In a big step toward harsher #DUI laws in Pa., the Senate on Wednesday passed SB961 which would make 3rd-time DUI offenders felons.
The bill, now headed to the House, also increases penalties for repeat offenders who injure or kill, and drive while on suspended license.
Changes to existing laws would include:
- Felony penalty for third time DUI conviction within 10 years - if third offense is high BAC of .16 or higher; in all other cases at 4th offense. (Pennsylvania is one of only four states that does not treat repeat DUI as a felony, regardless of number of prior DUI convictions.)
- Increased penalties for homicide by vehicle while DUI, which is currently a 3-year minimum sentence regardless of offender’s DUI history. Bill would raise minimum sentence for death to five years (if a prior DUI exists); and minimum sentence of seven years (if multiple prior DUIs).
- Increased penalties for driving while under license suspension due to prior DUI conviction.
- Increased penalties for aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, when offender has suspended or revoked license due to prior DUI conviction.
“Too many families, including my own, have lost children to repeat DUI offenders,” said Chris Demko, of Lancaster County, and with Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving (PAPAID). “This proposed legislation will save future lives and is a material improvement for Pennsylvania as many of the existing DUI-related laws do not distinguish between first-time and repeat DUI offenders, as well as those who continue to drive on a DUI-related suspended license.
“Senate Bill 961 clearly sends the message that repeat DUI offenders will be expected to learn from their mistakes and future DUI-related offenses will result in more serious penalties.”
Repeat DUI offenders are responsible for approximately 40 percent of all DUI-related fatalities.
An estimated 70,000 to 105,000 individuals in PA with DUI convictions continue to drive on a suspended license.
In 2016, over 10,000 individuals were convicted of a repeat DUI offense in Pennsylvania.
SB 961 was introduced by Senator John Rafferty (R – Chester/Berks/Montgomery Counties). Senator Scott Martin (R- Lancaster County), a co-sponsor, has been key in broadening the focus of SB 961.
Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving (PAPAID) is a grass-roots organization of parents across Pennsylvania who have lost children to impaired drivers. Our members’ children have all paid the ultimate price of ineffective DUI/DUID laws in our state and our goal is prevent additional senseless deaths and injuries by improving Pennsylvania’s inadequate DUI and DUID laws. PAPAID is on the forefront of advocacy for improving PA DUI laws including SB961.