Do All Pennsylvania DUI Convictions Lead To Jail Time and A Criminal Record?
Interviewer: In Pennsylvania DUI cases, what factors determine mandatory jail time?
Ellis: Jail time basically goes by how high your blood level is and how many prior DUIs you had in the last 10 years. They call it a “10 year look back period,” where they pull your rap sheet to see whether or not you have been in trouble before.
You basically go from a couple of days in jail, if it is a first offense and you are found guilty; to a couple of months in jail if it is a second offense. Then, if it is a third or more, you get a minimum of one year in jail. License suspension is mandatory, and it is very difficult to get a work license or a bread and butter license.
We are not just talking about jail time. We are talking about license suspensions. We are talking about people losing their jobs ultimately, if they cannot get to work. We are also talking about people having a criminal record.
In Pennsylvania, you cannot expunge a conviction until you hit age 70. Pretty much your whole life, you would have a criminal record and a rap sheet.
Interviewer: In Pennsylvania DUI cases, does the court ever show mercy?
Ellis: I do not like mandatory sentencing because discretion is taken away. The legislature is basically saying, “This is what you have to give this person.”
As far as the mercy rule, the judge has to give a minimum sentence. He can give more. A lot of times, clients who have multiple priors sometimes are throwing themselves on the mercy of the court not to get any more than the minimum; or to try to get house arrest versus jail time.
However, as far as mandatories, the judge’s hands are tied. They do not like their hands tied. However, that is the way the law is right now.