Pennsylvania DUI Laws being Tightened

Pennsylvania has strict DUI laws but they are not enough. DUIs statistics have been increasing in the state and far too many families have been scarred by DUI fatalities caused by complete strangers. Police personnel have also realized that they are dealing with an increasing number of repeat offenders. According to the Foundation For Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, DUI statistics in 2012 came to 409 people.

Out of these more than 14.3% were repeat offenders. Stroudsburg, PA DUI lawyers point out that current penalties are too simple. They are not scary enough to prevent repeat offenders from grabbing their keys and squashing innocent pedestrians and fellow drivers.

In fact, most offenders and unscrupulous Stroudsburg, PA DUI lawyers exploited a lesser-known loophole in the law which allowed offenders to go literally scot-free. Take the example, of Georgina Zogby, the wife of Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby. Mrs. Zogby was arrested for a DUI in Cumberland County in July 2011.

The penalty for a first time offender in Pennsylvania is no jail time, no license suspension, and a simple fine of $300. As a result, Mrs. Zogby got off easy the first time. However, she was arrested again for a DUI in York County in September 2011.

Jail Time not Necessary

This would have been her second offense but she pled guilty to the York County offense and called it her first offense. Similarly, she pled guilty to the Cumberland County offense and called it her first offense as well. In the eyes of the courts, these two convictions were both first time offenses and Mrs. Zogby literally got off with no jail time. Jail time could be a little harsh for a first time offender if no one was injured and there was not any crash but certainly a fine could be much more than $300 and the driving privileges of that person could be confronted.

At the time, the media went crazy criticizing the local judges. However, this situation was not of their making. Pennsylvania law was made in such a way that stated until a person was convicted, they are innocent and it will not count against them.

What can be done?

Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Senate has woken up to the threat. In October 2014, the Pennsylvania Senate voted unanimously to overhaul the state’s DUI laws. Fortunately, the Senate also voted to change penalties for first time offenders as well. Senate Bill 1239 aims to do away with this loophole completely.

Increased Punishment

It will force courts to deal with DUIs one at a time to ensure that penalties are applied correctly and offenders feel the pinch of the jail time, fines, and license restrictions. In the new law, penalties for DUI offenders will accrue over time and judges will have the discretion to push jail time or treatments depending on the case. They will also have the complete power to prosecute repeat offenders to the fullest extent of the law.

The current changes were spearheaded by Republican Senator Sen. John C. Rafferty. However, the bill has not been voted into a law yet. In the middle of last-minute court actions, it was not possible for the Senate to vote on the proposal. However, local lawyers and organizations are very positive about the bill being passed into a law.

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