A driver’s license suspension, however, is not only a criminal penalty, but a civil one, which PENNDOT can impose, regardless of any criminal proceeding.

Alfonso Gambone
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A Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer representing accused persons throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Our criminal defense law firm in Philadelphia frequently represents individuals charged with crimes where a conviction will result in an automatic driver’s license suspension. Normally, these offenses pertain to drunk driving (driving under the influence—DUI), along with convictions for drug offenses in the Commonwealth. In my previous blogs I have often discussed the length of a driver license suspensions upon a conviction for DUI (12-18 months depending upon the severity) and 6 months for drug convictions. It is important to keep in mind that license suspensions based on multiple convictions are never run concurrently (at the same time) and are always consecutive sentences. In other PENNDOT isn’t going to cut you a break if you’re convicted of DUI, a subsequent or contemporaneous drug offense or some other traffic offense like drag racing (a summary offense).

5 Year License Suspension

While a DUI conviction (exception 3208 (A)(1), without accident and no refusal), will result in a driver’s license suspension, first time offenders are usually offered the ARD program, which limits that suspension to 30-60 days in most cases. The ARD actually allows a person to avoid a suspension entirely if their BAC is below .10 and a 60 day suspension is reserved for cases where a person’s BAC is .16 or higher (highest tier DUI—3802(C)).

A driver’s license suspension, however, is not only a criminal penalty, but a civil one, which the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) can impose, regardless of any criminal proceeding.   One of these situations is where PennDot's revoke’s a habitual offender’s driver’s license under section 1542 (Title 75—Pennsylvania Vehicle Code). Under the section, PennDot can suspend a “habitual offender” if the driver has accumulated 3 convictions from separate acts for any of the offenses listed below.

What vehicle code violation will result in an automatic driver license suspension in Pennsylvania?

  1. Any violation from Chapter 38 of PA’s vehicle code (Title 75) relating to drunk driving or what is also known as imbibing alcohol or using drugs (can be Misdemeanor or Felony Offenses);
  2. Any violation of Section 1543 (B) (1.1), relating to driving while operating privileges are suspended or revoke (summary offense);
  3. Violation of Section 3367 relating to racing on the highway, AKA drag racing (summary offense);
  4. Violation of Section of 3742 relating to accident involving death or personal injury (can be Misdemeanor or Felony Offenses);
  5. Violations Section 3743 relating to accidents involving damage to attended vehicle or property (Misdemeanor Offenses);.
  6. Violation of Section 3736 - reckless driving (Summary Offense)

How an arrest which doesn’t result in criminal conviction could still mean a license suspension?

Under PA’s vehicle code, PennDot can and will consider arrests that don’t result in criminal convictions under the drug driving statute (Chapter 38). This means, PennDot will consider ARD as a conviction for the purposes of this section of the driving code. This is extremely important because many people, and even lawyers who don’t normally practice criminal defense work, consider ARD as “a get out of jail free card” and often fail to consider a person’s overall driving history when considering the possibility of ARD. There is a difference between a criminal record and a driving record and offenses like driving while on a suspended or revoked license, in most situation wouldn’t prohibited a person from being eligible for the ARD program. Accepting ARD however, could result in this 5 year license suspension if the ARD acceptance triggered the 5 year suspension (2 previous suspension mandated offense violations in the list stated above).

Even if you’re approved for ARD, tell your criminal defense lawyer everything about your driving history!

If you’re charged with drunk driving and you have previous convictions for DUI or other offenses (misdemeanor or felonies), you will not be eligible for ARD. Even if you aren’t eligible for ARD, it is very important that you are up front and honest with your criminal offense lawyer about any previous traffic violations so that he can determine if a plea deal is worth accepting. There are situations where it is necessary to go to trial, even if there is a favorable plea deal. The 5 year license suspension possibility is one of those reasons. For more information please call our law firm and consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter.  Finally, remember that suspended driving privileges could follow you if you are out of state driver in New Jersey.  Read my article on this topic as well my article about reckless driving in the Garden State.

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