Lawmakers in Pennsylvania have implemented tougher laws for driving under the influence by potentially charging repeat offenders with felony criminal penalties. Those who incur a third violation in 10 years or have any fourth conviction may face felony charges. The national legal limit for vehicle operators is currently a blood alcohol level of .08%. Each year there are roughly 10,000 crashes attributed to alcohol and approximately 300 of these are fatal. There are nearly 140,000 individuals who currently have their driver’s license suspended for DUI and there are about 250,000 multiple DUI offenders in the state.
New DUI Penalties
- Pennsylvania’s existing laws for DUI charged offenders only with misdemeanors that have more limited penalties
- Those convicted of vehicular homicide may potentially face five years in prison
- Those convicted of vehicular assault may face two years in prison when they do not have an active driver’s license
- Any third offense with remain a misdemeanor but a $2,500 fine will be imposed along with a six-month jail sentence
- The state still maintains a zero-tolerance policy for those under the age of 21-years-old that are operating under the influence. A reduced blood-alcohol-level limit of .02% applies to those who are underage.
Advocates in Support
Chris Demko, speaking on behalf of Parents Against Impaired Driving, hopes the new laws will reduce the number of repeat offenders. Demko’s daughter was killed by a multiple DUI offender when she was only 18-years-old. Troop M of the Pennsylvania State Police has also been increasing enforcement efforts since Christmas. They are increasingly targeting those who are speeding or are otherwise driving in a reckless manner.
A recently implemented Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving Enforcement Education Program is also underway in efforts to protect public safety. Law enforcement is also increasing the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) that they have. A DRE receives special training in detecting when drivers are operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. In 2017, Troop M made 13 arrests for DUI during their holiday enforcement efforts in Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Limited Tort Auto Insurance
Pennsylvania motorists who select limited tort coverage for their auto insurance generally are limited in their ability to pursue civil actions for accident injuries. The Pennsylvania Vehicle Code allows for those injured by a driver that is under the influence to pursue compensation as if they had “full” tort coverage. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations is two years in most cases for bringing such claims. If the at-fault driver happens to be in the course of their employment duties for the government, this limitations period is merely six months.
Personal Injury Claims Against Impaired Drivers
Drivers who cause an accident while operating under the influence are typically charged with criminal infractions. These criminal charges are designed to punish the offender, but these alone do not provide compensation for any injured motorists. In these situations, those injured must bring a claim for personal injury with assistance from experienced legal counsel. Compensation may potentially be recoverable for medical expenses, wages from missing work, pain and suffering, and more.
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