With the start of a new year comes new laws, and one of the most anticipated for the state of Pennsylvania is the new DUI law. Under the new DUI law, which passed through the General Assembly and was signed by the governor in October, establishes Pennsylvania’s first felony-level DUI charge. Under the previous legal framework, all DUIs in the state were considered misdemeanors, even for repeat offenders. Misdemeanor charges obviously come with the benefit of lighter penalties and lessened jail time. The new law looks to change all that.
Under the new law, offenders who are charged with three DUIs during a 10-year period where their BAC level is at least twice the legal limit of 0.08 or offenders facing their fourth arrest for DUI will face felony charges.
This new law can’t come at a more-needed time. Across the state, there are more than 10,000 crashes related to drunk driving each year, and around 300 fatalities occur as a result. Those statistics are hard to swallow, and even harder yet to accept is that there are around a quarter-million repeat DUI offenders in the state with around 140,000 drivers with suspended licenses due to DUI convictions.
With the passage of this new legislation, the state takes aim at drivers who are not heeding the seriousness of the offense and returning to re-offend over and over again. The new law came about in part due to the advocacy efforts of Chris and Susan Demko, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, couple who lost their daughter in 2014 when she was killed by a drunk driver.
Their daughter, 18-year-old Meredith, died as a result of being hit by a repeat DUI offender who was driving with a BAC that was three times the legal limit. He was also high on heroin at the time and driving on a suspended license. He was a repeat DUI offender. After their daughter’s preventable death, the Demkos set out on a mission to get the existing DUI laws changed.
Other felony add-ons were introduced into law with the passage of this legislation. The enhancement to a felony also occurs for suspended license offenders and for people who are driving drunk with other people in the vehicle. It also calls for longer jail sentences for people who cause someone’s death if they are a repeat DUI offender.
Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is one of the most selfish actions that a person can take. Not only do they put their own lives at risk, but they also risk the lives of unsuspecting people on the roadway when they cause horrific accidents and needless deaths. If you or someone you love has been affected by a DUI driver, contact our Philadelphia DUI accident attorney to discuss your case details. You can file a personal injury claim against the DUI driver and hold them accountable for their actions, whether they are a first-time offender or have been convicted of DUI in the past. Set up your no-cost consultation now.