandled by laboratory officials, or introduce additional mitigating evidence that could get your DUI charges reduced to a less severe offense or dismissed altogether.

If you qualify for an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program, you may be able to avoid harsh criminal penalties. With ARD programs, the prosecutor agrees to negotiate for less severe penalties or dismiss the case entirely if you fulfill the terms of the ARD program. You may need to pay fines or restitution, attend meetings with a probation officer, find employment, or even complete an alcohol treatment program to satisfy the program requirements. If you do not fulfill these requirements, the district attorney is more likely to move forward with the original DUI charges against you.

Consult a High-Powered DUI Attorney Today

While BAC test results may seem like concrete evidence of your guilt, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol to secure a conviction. If we can introduce evidence that introduces reasonable doubt, you have a strong chance of winning at trial or securing a plea agreement. 

Do not rely on a public defender who may not have access to the resources you need to secure the most favorable outcome possible based on the circumstances of your case. Trust in an experienced DUI lawyer from Bonner Law Firm to safeguard your future. Fill out our confidential contact form or call us to schedule your initial consultation as soon as today.