The history of Pennsylvania DUI law changes and why that matters today

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2020 | DUI

In 2018, Pennsylvania changed its DUI laws. Once considered among the more lenient states in the US, these changes have permanently shifted to be more punitive and comprehensive.

The purpose of this law was to deter drunk drivers from offending again. It categorized repeat DUI offenders as felons and lengthened the sentence for those who caused death due to their drunk driving. But the rule changes have an impact on people today that no one should overlook.

 What were the changes?

One of the first significant changes that resulted from the 2018 law was the “look back” period for a DUI/ DWI. Previously set at seven years, Pennsylvania law will now consider any drunk driving conviction within 10 years as a prior offense. In addition, these new regulations increased the penalties for a DUI to the following:

  • First Offense: This can include between 60 and 90 days of jail time, as well as a fine of $500.
  • Second Offense: This can consist of no less than 90 days of jail time and a fine of $1000.
  • Third Offense or any Subsequent Offense: This can include no less than six months of jail time and a fine of $2500.

Under these new rules, a DUI conviction can be treated as a felony if it is your fourth DUI in 10 years or a third DUI within 10 years, and the individual has a blood alcohol content higher than .16%. Before this new law, the court considered such charges misdemeanors and resulted in minimal jail time. Now, almost anyone that is convicted of more than one DUI can face incarceration.

Finally, these new laws also impose a mandatory minimum sentence for those who had past DUI convictions, and their impaired driving resulted in a death. In these situations, the court must impose a sentence of at least five-years for every death caused by the offender. This minimum sentence goes up to seven years per death when the DUI offender has two or more prior DUI convictions.

What to do after a repeat DUI charge?

First, don’t panic. Even though Pennsylvania now has stiffer penalties for repeated DUIs, you have rights under the law. While a DUI charge must be taken seriously, a proper defense can ensure one bad decision or misunderstanding doesn’t need to affect the rest of your life.

FindLaw Network