Pennsylvanians with multiple DUIs could be looking at tougher penalties next year. Last month, the state House of Representatives voted by a significant margin to pass a bill that has been named Deana’s Law.
The legislation is named after a woman from Delaware County who was killed by a drunk driver in 2019. The man already had five DUI convictions when the fatal crash occurred. Those advocating for the new law contend that had sentencing guidelines been strictly followed for his two previous convictions, he would have still been behind bars. However, a judge allowed him to serve his sentences for his last two DUIs concurrently (at the same time) rather than consecutively (back to back).
What’s in the legislation?
The legislation as it’s currently written would increase penalties for third and subsequent DUIs, and sentences would have to be served consecutively. The bill as it’s currently written, says that a person “who has two or more prior offenses shall be served consecutively to any other sentence the individual is serving and to any other sentence being then imposed by the court, except for those with which the offense must merge as a matter of law.” The sentence can also be enhanced if a person suspected of drunk driving refuses breath or chemical testing.
One of the authors of Deana’s Law, Rep. Chris Quinn of Delaware County, notes that the proposed law “will not affect the person who makes the mistake of driving after an extra beer or a glass of wine. It’s targeted to high BAC, repeat DUI offenders who intentionally and willfully get behind the wheel time and time again.”
Lawmaker argues that it takes away judges’ sentencing discretion
One of the representatives who voted against the legislation noted that it removes judicial discretion. He noted that judges “should be able to look at the individual facts and circumstances of each person who comes before them charged with a crime.”
The legislation now moves to the Pennsylvania Senate for consideration. If it passes, it will need to be signed into law by the governor.
Regardless of what happens with this legislation, one thing that’s certain is that DUIs are taken seriously by law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. The best way to prevent multiple DUIs is not to have the first one on your record.