Pennsylvania DUI Law Changes
A couple of key changes to Pennsylvania DUI laws in late 2014 mean that drivers can no longer get multiple DUIs treated as first offenses because of timing, and that drivers convicted of a second DUI after refusing a chemical test will see stiffer penalties.
Senate Bill 1239 closes what prosecutors have described as a loophole in the law that allowed an individual driver with two or more DUI charges pending at the same time to argue that each should be treated as a first DUI because no prior conviction was yet on the books.
The situation in Pennsylvania has been that a driver could be pulled over one Friday night and be charged with DUI for the first time, and get pulled over again a week later and be charged with another DUI. However, because that original DUI had yet to be adjudicated, the driver could argue that the one from a week later should legally be treated as a first DUI. If the driver is convicted of the second chronological DUI before the original one, the driver then could argue at the trial for the original DUI that it was his or her first DUI in fact and should also be treated as a first DUI.
It’s been a way for defense lawyers to argue for lighter penalties for drivers who get charged with two or more DUIs, since penalties go up with each subsequent conviction. However, Senate Bill 1239 amended Pennsylvania’s DUI laws so that courts now have to handle DUIs one at a time in the order in which they occurred. So now when a driver’s second DUI comes up in court, the first one will have been adjudicated, and a conviction for the first one will mean subsequent DUIs are subject to the increasing penalties.
Another provision in the new law amended 75 P.A.C.S.A. 3803(b)(1) to remove one word that allowed the penalty for a second DUI after refusing a chemical test to be capped at 6 months. A second DUI is a first-degree misdemeanor, and the amendment to the law now allows a maximum sentence of 5 years.
There is good news in Senate Bill 1239 for drivers who received administrative license suspensions for old drug or DUI convictions — some as long as a decade after the fact. The bill allows people who received delayed suspensions to apply for occupational limited driver’s licenses to get some driving privileges back while the conviction-related suspension is in effect.
The issue stems from an audit in York County that revealed thousands of people whose drug or DUI convictions were supposed to be certified to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, but weren’t at the time of the original conviction. Some people received administrative suspension notices for convictions from as far back as 2004.
In addition to allowing affected drivers to apply for occupational limited driver’s licenses, the bill requires that court clerks now must certify convictions to PennDOT within 10 days after final judgment. If the conviction is certified beyond that deadline, no administrative suspension is to be issued. The license suspension provision is estimated to affect about 15,000 people statewide.
If you’ve been charged with a Pittsburgh DUI or had your driver’s license suspended, the experienced Pittsburgh DUI lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC offer a free consultation to discuss your case and your options for fighting your charge. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 to make an appointment with one of our attorneys.