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Understanding Pennsylvania’s New Repeat Offender DUI Law

17 Dec 2018, by Brandy Benefield in Criminal Defense, DUI

Written by Timothy Czekaj

Pennsylvania used to have some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country. We are one of only four states in the nation that treats all multiple DUI offenses as misdemeanors. This is set to change under Pennsylvania’s new repeat offender DUI law. Signed into law in October 2018 by Governor Tom Wolf, Senate Bill (SB) 961 will categorize repeat DUI offenders as felons, lengthen the sentences for people who cause a death because of their drunk driving, and also increase the penalties for anyone who drives with a license that has been suspended because of a DUI.

The bill targets multiple DUI offenders because they cause a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s DUI casualties. According to Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving, repeat offenders are behind 40 percent of all DUI-related fatalities PA.

If you’re facing charges for repeat drunk driving offenses, don’t hesitate to reach out to a skilled Pennsylvania DUI attorney for help. To schedule a free and confidential case consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, contact Czekaj Law, LLC at (717) 275-9770.

New DUI Law Lengthens Sentences for Repeat Offenders

The Pennsylvania Legislature passed SB 961 by an overwhelming majority. According to bill sponsor Senator John Rafferty, the policy behind the law is to deter drunk drivers from offending again. “When you go through our criminal system for a DUI, then you should know the gravity of your wrongdoing,” Rafferty told reporters after a voting session earlier in the year.

The new law increases the penalties for driving with a license that has been revoked because of a DUI. This is still treated as a summary offense up through the second conviction, but with added terms of incarceration and increased fines.

Under the new law, a third offense is considered a third-degree misdemeanor, and the penalties will be as follows:

  • First offense – Between 60 and 90 days of incarceration, and a fine of $500
  • Second offense – No less than 90 days of incarceration, and a fine of $1,000
  • Third (or subsequent) offense – No less than six months of incarceration, and a fine of $2,500

Furthermore, SB 961 will turn a fourth DUI in a 10-year period as a felony. A third DUI within 10 years will also be treated as a felony if the suspect has a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than .16 percent. Previously, such offenses were treated as misdemeanors, punishable by limited jail time. Now, anyone convicted of multiple DUIs could face incarceration and the devastating collateral consequences of a felony conviction on their record.

Finally, the new DUI law imposes mandatory minimum sentences for people with past DUI convictions whose impaired driving causes a fatality. Judges must impose at least a five-year sentence for each death caused by a DUI offender with a previous DUI conviction on their record. For offenders with two or more prior DUI convictions, the minimum sentence is raised to seven years per death. Before SB 961, the minimum sentence for DUI causing death was three years.

Do You Have Questions About PA’s New Repeat Offender DUI Law? Contact Us Today

State legislators believe that DUI offenders should face harsh penalties. But they ignore the fact that many people pulled over for drunk driving are completely innocent, and possibly the victims of unconstitutional conduct by the police. Many drunk driving cases get dismissed after the defense demonstrates the police pulled the suspect over for no reason, arrested them without having developed sufficient probable cause, or subjected the subject to excessive force or other abuse.

Although SB 961 outlines stiffer penalties for DUIs, the constitutional rights of those living in and traveling through Pennsylvania are still in place. At Czekaj Law, LLC, we believe that the key to a successful DUI defense is fighting for our clients’ rights at the earliest stages of the criminal justice process. For a free and confidential evaluation of your case, contact our criminal defense lawyers today at (717) 275-9770.