“But I need my car for work…” — DUI License Suspensions in Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties and the Availability of Occupational Limited Licenses

First time DUI offenders often wonder if their driver’s license will be suspended and, if so, how they will manage to get to work.

Because people are so dependent on their vehicles, this is a major concern for those faced with DUI charges. In fact, many of our clients are actually more concerned about their potential driver’s license suspensions than going to jail. If you find yourself facing DUI charges, you should probably start to consider alternative transportation arrangements.Pennsylvania DUI law has a three-tiered punishment system based on the offender’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the time of the offense. Punishment is also dependent upon the number of DUI offenses previously committed.

If you are a first time offender convicted of a DUI offense with a BAC of less than .10%, there is no mandatory license suspension.

If, however, you are a first time offender with a BAC of .10% or above you will have your driver’s license suspended. The length of  license suspensions depends on both your BAC and whether you are approved for an “Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition” Program.

Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties all offer first-time offenders potential admission to Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) programs. Eligibility for the Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia County programs vary slightly and an attorney at our firm can help you to understand their individual terms and conditions. An offender may wonder how participation in an ARD program will affect a mandatory driver’s license suspension, if at all.

The ARD program is a pre-trial intervention program that is designed to divert first-time, non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system. By statute, however, the ARD program must adhere to certain dictates. For example, a person in the program must serve 6-24 months of nonreporting probation and will have to successfully complete the Alcohol Highway Safety School and undergo a Court Reporting Network (CRN) drug and alcohol evaluation. A significant benefit of participating in the ARD program is that once the program is successfully completed, the underlying criminal charges are legally dismissed.

Another benefit of ARD programs is that the length of the mandatory license suspension is significantly reduced.

As stated earlier, if your BAC is less than .10%, there is no license suspension. If you enter the ARD program as a first-time offender with a BAC of between .10% and .159%, there is a 30-day mandatory driver’s license suspension. Those offenders with a BAC of above .159% are subject to a 60-day suspension. For those not eligible or approved for an ARD program, the length of the driver’s license suspension for BACs equal to or greater than .10% is 12 months.

The driver’s license suspension generally commences upon court approval of your entry into the ARD program and the surrender of your driver’s license. Clients who face a mandatory license suspension often ask whether they can get permission to drive for work, despite the mandatory suspension. If you are approved for the ARD program and are subject to a 30 or 60 day suspension, the answer is no. Pennsylvania does grant occupational limited licenses under certain circumstances. You must apply for this restricted license by application to the court. However, occupational limited licenses may only be granted 60 days after your original suspension.

Therefore, occupational limited licenses are not a solution for those in the ARD program.

This is because a driver’s license suspensions are between 30 and 60 days for those eligible for ARD programs with BACs .10 or greater, and the minimum suspension for an occupational driver’s license is 60 days. Consequently, if your BAC was above .10%, one of the first things you should begin to think about upon your DUI arrest is “how will I get to work?”