Last August, Pennsylvania earned the state a rather dubious distinction. Wallet Hub named the state as one of the top five in the nation with the most lenient penalties for drunk driving offenses. The state came in fourth in the survey.
Pennsylvania has no mandatory minimum sentencing for first-offense DUI convictions. Also, the state doesn’t consider DUI offenses to be felonies. Even when defendants are convicted of multiple DUI charges, they remain upgraded misdemeanors with enhanced penalties.
One law enforcement official would like to change that. The police chief of Newberry Township posted a now-deleted status on social media urging stricter laws for DUI offenses to be passed here in Pennsylvania. It’s believed his Facebook post was a response to a fatal accident that happened in the township over the weekend.
A man with two prior convictions for drunk driving was killed in the collision that also claimed a 66-year-old woman’s life. Three of her children and her 69-year-old husband also suffered injuries.
Police suspect that the man with the two DUI convictions was again impaired behind the wheel. Cans and bottles of alcoholic beverages were located in and around this wrecked car.
The York Daily Record printed the police chief’s heartfelt plea he posted to the township’s official Facebook page after the fatal accident. Below is an excerpt:
“Why do our politicians in Harrisburg keep looking the other way? The bodies are piling up and all we as police officers can do is keep fighting the fight on impaired driving enforcement. We need tougher DUI laws.”
The editorial board for the Daily Record asked its readers to call and write their lawmakers to demand more stringent laws for DUI convictions.
The board suggested toughening penalties for offenders convicted of drunken driving, like vehicle seizures for those who re-offend.
In 2016, the Common Pleas Court judge of York County penned an op-ed suggesting increased maximum sentencing for first convictions when the defendant’s blood alcohol content was higher than 0.16. He also urged “hardcore alcohol abusers” to be forced to be monitored around the clock for alcohol use in order to prove their sobriety.
Regardless of pending changes, your best defense against convictions for drunk driving includes robust representation by defense counsel who routinely handles such cases.
Source: Philly Voice, “Does Pennsylvania need tougher DUI laws?,” Daniel Craig, Jan. 10, 2017