Press Release 4/18/18
Pennsylvania Senate passes SB961 – increasing penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders including those that injure and kill.
Harrisburg, PA (April 18, 2018) – The Pennsylvania State Senate passed Senate Bill 961 which would increase penalties to DUI offenders who continue to break DUI-related laws. Changes to existing laws would include:
1) Felony penalty for 3rd time DUI conviction within 10 years, if third offense is high BAC of .16 or higher, and in all other cases at 4th offense. It should be noted that PA is one of only 4 states that does not treat repeat DUI as a felony, regardless of number of prior DUI convictions.
2) Increased penalties for Homicide by Vehicle while DUI or DUID, which is currently a 3 year minimum sentence regardless of offender’s DUI history:
· If convicted of prior DUI, minimum sentence for death is 5 years
· If convicted of 2 or more prior DUIs, minimum sentence for death is 7 years
3) Increased penalties for driving while under license suspension due to prior DUI conviction
4) Increased penalties for Aggravated Assault by Vehicle while driving under the influence, when offender has suspended or revoked license due to prior DUI conviction.
Chris Demko of PAPAID, said: “Too many families, including my own, have lost children to repeat DUI offenders. This proposed legislation will save future lives and is a material improvement for Pennsylvania as many of the existing DUI-related laws do not distinguish between first-time and repeat DUI offenders, as well as those who continue to drive on a DUI-related suspended license.”
“Senate Bill 961 clearly sends the message that repeat DUI offenders will be expected to learn from their mistakes and future DUI-related offenses will result in more serious penalties.”
This legislation is critical as shown by the following facts pertaining to individuals who continue to break DUI laws after their first DUI conviction:
· Repeat DUI offenders are responsible for approximately 40% of all DUI-related fatalities.
· An estimated 70,000 to 105,000 individuals in PA with DUI convictions continue to drive on a suspended license.
· During 2016 there were over 10,000 individuals convicted of their 2nd or greater DUI in PA.
SB 961 was introduced by Senator John Rafferty (R – Chester/Berks/Montgomery Counties), who continues to lead efforts to improve PA’s inadequate DUI laws. Senator Scott Martin (R- Lancaster County), a co-sponsor, has also been key in broadening the focus of SB 961. The bill now moves to the House for its consideration.
Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving (PAPAID) is a grass-roots organization of parents across Pennsylvania who have lost children to impaired drivers. Our members’ children have all paid the ultimate price of ineffective DUI/DUID laws in our state and our goal is prevent additional senseless deaths and injuries by improving Pennsylvania’s inadequate DUI and DUID laws. PAPAID is on the forefront of advocacy for improving PA DUI laws including SB961.
Chris Demko, Co-Founder
March 30, 2018
SB 961 is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor with expectation of a vote in the month of April. The bill has been amended since its introduction and will address repeat DUI offenders including those that choose to drive with a suspended license as follows:
1) Increase penalties for driving while under license suspension including:
· Repeat convictions
· Involved in crashes with injuries or fatalities
2) Increase penalties for Homicide by Vehicle while DUI or DUID
· If convicted of prior DUI, minimum sentence for death is 5 years
· If convicted of 2 or more prior DUI, minimum sentence for death is 7 years
3) Increase penalties for Aggravated Assault by Vehicle while driving under the influence, when offender has suspended or revoked license
4) Creates felony penalty for 3rd time DUI conviction within 10 years, if third offense is high BAC of .16 or higher. All other cases, at 4th offense.
5) Increases penalties for DUI offenders that refuse testing at time of offense
December 14, 2017
Senator Rafferty introduced SB 961 earlier this year, which would address repeat DUI offenders that kill. Just this week at the Senate Transportation Committee meeting, this bill was amended to include part of Senator Martin's SB 635. This amended bill was voted out of committee yesterday. This bill is a serious step forward in the fight against DUI as it clearly focuses on repeat offenders in Pennslyannia by increase penalties for these offenders including establishing a felony sentence for 3rd offenders with a high BAC of .16 or greater. The detail of the bill are below:
Increases the minimum term of imprisonment for Homicide by Vehicle while DUI from the current three years to five years if the person has one or two prior DUIs, and from three to seven years if the person has three or more prior DUIs. The bill retains the current consecutive term of incarceration for each victim.
