Drug and Alcohol Laws in the State of Pennsylvania

Drug and Alcohol Laws in the State of Pennsylvania

It does not matter if you live in Pennsylvania full-time, or are just passing through; either way, knowing the drug and alcohol laws is important.

The most common questions about substance abuse laws in PA are about marijuana and driving under the influence.

Marijuana laws change rapidly across the country. What is legal in one state may mean years in prison just next door. Additionally, while alcohol is legal in all 50 states, DUI laws vary a lot.

Keep reading to find answers about the most common questions related to substance abuse in PA:

DUI Laws in Pennsylvania

PA changed its DUI laws in 2004. The new law lowered the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) of drivers from .10% to .08%.

You can get a DUI in PA if you are:

  • Operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher.
  • In control of a vehicle but your driving ability is impaired by drugs or alcohol.

PA has 3 levels of DUI enforcement, based on a driver’s actual BAC.

Zero Tolerance Laws for Pennsylvania

PA has a zero-tolerance law for underage drinking and driving. Anyone under the age of 21 cannot legally get behind the wheel of a car with a BAC of .02% or higher. For most people, this means that even one drink is too many.

In addition, PA’s laws about underage drinking might affect your driver’s license even if you were not drinking and driving. People convicted for underage drinking can have their license taken away for 90 days, even if they are not driving at the time.

Is Marijuana Legal in Pennsylvania?

Marijuana is still illegal in PA. The state is lagging behind many other states, as decriminalization and legalization of the drug become more common.

Any amount of possession, sale, or transporting of marijuana in PA is illegal. The only caveat is medical marijuana.

PA recently passed a law making marijuana legal for medical use. Lawmakers are currently trying to push a bill to legalize recreational pot, but that does not change the current laws.

Drug and Alcohol-Related Crimes

Drug crimes in Pennsylvania include:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs.
  • Possessing illegal drugs.
  • Selling illegal drugs.
  • Making illegal drugs.

Alcohol-related crimes in Pennsylvania include:

  • Drinking and driving.
  • Selling alcohol to people who are underage.
  • Attempting to buy alcohol while underage.
  • Driving with an open container of alcohol within reach.

Penalties for Drug or Alcohol Abuse in Pennsylvania

Breaking PA’s drug and alcohol laws will result in penalties. These penalties are outlined below:

DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania

DUI penalties in PA vary based on the BAC of the driver and whether they have had any previous DUIs.

‘General Impairment’ Penalties (.08 – .099% BAC)

People who get a DUI with a BAC between .08 and .099 will face the following penalties depending on how many previous DUIs they have had:

  • Up to 2 years in prison.
  • Up to $5,000 fine.
  • Alcohol treatment.
  • Up to one-year license suspension.
  • Up to 1-year ignition interlock (must use a breathalyzer to start the car).

‘High BAC’ Penalties (.10 – .159% BAC)

  • Up to 5 years in prison.
  • Up to a 10,000$ fine.
  • Alcohol treatment.
  • Up to 18 months license suspension.
  • 1-year ignition interlock.

‘Highest BAC’ Penalties (.16% or higher)

  • Up to 5 years in prison.
  • Up to a 10,000$ fine.
  • Alcohol treatment.
  • Up to 18 months license suspension.
  • 1-year ignition interlock.

Keep in mind that people getting their first, or even second DUI offense in Pennsylvania are unlikely to be given the maximum penalty. Still, these penalties give you an idea of how serious a DUI can be.

Zero Tolerance Penalties in Pennsylvania

If you get a DUI in Pennsylvania and you are under the age of 21, you will face the following consequences:

  • 12 to 18-month license suspension.
  • 48 hours – 6 months in jail.
  • $500-$5,000 fine.

Remember: Any minor who is caught consuming, possessing, or transporting alcohol could face penalties including up to a two-year license suspension if multiple offenses have occurred.

Cannabis Penalties in Pennsylvania

Recreational pot is still illegal in PA. Here are the penalties:


If you have marijuana in your possession in Pennsylvania, you could face charges.

  • 30 grams or less: 30 days in jail and/or $500 fine.
  • Over 30 grams: 1 year in jail and/or $5,000 fine for a first offense. 3 years and/or $25,000 fine for later offenses.


Selling marijuana of any amount has serious penalties in Pennsylvania:

  • 30 grams or less: 30 days in jail and/or $500 fine.
  • Over 30 grams: Felony charge, 2.5-5 years in jail, $15,000 fine.

Get Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Pennsylvania

If you’re researching laws and penalties for drug and alcohol crimes, it might be time to get help. Luckily, Pennsylvania is home to many quality treatment centers. Call Spring Hill Recovery today to see how you can start your path to recovery and turn your life around.

Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team

Edited on: March 29, 2023

©2023 Spring Hill Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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