Today, the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-44), unanimously passed Senate Bill 961 (Rafferty), as amended, to address egregious Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenses.
“Countless Pennsylvanians have lost their lives (or lives of loved ones) from the destructive and reckless decisions made by DUI offenders because Pennsylvania’s DUI laws are too lenient,” stated Senator Rafferty. “The historic action taken today by Senate Transportation sends a strong message that the most dangerous DUI offenders will face a longer prison sentence for repeat DUIs, aggravated assault by vehicle and homicide by vehicle.”
Today’s meeting enveloped passion and emotion from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as parents who lost loved ones organized by Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving.
“Drunk driving is bad enough and it only gets worse and more dangerous when offenders choose to drink and get behind the wheel again and again and again,” said Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) who is a member of Senate Transportation and a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 961. “Repeat offenders pose an increased risk to public safety and our laws should reflect that. Simply put: the punishment must fit the crime and those who continue to make bad decisions and gamble with innocent lives on our roadways ought to be held accountable to a higher standard.”
Senate Bill 961 was amended in Senate Transportation to include Senate Bill 635, which was introduced by Senator Scott Martin (R-13). “Pennsylvania has seen far too many cases in which habitual drunk drivers have inflicted serious consequences upon innocent motorists. Even one tragedy related to drunk driving is one too many,” Senator Martin mentioned. “A great deal of effort is made to rehabilitate offenders, but for those who continue to thumb their nose at the law and put themselves and others in danger, there must be repercussions.”
Senate Bill 961, as amended, provides for the following:
- Increases the minimum term of imprisonment for Homicide by Vehicle while DUI from the current three years to five years if the person has one or two prior DUIs, and from three to seven years if the person has three or more prior DUIs. The bill retains the current consecutive term of incarceration for each victim.
- Expands the Crimes Code to add a presumption of recklessness or negligence when the death of a person is caused by an individual committing a fourth or subsequent DUI offense within a ten-year period, and allows for that individual to be charged with third degree Murder.
- Increases the grading for third Offense DUI with high levels of alcohol or drugs from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree. Additionally increases the grading for all fourth and subsequent DUI’s to a felony of the third degree.
- Increases sentencing provisions to Homicide by Vehicle, Aggravated Assault by Vehicle, and Aggravated Assault by Vehicle while DUI when the individual committing the offense is not properly licensed or under suspension.
Nolan Ritchie, Senator Rafferty’s Office, 717-787-1398
Terry Trego, Senator Martin’s Office, 717-787-6535
Adam Cirucci, Senator Dinniman’s Office, 610-692-2112