An act that was recently signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf amended the Motor Vehicle Code with regards to the penalties imposed for certain DUI violations. Specifically, the changes to the law, which went into effect on December 24, 2018, increase penalties for repeat offenders and for individuals who cause an accident resulting in death while driving under the influence of alcohol. The changes also modify the prior language regarding chemical testing to comply with the changes mandated by Birchfield v. North Dakota. If you were charged with a DUI, you should consult a knowledgeable Pennsylvania DUI attorney as soon as possible to discuss how the changes in the law may affect your case.
Grading of DUI offenses
Grading of DUI offenses is generally determined based on both the defendant’s blood alcohol level at the time of the alleged violation and whether the defendant has any prior DUI offenses. Prior offenses are not limited to convictions, but also include acceptance into an ARD program and juvenile adjudication. A prior offense will be considered for purposes of grading and sentencing if the judgment for the prior offense was entered within ten years of the current offense. Additionally, the charges a DUI defendant faces depends on the level of his or her impairment at the time of the offense. Impairment may be categorized as general impairment, high impairment, or highest impairment.
Stricter Penalties for Repeat Offenders Under the New Law
Under the prior law, DUIs were prosecuted as misdemeanor crimes. Under the changes to the law, if a person is charged with a third DUI offense at the highest level of impairment, a third DUI offense if there is a minor passenger in the car at the time of the offense, or a fourth or higher DUI regardless of the level of impairment, he or she will be charged with a third-degree felony. A conviction for a third-degree felony may result in up to seven years imprisonment and up to a $15,000 fine.
Increased Penalties for DUI Accidents Causing Death
Additional penalties are also imposed under the changes to the law for anyone who causes death in a DUI related accident. If a defendant with one or more DUI offenses is charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI, the charge will be graded as a first-degree felony. If a defendant convicted of homicide by vehicle while DUI has one prior DUI offense there is a mandatory prison sentence of five years for each victim. If the defendant has more than one prior DUI offense, he or she will be sentenced to a minimum of seven years for each victim.
Post-Birchfield Changes Regarding Chemical Testing
The language in the motor vehicle code regarding chemical testing has also been modified. Under the new law, anyone who refuses to undergo a breath test will be charged with the highest level of impairment. An individual who refuses to submit to a chemical blood test will not be charged with the highest level of impairment unless the police had a valid search warrant to obtain the test.
Consult a Seasoned Pennsylvania DUI Attorney Today
If you are currently facing DUI charges, you should consult a seasoned Pennsylvania DUI attorney to determine how the changes in the law may change the manner in which your case is handled. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced DUI defense attorney who will advise you during each step of your case and help you to seek a favorable outcome under the circumstances. Contact him at (215) 542-0800 to schedule a consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Pennsylvania Court Holds a Defendant Seeking Review of Discretionary Sentence in a DUI Conviction Must Show Substantial Question Exists as to Whether the Sentence is Improper Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, November 27, 2018
Penalties for first DUI Arrest. Am I going to Jail? Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, April 4, 2016
Pennsylvania House Passes Bill Increasing Penalties in Certain DUI Cases Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, August 6, 2014