Once known for some of the laxest DUI laws in the country, Pennsylvania has now adopted harsher punishments for repeat drunk drivers, people who drive with a suspended license, and those who commit vehicular homicide or assault. Senate Bill 961 passed both chambers of the legislature with almost universal approval and signed into law by Governor Wolf in October. The updated penalties went into effect on December 23, 2018.

If you have been charged with any of these offenses, it’s best to contact an experienced Philadelphia DUI attorney. At Fienman Defense we will advise you of your rights, how the new laws in PA may impact you, and what can be done to improve your situation.

For a free initial consultation, call (215) 839-9529 or submit a request online.

Pennsylvania is Taking a Tougher Stance on Repeat DUI Offenders

Before Senate Bill 961 went into effect, Pennsylvania was one of the only states where repeat DUI offenses were never treated as felonies. This means that a person could repeatedly violate the Commonwealth’s DUI laws without ever receiving more than a year in jail, and without losing rights like the right to own firearms. This is now no longer the case.

Senate Bill 961 puts the following DUI-related reforms into place:

  • Increased penalties for driving with revoked or suspended license–If your license was revoked because of a DUI, and you get caught driving anyway, you can expect harsher treatment than before. The penalties for a first conviction remain unchanged as a summary offense involving a $500 fine and 60 to 90 days in jail. A second conviction is also still a summary offense, but is punishable by a $1,000 fine and a minimum of 90 days in jail. For a third conviction, the offense becomes misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail and a fine of $2,500.
  • Repeat DUI Offenses Become Felonies–A fourth DUI in a 10 year period will now be treated as a felony of the third degree, punishable by three and a half to seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000. Second or third DUI convictions can also be charged as felonies if the previous offenses involved aggravating factors such as a high BAC, an injury or death, or the presence of a minor in the vehicle.
  • Mandatory minimum sentences for vehicular homicide–If you are convicted of vehicular homicide, the judge must now add five years to your sentence if you have certain prior DUI offenses on your record. For offenders with two or more prior DUI convictions, the minimum sentence is raised to seven years per death. The bill also increases penalties for repeat DUI offenders who commit aggravated assault with their vehicles.

Senate Bill 961 puts into place dozens of other, more subtle changes to the sentencing structure for DUI-related offenses. But in virtually all cases, the penalties will increase. The legislature is trying to send a clear message to the people. According to Senator John Rafferty, who sponsored the bill: “When you go through our criminal system for a DUI, then you should know the gravity of your wrongdoing.”

How a Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Can Help

The Commonwealth may have increased the penalties for drunk driving, but the DUI defenses for the accused are still in place. You may be able to avoid these enhanced penalties with the assistance of a seasoned legal professional. Everyone enjoys the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and you always have the right to remain silent and to enjoy a fair and speedy trial.

At Fienman Defense, we know that aggressively defending these rights is the key to obtaining positive case outcomes for our clients. If the police pull you over without a valid reason, arrest you without developing sufficient probable cause, or fail to follow procedures when testing your BAC, your lawyer may be able to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced to a more manageable situation.

Contact Fienman Defense Today

With these new DUI laws in place, no impaired driving offense should be treated lightly. You should talk to a lawyer as soon possible because the earlier your lawyer begins working, the higher the chance of effectively dealing with the matter.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a Pennsylvania DUI, call Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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