Pennsylvania treats people driving under suspension differently depending on if the suspension is for Drunk Driving or refusing to take a breath or blood test for a DUI. Normally, a person driving while under suspension incurs a fine of $200.00 and an additional year of suspension on their license. There is normally no jail time unless done several times. However, if the suspension is for Drunk Driving the penalties increase drastically.
If a person’s license is suspended for a DUI conviction, or while on ARD (first time offender program), or for refusing to take a blood/breath test after an arrest for DUI, or for a DUI conviction in another state that person cannot drive for one year. And this suspension is in effect from the time of the conviction even if technically you are already under suspension for something else and the DUI suspension doesn’t start for over a year.
A person who drives while under the above suspension commits a summary offense. The penalty, however, is a $500.00 fine and a minimum of 60-90 days in jail (sometimes weekends or house arrest is available). You will also lose your license for another year. And if have alcohol of .02% or drugs in your system you will pay a fine of $1000.00 and do a minimum sentence of 90 days. A second offense for this crime is a misdemeanor of the third degree and calls for a fine of $2500.00 and 6 months in jail. A third offense brings 2 years in jail and a $5000.00 fine.
In order to prove a person guilty of this offense the state must prove the driver had actual notice of the suspension from PennDot. Merely mailing the notice may not be enough. However, if you move and don’t change your license address PennDot can mail the notice to your old address and that will be enough. Even if for some reason you did not know your license was suspended for some other reason that will not be enough. This offense is one of absolute liability. Even if you have an out-of-state license you cannot driver in Pennsylvania if under this state’s suspension.
Once the one year license suspension if up a driver still can’t drive until his license has been “restored” by PennDot. Usually this means sending in a form with a check for $25.00. However, one can’t start driving until properly notified by PennDot. However, if you are still under suspension for other reasons you will not be restored and these harsh penalties will still be in effect despite the end of that year’s suspension. And, if you never had a license you must apply for a license, obtain one (that will be immediately suspended) and then get it restored when all suspensions are done.
If you are suspended for any reason it is important to send in your license as soon as notified by PennDot (sometimes the court will take it from you in court). Your suspension time will not begin until PennDot receives the license. If you do not have a Pennsylvania license (or a license at all) there is a form that must be sent in to begin the suspension time. This form is your acknowledgement that you know your license is suspended. Not sending in the form or your license will not give you a defense to this charge. Then, when the end of the suspension is close, get a restoration letter from PennDot. This will tell you what you must do to get your license back.
If you are arrested for this offense it is imperative that you contact a lawyer immediately so he/she can better prepare your defense. Never plead guilty to driving under suspension or driving under suspension for a DUI until you have spoken to an experienced attorney such as myself.
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