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Pennsylvania House Passes Bill Increasing Penalties in Certain DUI Cases

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a bill in June 2014 that increases the minimum penalties for certain vehicular homicide convictions. The bill provides for an increased minimum prison sentence and permanent license suspension for the offense of “homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence.” It would apply to defendants with previous convictions for any DUI offense, not just felony DUI, or for other serious traffic offenses. The bill’s sponsor cites the danger of repeat offenders, but the bill casts a very wide net, applying to anyone with a prior DUI offense at any level.

Representative Dan Moul (R-Adams/Franklin) introduced House Bill 1733 in October 2013. He nicknamed the bill “Angie’s Law,” after a woman who was reportedly killed in an automobile accident in September 2012. The other driver had an arrest for DUI from the previous year and had reportedly entered a rehabilitation program prior to the accident. He pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while DUI, and the court sentenced him to three and a half years in prison.

Rep. Moul argued in support of the bill that it is necessary to increase the penalties for vehicular homicide because of “the enhanced risk a repeat offender poses to the public.” The House passed the bill on June 10, 2014. Before the bill becomes state law, the Pennsylvania Senate must pass corresponding legislation, and the Governor must sign it. It does not appear that anyone has introduced a bill in the state Senate.

The offense of homicide by vehicle while DUI is defined as “unintentionally caus[ing] the death of another person as the result of” a DUI, along with a conviction of DUI. Under current state law, it is a second-degree felony with a minimum prison sentence of three years, regardless of the state’s sentencing guidelines. If more than one person died as a result of the offense, the court must impose additional three-year sentences for each victim, to be served consecutively. A conviction for homicide by vehicle while DUI also results in a mandatory three-year driver’s license suspension.

House Bill 1733 increases the grading of the offense of homicide by vehicle while DUI to a first-degree felony for individuals with prior convictions for DUI, felony convictions for other serious traffic offenses, including homicide by vehicle and aggravated assault by vehicle, and similar offenses from other jurisdictions. This includes any DUI conviction, not just felony DUIs. The offense of DUI – general impairment is generally graded as a misdemeanor and increased to a second-degree misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. Higher rates of alcohol, or the serious injury to or death of a person, may increase the grading of the offense. Under HB 1733, the minimum prison sentence is increased to five years, with additional, consecutive five-year sentences for additional victims. License suspension would be permanent under the bill.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania , it is critical that you consult with a qualified DUI lawyer to determine the best way to handle your defense. Zachary B. Cooper, Attorney at Law, P.C. has dedicated 100% of his practice to DUI defense. We are available to help you 24/7. Please contact us online or at (215) 542-0800 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

New Pennsylvania Law Closes Alleged Loophole that Encouraged Drunk Drivers to Flee the Scene of Certain Accidents, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, July 21, 2014

Pennsylvania DUI Defendant Argues on Appeal that Verdict Went against Weight of Evidence, Gets New Trial, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, May 13, 2014

Aggravated Assault Charges Allowed to Proceed by Pennsylvania Court in DUI Case, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, April 10, 2014