Pennsylvania criticized for its drunk driving laws

Study says state's DUI laws need improvement.

Recently, a report by WalletHub examined drunk driving laws across the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The report indicated that Pennsylvania had the third least-strict laws in the country. Only South Dakota and the District of Columbia had laws that were more lax than those in Pennsylvania. Arizona was deemed to have the strictest DUI laws in the study.

Pennsylvania's rankings were hurt mainly due to its treatment of first time DUIs. For many of those convicted with DUI for the first time in the state, there is no jail time attached to the conviction. In contrast, Arizona has a 10-day jail sentence for first-time offenders.

Additionally, Pennsylvania was criticized for its lack of ignition interlock requirement for first-time offenders. The state only requires interlocks for those who have two or more DUI convictions. Legislation has been discussed that may make them mandatory for first-time offenders, but, this was not considered in the study.

Critics of the rankings feel that the researchers did not properly address Pennsylvania's tiered system of handling DUIs. The first-time offender's blood-alcohol content (BAC) will determine the penalties handed down. The higher the BAC, the more severe the penalties, and some of these offenders may even receive jail time, even for a first offense.

What does this mean for the future?

It is possible that some legislators could feel pressure to change some of these laws to make penalties more severe. First-time offenders could see jail time or might be required to install ignition interlock devices after a conviction. These changes would make it much more necessary to fight each and every DUI charge that a motorist receives.

At a minimum, these reports will probably lead to more DUI patrols on Pennsylvania roadways. Drivers can expect to see more police and more checkpoints, especially in locations where drunk driving is a major problem.

What you should do if you have been charged with DUI

You need to be sure that you understand your options. A DUI charge, even a first offense, still carries substantial penalties that will have a significant impact upon many different areas of your life. Your family will have to change schedules to make sure someone can drive you to work and pick you up at the end of the day if you lose your license. You could even lose your job in some circumstances if convicted.

Before you make any decisions about your case, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney will be able to review your case and determine the possible defenses that are available to you. This will allow you to protect your driving privileges and potentially lessen the consequences that you may be facing.

Each DUI conviction counts. Every offense only adds to the penalties you will receive. Do not take DUI charges lightly. Pleading guilty will only make your situation worse.