Pennsylvania Increases DUI Penalties for Repeat Offenders

Gavel, car key and glass with alcohol on wooden table - dui penalties concept

A DUI can come with serious consequences that significantly alter the course of your life and livelihood. Not only can a conviction come with financial repercussions, but it can also impact your reputation — both in your community and professionally. Recently, Pennsylvania enacted a new law that has changed the grading system for driving under the influence, adding more severe DUI penalties. Referred to as “Deana’s Law,” the legislation amends the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code and requires consecutive sentencing for certain repeat DUI offenders.

What are the New Pennsylvania DUI Penalties?

The new Pennsylvania DUI law became effective in November 2022. It is named for a woman who died in a 2019 crash as a result of being struck by a driver with five previous DUI convictions. Under the legislation, an individual who is charged with a DUI and refuses a chemical test or has a BAC of .16 or more can commit the following offenses, based on the number of priors:

  • A felony of the third degree when they had two prior offenses (previously, this was two or more prior offenses); and
  • A felony of the second degree when they had three or more prior offenses (this was previously charged as a felony in the third degree).

The sentences in connection with the above felony offenses can be harsh. For a felony in the third degree, the sentence can include a maximum prison term of not more than seven years and a fine up to $15,000. A felony in the second degree can be punishable by a term in prison of not more than ten years and a fine up to $25,000. The new DUI law also allows for sentences to be enhanced when an individual has four or more prior DUI offenses.

What are Consecutive Sentences?

In Pennsylvania, criminal sentences for multiple convictions can either be “concurrent” or “consecutive.” When a sentence is concurrent, it means that the clock for both sentences begins to run at the same time. When the longest sentence expires, there will be no more time served. In cases where a sentence is consecutive, the clock for the second conviction does not start until the clock for the first conviction expires — and each sentence expires consecutively.

Pursuant to the new DUI law, a sentence imposed for a person with two or more prior DUI offenses must be served consecutively, along with any other sentence they are serving. While the amount of actual jail time can vary depending upon factors such as parole, consecutive sentencing can mean more time behind bars. In addition, the new law provides for a sentencing enhancement for a conviction which exceeds the typical DUI penalties imposed.

What Defense Options Are Available in a Pennsylvania DUI Case?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it is important to understand that it doesn’t always mean a conviction — a good DUI defense attorney can work to fight the charges against you. For instance, if a police officer did not have reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed at the time they pulled you over, the case can be challenged. Based on the facts, a DUI defense attorney might also be able to challenge the arrest or the results of your BAC test.

Other defenses that can be raised include violations of your Constitutional rights, and issues with how evidence was handled. An attorney might also be able to dispute the foundation of the charges in the event you did not exercise “actual physical control” of the vehicle.

A common defense strategy in DUI cases is arguing that the breathalyzer used was faulty, and the results should be deemed unreliable. This type of equipment must be regularly maintained, tested, and calibrated. In addition, the operator must administer two consecutive tests and then administer simulator tests. The simulator solution is designed to give a reading of .10% after the second breath test is administered. If the test or simulator results differ from the amount allowable, the equipment must be placed out of service and the validity of the test results may be called into question.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Defense Attorney to Fight Against Increased DUI Penalties

The DUI penalties in Pennsylvania can be severe and it’s important to have a skillful DUI defense attorney by your side who can fight the charges against you. Located in Exeter, Pennsylvania, The Kulick Law Firm is dedicated to helping clients who face DUI charges throughout the Commonwealth obtain the best possible results in their cases. Call (570) 203-2756 to schedule a consultation and learn how we can develop a defense strategy in your case to help protect your rights.

Categories: Criminal Defense