Parents throughout Pennsylvania gathered last month to advocate for harsher DUI laws that could have potentially saved their children’s lives.
PA Parents Against Impaired Driving (PPAID) is pushing Pennsylvania lawmakers to make stricter penalties against drunk driving. Specifically, they’re advocating for Senate Bill 290, which would require ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders. SB 290 will likely be reviewed by the governor this month.
PPAID believes Pennsylvania needs to make its DUI laws as effective and strict as other states’ laws. Currently, 38 states require ignition interlocks for some categories of first-time offenders, and 25 states require these devices for all first-time offenders. In Pennsylvania, however, currently only second and subsequent offenders are required to install interlock devices (for a 12-month period).
PPAID founders Susan and Chris Demko lost their daughter to a drunk driver in the summer of 2014. Their daughter, Meredith, had graduated from high school the month before and was planning to begin college in the fall. The Demkos formed PPAID in February 2015 to fight for more comprehensive and efficacious DUI laws. The couple noted that there are close to 18 DUI-related bills in Pennsylvania that will be dismissed if they are not passed into law during this legislative session.
The Demkos are advocating for House Bill 1353, which would strengthen the penalty for DUI homicide. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved the bill, which has gone to the state Senate to be considered. The couple is also advocating for House Bill 1861, which was introduced this winter. HB 1861 would introduce heavy penalties (including jail time) for individuals who drive on a license that has been suspended due to a DUI. Chris Demko stressed that many parents have lost children due to repeat offenders who are driving on suspended licenses.
An additional proposed bill would render a third DUI conviction a felony (it is now a misdemeanor). Currently, even if an individual gets arrested for 25 DUIs, Chris Demko noted, it’s still a misdemeanor. PPAID believes that lives “stolen” by DUIs should be punished by felony convictions.
Debby Iwaniec lost her son, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, when he was hit by an inebriated driver in Chester County in March 2008. “Anniversaries are always hard,” she said.
PPAID is asking fellow Pennsylvanians to write their state representatives to support the proposed legislation. Iwaiac stressed that the issue “cannot be ignored.”
Iwaniec is frustrated that after raising her children to be responsible and accountable, she lost a child in the “aftermath of someone else’s destructive decision.” Moreover, families say that the trials cause them to relive the tragic events, only to result in convicted drivers serving a relatively short sentence (a few months to a year).
PPAID provides a support group for families. At the end of March, 10 families met with 28 senators in Harrisburg and held a press conference in the Capital Media Center. PPAID is optimistic that Pennsylvania’s House and Senate currently appear to be very focused on the DUI issue.
Hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in the world. If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, make sure you have a capable attorney on your side. Criminal defense attorney Zachary B. Cooper will be aggressive and will fight to make sure that your rights are protected so that you and your family can move on with your lives. Call (215) 542-0800 for a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Reverses DUI Defendant’s Grant of Early Parole, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, April 15, 2016.
Pennsylvania Appellate Court Holds DUI’s Can Occur on Private Roadways, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, April 1, 2016.
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Holds Driver’s Arrest Was Supported By Probable Cause, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, March 15, 2016.
Arrested For My First DUI, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2016.