Let’s say you’re out driving one night after a couple of drinks with friends. You’re not completely intoxicated, but you feel enough of a buzz that it’s making you worried about an officer potentially pulling you over.
While driving through town, you spy from a distance a patrol car. Because you want to avoid a traffic stop – and perhaps due to your lowered inhibitions from drinking – you turn off your vehicle’s lights on a whim to prevent the officer from seeing your license plate in the dark as you drive by.
But your plan backfires since a car driving around with its lights off at night is highly suspicious. The patrol car signals you to pull over. After roadside testing reveals that your blood alcohol content (BAC) level somehow didn’t hit the 0.08% mark to warrant a charge of driving under the influence (DUI), the officer still cites you for another charge – driving without your lights.
What is this traffic offense, and what are the penalties you face on conviction?
Avoiding identification is an offense
Per Pennsylvania law, a driver who operates their vehicle with the lights off or has no lights to avoid identification or arrest can be charged with driving without lights to avoid identification or arrest.
This can also apply to cases where no officers are around, but drivers are still being monitored. For instance, if you turn off your vehicle’s lights to prevent a speed trap from identifying your car, an officer can later charge you for the offense.
Penalties for driving in the dark
If you’re convicted of driving without lights to avoid identification or arrest, you’ll get a summary offense on record. A court will also order you to pay a $200 fine.
However, if you’re charged for a second or subsequent offense, a court can sentence you to serve a maximum six-month imprisonment term and pay up to $1,000 in fines.
In summary, turning off your car’s lights to avoid police attention is a traffic offense. It may not be as severe as actual traffic-related crimes like DUI, but you’ll still want to contest the charge in court to avoid a summary offense listed on your criminal record.