Pennsylvania has never been a state to take it easy on DUI offenders, and the rules have just gotten even tougher. New legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in October 2018 stiffen the penalties for drunk driving convictions and create a new felony category for certain DUI offenses.
If you are facing DUI charges in Pennsylvania, you are staring down some of the most severe consequences the state has ever imposed. A DUI defense lawyer can help you move past these charges and get on with your life. Attorney David McKenzie worked for years as a prosecutor and uses that experience to his clients’ advantage. His firm, McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., wants to fight your DUI for you. To schedule a free consultation right away, call us at 610-680-7842.
New Pennsylvania DUI Laws for 2019
Pennsylvania’s new, stricter DUI laws come courtesy of Senate Bill 961, which picked up overwhelming votes of assent in both houses of the state legislature, passing the House 184-1 and the Senate 45-4. The governor signed the bill into law on October 24th, 2018, and there is a lot you need to know about Pennsylvania’s DUI laws in 2019.
The new legislation makes the following changes to Pennsylvania’s DUI laws:
New Felony Classification for Repeat DUI Offenders
Under Pennsylvania’s previous rules, a DUI was always a misdemeanor offense. Not anymore. Now, a person convicted of a third-offense DUI is guilty of a felony if their blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.16 or higher. A fourth-offense DUI is a felony regardless of BAC.
Increased Penalties for Vehicular Homicide While DUI
A person convicted of killing another individual while driving under the influence can expect harsher penalties in 2019, particularly if they have prior DUI convictions.
Under the old law, the maximum sentence was the same for everyone convicted of vehicular homicide while DUI: three years in prison.
Under the new law, a person convicted of vehicular homicide while DUI who has a prior DUI conviction faces a minimum of five years in prison. If they have two prior DUIs, they face a minimum of seven years in prison.
Increased Penalties for Driving While License Suspended for DUI
License suspension is a standard penalty for a DUI conviction in Pennsylvania. It is meant to deter people from driving while intoxicated. After all, most adults would struggle to live their day-to-day lives without a license and access to a car, especially in areas of the state not well-served by public transportation.
But the deterrent factor of license suspension is not working as well as it could. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians with suspended licenses continue to drive. The new law increases penalties for driving while serving a DUI license suspension.
The maximum penalty under the old law was a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail, regardless if it was a person’s first or subsequent offense. Under the new law, a second offense results in up to a $1,000 fine and at least 90 days in jail. A third offense leads to a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.
New Laws for Adults Accompanying Learner’s Permit Drivers
The new law stipulates that any adult accompanying a driver with a learner’s permit must remain sober, which adds another way in which you can be charged with a DUI as a passenger in Pennsylvania.
The Reasons for Pennsylvania’s New DUI Laws
Like many laws enacted to protect public safety, Pennsylvania’s new DUI legislation traces its impetus to several high-profile tragedies. Lawmakers dug into the data on DUIs in Pennsylvania, and their findings included:
- Repeat DUI offenders cause 40% of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania
- In 2016, more than 10,000 people in the state were convicted of a second or subsequent DUI
- At any given time, between 70,000 and 150,000 people with suspended licenses for DUI continue to drive in Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania has more than 50,000 new DUI cases every year
- In each of the last eight years, the state has seen an average of 12,000 crashes, 8,700 injuries, and 320 fatalities that are directly attributable to DUI
The new laws can be scary for a person facing a first or subsequent DUI charge, but given the statistics, it is hard to argue they are not necessary.
If you are accused, you have the right to an attorney. A DUI defense lawyer from McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. can help you decide if you can get a DUI reduced to a reckless driving charge, or if you should plead guilty to DUI in Pennsylvania. Once we’ve gone over the details of your case, we will do everything possible to keep you from facing the fullest extent of this new legislation.
Get a Free DUI Consultation with McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. Today
The DUI defense lawyers at McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. can help you move past your charges and get your life back. We are eager to start working on your case right away. For a free consultation, call us at 610-680-7842.