Expands the Crimes Code to add a presumption of recklessness or negligence when the death of a person is caused by an individual committing a fourth or subsequent DUI offense within a ten-year period, and allows for that individual to be charged with third degree Murder.
Increases the grading for third Offense DUI with high levels of alcohol or drugs from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the third degree. Additionally increases the grading for all fourth and subsequent DUI’s to a felony of the third degree.
Increases sentencing provisions to Homicide by Vehicle, Aggravated Assault by Vehicle, and Aggravated Assault by Vehicle while DUI when the individual committing the offense is not properly licensed or under suspension.
September 25, 2017
A new law, Act 33 of 2016, becomes effective on August 25, 2017, and requires first-time DUI offenders with an illegal Blood Alcohol Content of .10 percent or higher to use ignition interlocks for at least 12 months. Thanks to Senator Rafferty, Representative Greiner and other legislators who supported the passage of Senator's Rafferty bill last year.
We are currently awaiting the introduction of a felony bill for repeat offenders in the House by Representative Greiner as well as movement on Senator Martin's Senate Bill #635 which would Increase penalties for repeat offenders including creating felony for third time offenders and lowers threshold for third degree murder. See our Position Paper for additional information on supported bills. We will be going back to Harrisburg in the fall to advocate for these bills.
May 7, 2017
PAPAID is visiting the State Capital in Harrisburg on May 9th and will be meeting with many members of Senate and House Leadership,Transportation and Judicial Committee Members and individual Senators and Representatives. We will also be holding a press conference at 10:30 AM in the Capital Media Center along with Representative Greiner, Senator Rafferty and Representative Don Costa. Additional speakers at the press onference include Lancaster DA Craig Stedman and York Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tm Barker. Members of PAPAID will also share stories of their losses, including those killed by high risk offenders. PAPAID's message is to ask legislators to focus on legislation that would address those that kill and injure the majority of DUI and DUID victims in Pennsylvania.
January 28, 2017
We are planning a spring visit to the Capital and working with individual legislators who are planning to introduce DUI legislation. Representative Keith Greiner is planning to reintroduce a DUI Felony bill, similar to last session's HB 2318.
On November 14, 2016, YDR and Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving will co-host a town hall meeting to discuss the issue of drinking and driving from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Goodwill FC#1 of Jacobus. The address is 1 S. Main Street, Jacobus, Pennsylvania, 17407.
The event will feature a panel discussion including family members of DUI victims, law enforcement officials, state lawmakers and others. The town hall will also include a Q&A segment that will allow audience members to join the discussion about what more can be done to reduce the incidence of impaired driving.
“As we head into the holiday season, we thought it would be a good time to hold a public discussion about preventing DUI tragedies,” said Scott Fisher, YDR community engagement editor. “We hope York countians will come out and share their stories about how DUI has affected them.”
Confirmed panelists include: Elaine and Paul Miller, parents of DUI victim Rodney Miller; Mark and Missy Sweitzer and family members from PA Parents Against Impaired Driving; Tim Barker, chief of policy and research with the York County District Attorney’s Office; Pam Gay, York County coroner; Mark Bentzel, chief of the Northern York County Regional Police Department; state Reps. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Keith Gillespie (barring a late voting session).
November 5, 2016 - We have been told that HB2318 will not be voted out of the House Transportation Committee. The reason given is that there were technical issues with the bill coupled with the fact that the session is ending. We are clearly disappointed with this as PA continues to allow repeat DUI offenders to be treated too leniently which will surely lead to additional lost lives.
September 21, 2016 - State Representative Keith Greiner introduced House Bill 2318, which would increase the grading of repeat DUI offenses to felonies under certain conditions, with heightened fines and longer prison sentences. Currently under state law, no matter how many times an individual has been convicted of DUI the charges are treated as no higher than a first-degree misdemeanor. This legislation would align Pennsylvania with the overwhelming majority of states in grading repeat-DUI offenses as felonies—only Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Maine do not have automatic felony grading. Click here for additional information.
As the remaining time left in this session for passage of additional bills is limited, it is imperative that everyone ask their state senator and state representative to support this bill as well as convey their support to Leadership in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania continues to be one of the most lenient states for DUI laws.
