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Tougher Pennsylvania DUI Laws Ineffective at Reducing Drunk Driving

When Pennsylvania lowered its legal alcohol limit from .10 to .08 in 2003, the expectation was that the stricter driving under the influence law would act as a deterrent, resulting in safer streets, fewer fatalities and fewer arrests for intoxicated driving. Additional changes in Pennsylvania DUI law mandated longer jail times for repeat offenders. 

Unfortunately, the stricter laws have had a less powerful effect than anticipated. Much of this is due to problems with the penalty system, as well as a lack of enforcement. Pennsylvania is one of only nine states that don’t suspend the driver’s license of someone who fails a sobriety test right away — there must first be a conviction. But securing a conviction is quite difficult when offenders don’t show up for court dates, and police do not issue warrants for the arrest of fugitive drunk drivers with much haste. In other words, it’s entirely possible for someone to be pulled over, fail a sobriety test, skip out on their court date, keep driving with a valid license and repeat the cycle a number of times without consequence. 

In the event of a conviction, Pennsylvania also hasn’t taken full advantage of ignition interlock devices, which help prevent convicted intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel after drinking. Fortunately, this may change soon, pending passage of a House bill. 

The system in Pennsylvania has its share of problems. However, there are alternatives that might help the state reduce its drunk driving problem. For example, adopting a drug court model has a better shot of reducing recidivism and repeated criminal offenses. By focusing less on punishment than on rehabilitation, this system could ultimately have a better effect on offenders and communities alike. 

Despite the problems with the way the laws have turned out, a DUI charge in Pennsylvania is still a very serious matter, and if you’re facing such a charge, you will need to have a Pennsylvania lawyer in your corner with experience defending clients accused of DUI. Contact the Law Office of David R. Eshelman for the support you need.

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