DUI Penalties Pennsylvania 2021

“Deana’s Law” Making Its Way Through the House and Senate

It is looking as though “Deana’s Law,” which increases DUI penalties for repeat offenders, is finally going to become law sometime in 2021. The House Transportation Committee passed House Bill 773 by unanimous vote in March. The Senate version, Bill 773, introduced by State Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24 of Marlborough Township, already passed and is pending in the Senate Transportation Committee. A hearing date has not yet been announced.

Origin of Deana’s Law

The legislation’s name comes from Deana Eckman, a 45-year-old woman who died following a drunk driving accident on February 16, 2019. The drunk driver, David Strowhouer, showed a BAC level of 0.199 as well as traces of marijuana, cocaine and diazepam in his system at the time of the crash. Strowhouer’s record showed five previous DUIs within 10 years, and he was on probation at the time the collision occurred. 

Strowhouer entered a guilty plea to third-degree murder, DUI, an accident involving injury or death and other charges. He received a jail sentence of 25 ½ to 50 years in the state prison. Several of the sentences for previous DUI offenses by Strowhouer had been concurrent instead of consecutive. Rep. Chris Quinn stated that the fatal accident would not have occurred if the offender had been in prison.

What Does Deana’s Law Do

The bill increases penalties for a third DUI to a felony third-degree and increases it to a second degree if the person committed three or more previous offenses. In addition, sentences imposed would be consecutive instead of concurrent. If both bills pass, differences are reconciled before the governor receives the completed version to sign into law.

Participation in an ARD Program Cannot Be Counted

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled during the summer of 2020 that participation in an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program does not count toward subsequent DUI offenses. The explanation given by the Superior Court was that to count toward the category of future DUIs would require a conviction or guilty plea. This could potentially affect many DUI convictions now and in the future.

The ARD program is widely used in the state in issues such as DUI, marijuana and drug possession and other offenses. When someone participates in the program by pleading not guilty and completing the requirements, they can generally have the charges against them dismissed and potentially have it expunged from their record. Being in the know on the latest changes in Pennsylvania DUI laws is important for someone facing charges so that their rights are protected.

The Travis Law Firm

Pennsylvania DUI laws change often, and keeping up with the laws can mean the difference in defending a client facing drunk driving charges. When you face charges, you need a lawyer who appears with you during the preliminary hearing and can build a strategic defense. A DUI conviction can follow you your entire life. 

An experienced DUI defense attorney can protect your rights. Call Travis Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your case and tell you what your options are at (814) 277-2222. You can also contact us online if you prefer.