Pennsylvania DUI Law Changes in 2020
Pennsylvania has never gone easy on DUI offenders, and lawmakers have taken it to the next level in 2020. Prior to this new legislation, driving under the influence resulted in a misdemeanor, whereas felony convictions are now a possibility. There are several implications to these changes and what it means for those convicted of DUI, which include longer sentences and greater fines.
Bill 961’s Impact
Many believe, including PAPAID (Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving), that passing this new bill will save lives. Hundreds of people die as a result of drunk driving each year in the state of Pennsylvania. The hope is that these new harsh penalties will act as a deterrent. The bill passed with a 45-4 vote in the state senate, showing massive support for this change.
Under the previous law, charges for DUI were classified as misdemeanors, which involve more temporary punishments. Some jail time and smaller fines. Felonies, on the other hand, are much more severe crimes that carry penalties that can cause someone to lose their freedoms permanently, receive lengthy jail sentences, and large fines. Bill 961 makes the third DUI offense a felony if the blood alcohol content (BAC) is .16 or greater. The fourth-offense is an automatic felony, regardless of BAC. Both misdemeanors and felonies will show up on employer background checks, but having a felony will likely result in lost employment opportunities.
Suspended Licenses for DUI
Lawmakers significantly increased the penalties for an individual who decides to drive with a suspended license as a result of DUI. The new laws state an individual can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to at least 90 days in jail for a second offense. Those who commit their third offense can receive a $2,500 fine and 6 months in jail. These are much harsher sentences than the former laws and certainly gives a sharper edge to offenders.
For those who cause another’s death while intoxicated, the penalties are now far more severe and unforgiving than prior to Bill 961. A maximum sentence of 3 years in prison was guaranteed under the old law, but under the new law with a prior DUI conviction, it is 5 years. And the minimum sentence for 2 or more prior DUI convictions is now 7 years. If there is anything this bill aims to do, it is saving lives by keeping repeat offenders off the road and preventing those with clean records from driving under the influence at all.
With over 10,256 alcohol-related crashes and 297 alcohol-related fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016, it is no surprise that such legislation is being passed with little to no resistance. A bill such as this sends a clear message to DUI offenders, that you are liable and will be held more accountable for their actions. This is another massive step in the trajectory of Pennsylvania DUI legislation, and the rest of the country will be watching to see if this has a positive impact on public safety.