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Calls Increase for Pennsylvania to Toughen DUI Laws

Pennsylvania’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws have been the subject of criticism for some time. Many consider the laws to be too lenient on offenders and point to some of the following statistics as evidence of that:

  • Every year, there are 12,300 crashes caused by impaired drivers, resulting in an average of 9,000 injuries and 333 deaths (averages over a 10-year span).
  • More than 10,000 people were convicted of a second or subsequent DUI in 2016.
  • Repeat DUI offenders are responsible for about 40 percent of all DUI fatalities in Pennsylvania.
  • Between 70,000 and 105,000 people continue to drive illegally despite having a suspended license due to a DUI.
  • Pennsylvania frequently ranks as one of the most lenient states for DUI laws, including fifth-most lenient for criminal DUI penalties and the most lenient for penalties for people driving with a suspended license.

State legislators have started to respond to the criticism. Republican State Sen. John Rafferty of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties recently introduced Senate Bill 961, which targets repeat offenders who continue to drive while under the influence. Pennsylvania is one of just four states in the nation that does not automatically classify repeat offenses as a felony. SB 961 would change that, creating felony offenses for DUI offenders committing their fourth offense. This would lead to longer sentences and the worst offenders being taken off the road.

The bill would also increase penalties for repeat offenders who injure or kill others while driving while impaired. Currently, repeat offenders are subject to three-year minimum sentences for homicide by vehicle, but the bill would increase that minimum sentence to five years if they had previously been convicted of a DUI and seven years if previously convicted of two or more DUIs.

Finally, the bill increases punishments for those who drive with a suspended license after a DUI. The fine is currently $500 with a 60-day at-home sentence, regardless of any previous offenses. Under the bill, these penalties would increase significantly for subsequent offenses.

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced Reading criminal defense lawyer with David R. Eshelman: A Professional Corporation.


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