When a motorist attempts to operate a vehicle while under the intoxicating effects of either alcohol or drugs, they might not be fit to do so. Inebriation can slow a person’s reactions, make them sluggish and even impair their decision-making ability. This is why Pennsylvania and other U.S. states charge intoxicated drivers with driving under the influence (DUI), because they’re a danger to themselves and others on the road.
It’s one thing to face DUI charges, but what if an officer cites you after your intoxicated driving led you to collide with another vehicle? Per state law, you could face enhanced penalties for causing damage due to your DUI.
Damage to vehicle or other property
According to Pennsylvania law, any individual who violates the state’s DUI laws and causes an accident resulting in damage to a vehicle or other property commits a misdemeanor. For a conviction of DUI while causing vehicular or property damage, a person faces up to six months of jail time plus a $300 fine (if it’s their first DUI offense). This is the same penalty for a conviction for a regular DUI.
However, if the person had two prior DUI offenses, a DUI while causing vehicular/property damage is instead a misdemeanor of the first degree. The offense is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and $10,000 in fines on conviction.
By comparison, a person charged with regular DUI with two prior offenses commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, which is a lower criminal grade than a first-degree misdemeanor.
Because the enhanced penalties for a DUI with property damage trigger when the offender has at least two prior offenses, the driver can potentially serve consecutive sentences if their violations occur one after the other.
In summary, causing damage while driving under the influence can lead to enhanced penalties – but these penalties are more apparent when the offender has two or more prior convictions. If you caused damage with your latest DUI and you have a record of drunk driving, consider consulting a legal professional. You’ll want to plan your defense in court unless you plan to serve consecutive sentences.