The 2017-2018 Pennsylvania legislative session is rapidly coming to a close, along with the chance to get some bills passed. One such bill would affect the state’s DUI laws. If the bill passes, some drivers already convicted of driving under the influence could end up facing felony charges instead of another misdemeanor should they be arrested for another drunk driving offense.
Pennsylvania remains one of only four states that does not have a felony DUI statute. An impaired driver currently only faces felony charges if a drunk driving-related crash results in a death. If the proposed bill passes, a fourth offense for drunk driving would be charged as a felony. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is at least double the state’s legal limit of .08 on a third offense, it too, may be charged as a felony.
In addition, the consequences for homicide by vehicle while DUI would increase as well if the individual facing such charges was driving with a DUI-related license suspension at the time of the accident. Proponents of the bill hope the increased penalties and potential for a felony conviction will act as a deterrent to drivers who would risk getting behind the wheel after drinking. Only time will tell if that is the case if the bill passes into law.
Even if the law passes, those faced with third or fourth offenses for DUI retain the right to challenge the charges. In fact, if this law does pass, the need for a strong defense could increase exponentially since not only the potential criminal consequences increase, but the life consequences would as well. Criminal defense attorneys across the state of Pennsylvania are keeping their eyes on this bill to see how it may affect their clients in the future.