Group seeks tougher DUI penalties

Pennsylvania drivers who are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving should know that a big push is being made to increase penalties for convicted drivers.

Being arrested and charged with a drunk driving offense can be a very scary and uncertain experience for Pennsylvania drivers. Feelings of shame and guilt can be very strong, especially with a very negative public stigma about drunk driving. In addition, drivers understandably worry about the consequences they may face and how their lives will be impacted. Will they be able to keep their drivers' licenses? If not, how will they be able to work and maintain their lives? How will they be able to afford the impact of a DUI convicted?

Parent group leading the charge for harsher penalties

WFMZ.com explains that there are currently 18 bills making their way through the state legislature that somehow focus on drunk driving. Senate Bill 290 is among these and has successfully received a unanimous vote in favor. The outcome of the House is as of yet unknown.

According to TribLive, it is a group known as Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving that is spearheading efforts like SB 290. PA PAID is comprised of parents that have lost children in drunk driving accidents. The focus of SB 290 is on the use of ignition interlock devices (IID). Currently, any driver who is convicted of at least two impaired driving offenses within a 10 year period will be required to install and use an IID. SB 290 seeks to change that by requiring that even first-time offenders be required to use ignition interlock devices.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have joined PA PAID to support the passing of Senate Bill 290.

Current first-time DUI penalties

Under existing law, the State of Pennsylvania classifies most first DUI offenses as ungraded misdemeanors. This is for any single offense within a period of 10 years. For those who have BAC levels over the legal limit but less than 0.10 percent, drivers' licenses are not suspended, provided the driver was not involved in an accident and did not have an minor occupant in the vehicle. They may be placed on a probationary sentence lasting six months and pay a $300 fine.

Circumstances such as a BAC greater than a .10%, personal injury or property damage may increase the fines to as much as $5,000. Instead of probation, drivers will face mandatory minimum jail sentences and can be forced to spend up to six months in jail. They may lose the right to drive for a full year.

Help is needed promptly

Clearly, the current laws in Pennsylvania make life hard for people arrested for DUIs. If the laws get tougher, drivers will face even greater challenges. Getting help from an experienced DUI attorney is an important step in protecting personal rights after a DUI arrest.