The push for stricter DUI laws in Pennsylvania

Last summer, a survey on drunk driving laws in the United States revealed that Pennsylvania was near the bottom. The state came in 48th in their severity of criminal penalties associated with DUI offenses. The low ranking caught the attention of many state advocates and officials.

One statistic in particular raised eyebrows. More than half of 170,000 state residents who lost their licenses because of DUI convictions were repeat offenders. They, more than anyone, knew the risk and potential consequences, yet they still got behind the wheel.

After a decade of stagnation, Pennsylvania state lawmakers decided that 2016 would be the year to change the drunk driving laws. During their two-year legislative session, they circulated more than 20 proposed changes that ranged from education and prevention to stricter sentencing guidelines.

One initiative passed and signed into law in May of last year. First-time DUI offenders are now required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.

Advocates and officials continued their push for more reform that would update the inadequacy of the state's DUI laws. State Sen. Scott Martin recently introduced a bill that calls for stricter DUI penalties that would serve as a deterrent to repeat offenders

If passed, the legislation would mandate an offender with more than two DUIs in ten years be sentenced to at least two years in prison and pay a maximum $15,000 fine. The proposed law would represent an increase in the current minimum sentence of 10 days.

Also, an offender with two or more offenses on their record may face charges of felony homicide if the drunk driving crime resulted in death.

If enacted, Pennsylvania DUI laws would be more in line with the rest of the United States.

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