Driver License Compact: Pennsylvania and Out of State DUIs (New Jersey, New York, Delaware)

Driver License CompactA common question from clients is “if I was convicted of Driving under the Influence (DUI) in a different state can Pennsylvania (PennDOT) suspend my driver’s license?” This is an important issue because the Commonwealth shares borders with the following states:

  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
  • Delaware
  • Maryland

While all of these states can obviously suspend your driving privileges within their borders for DUI, most people can adjust their driving destinations so that the suspension has no real effect on their driving capabilities. If you think about it, most people travel to states like New Jersey and New York for a week at the shore or to see some other tourist attraction for the day. Business travelers are the exception, but an Occupational Limited License for a specific state can also assist with a person’s ability to drive for work purposes only.

Pennsylvania does recognize out of state DUI convictions because the Commonwealth is one of 46 member states who have joined a Driver Licenses Compact (DLC). The DLC is an interstate agreement between states which was created to promote highway safety and traffic law obedience between member states. Under it, if a person is convicted of a DUI in New Jersey or New York (for example) those jurisdictions will report the conviction to Pennsylvania which the Commonwealth will then recognize. Pennsylvania, however, won’t suspend a person’s driver’s license because of an out-of-state DUI conviction if it’s the person’s first actual DUI. This means that the person can’t have any type of ARD – DUIs within PA or similar type non-trial/plea alternative programs in other member states.

If it is really the person’s first DUI, Pennsylvania will treat it as a violation of Section 3802(a)(2) prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle with the blood content of at least .08 but less than .10. This offense doesn’t carry a license suspension in the Commonwealth.

If you’re convicted of a DUI in another state, it’s important that you don’t try to hide it from Pennsylvania during a driver license application. While Pennsylvania won’t suspend a driver’s license for a first time DUI defense outside of its borders, PennDOT does have the ability to cancel your driver’s license if they later learn that you failed to truthfully answer questions on their driver’s license application question pertaining to offenses and suspensions in other states.

Pennsylvania will also consider an out of state DUI conviction as a first offense if the prior conviction is more than 10 years old. The Commonwealth will treat any out of state DUI conviction the same regardless of your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level but additional criminal charges (vehicular homicide, substantial property damage, substantial physical injuries to another driver) may cause a suspension. The DLC not only recognizes DUIs but any felony type offense or other crime (manslaughter, negligent homicide) committed while operating a motor vehicle while in that state. Pennsylvania, however, like, Maryland and New York, doesn’t assess traffic points for minor moving violations (speeding, stop signs) outside of the Commonwealth. The following states aren’t members of the DLC:

  • Massachusetts
  • Georgia
  • Wisconsin
  • Tennessee

For more information on drunk driving charges and defenses, I encourage you to read the second of my book—5 Ways to Fight & Win Your Pennsylvania DUI Case.

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