June 8, 2016 - Families from PAPAID met with various senators, representatives and staff to discuss the need to continue focusing on various bills currently in two senate committees, including Judiciary and Transportation. Most of the bills that PAPAID are advocating are in Judiciary. An additional bill about to be introduced by Representative Greiner would create a felony classification for third time DUI convictions. We believe the House may move this bill quickly given its recent actions on several DUI bills and from conversations with various representatives.
We ask that people contact their senators and ask that the Senate Leadership focuses on these bills and pass these bills.
May 24, 2016 - Senate Bill 290 was signed by Governor Wolf today.
This legislation will surely save lives and prevent families from experiencing the heartache of losing a loved one to DUI, that thousands of Pennsylvanians face everyday, including the families of PAPAID.
We appreciate the efforts of all who assisted in having this bill passed and wish to thank Senator Rafferty, Representative Greiner and Senator Smucker for their efforts to make Pennsylvanians safer, as well as the other legislators that took an active role to help move this bill forward. We also wish to thank our communities who attended hearings or called and/or wrote their legislators,the York and Lancaster DA Offices that supported this effort as well as the press throughout the state for covering our story and advocating change. Last but not least,we thank MADD who kept this legislation on the radar for several years along with Senator Rafferty.
May 21, 2016 - Progress continues to be made:
We are planning a trip to Harrisburg in early June to meet with legislators and discuss the various bills that are currently in the Senate.
April 24, 2016 - Since our last update, the following DUI-related bills have moved forward:
March 22, 2016 - A group of 10 families met with over 28 senators, representative and staff members on our visit to the Capital as well as holding a press conference in the Capital Media Center. The legislators were engaging and many voiced their support for passage of SB290 as well as forthcoming bills in April that address some of the broader DUI issues including penalty and preventative measures. We believe that SB290 should make its way to the House floor with concurrence with the Senate in April. Hopefully the bill will be enacted by the end of April.
March 6, 2016 - We continue to get our message out to the news media around the state as we prepare for our visit to the Capital on March 22nd. We have meetings scheduled with senators and representatives from our districts as well as members from House and Senate Leadership. We also have a scheduled 11:00 AM Press Conference in the Capital Media Center. We currently have 10 families of DUI victims planning to attend. Please contact us if you have lost a child and would like to be a part of this effort.
February 6, 2016 Update - We have moved our "Day on the Hill" visit, from February to March 22nd. At least 7 families have committed to participate. We are scheduling meetings with Representatives and Senators in the districts of the participating families as well as leaders within the parties. A press conference will also be scheduled during the day. We are also scheduling interviews with local news outlets around the state to help get our message out. Please contact us if you have lost a child and would like to be a part of this effort.
February 3, 2016 - Five families who have lost children due to DUI drivers met with Susan Baldrige and Dan Marschka of Lancaster Newspaper to share our stories and to emphasis the need for the House to immediately pass SB290/HB278, which would require convicted first time DUI drivers to use an ignition interlock/breathalyzer as a condition for maintaining driving license. We additionally stressed the need for the PA House and Senate Leadership to focus on creating comprehensive and effective laws this Session that address the DUI problem across Pennsylvania as lives continue to be lost to DUI driving.
January 10, 2016 Update - Per my recent conversations with Representative Greiner and MADD, Senate Bill 290 and House Bill 278 are in the House Transportation Committee. Common belief is that the House has been focused on the budget up to now, but there is a desire/plan to move forward at some point this session. Additionally there may be an attempt by the House to pass other DUI-related legislation at the same time.
September 17, 2015 Update - Senate Bill 290 (interlock) was passed in the Senate today and will now move to the House for consideration. The House also has an identical bill sponsored by Representative Greiner (HB278). I will reach out to House Leadership as well as Representative Greiner to find out the current plan for both the interlock and other potential DUI-related legislation.
In late July, our State Senator, Lloyd Smucker, introduced DUI legislation that would upgrade the penalty for DUI driving, especially dealing with repeat offenders and lowering the bar for Malice, which should have the effect of longer sentences for repeat DUI drivers who kill others while driving impaired.
We would welcome any assistance/support from others in having the House focus on and passing these bills.