On July 11, 2022, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Deana's Law, which significantly increases both the offense level and penalties for repeat DUI offenders. The law was named in memory of Deana DeRosa Eckman, a Delaware County woman killed by a drunken driver with five previous DUI convictions and a suspended driver's license. When he swerved his pickup truck into her lane and hit Deana's car head-on, his blood-alcohol level was 0.199%. Investigators also found traces of cocaine, diazepam, and marijuana in his system.
What Offenses Are Covered
The new law, which takes effect on November 8, 2022, applies to drivers with a blood-alcohol level of 0.16% or higher; drivers who have unprescribed controlled substances in their systems; and drivers who are otherwise impaired by alcohol and who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or blood analysis test.
Deana's Law Increases Offense Levels
For a driver with two previous DUI convictions, Deanna's Law increases the offense from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. For a driver with three previous DUI convictions, the level of offense increases from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.
Being convicted of a felony—as opposed to a misdemeanor—carries with it a host of consequences on top of the potential increase in prison time. Unlike with a DUI misdemeanor, for example, you cannot ask a court to seal the record of your conviction for a felony offense.
A Conviction Under Deana's Law Means More Prison Time
As a result of the more serious levels of offense, the potential prison sentences also increase. Where formerly the maximum sentence for a multiple DUI offender with no other complicating factors was five years in prison, Deana's Law elevates the charge to a third-degree felony, which carries with it a sentence of up to seven years in prison. For the more serious second-degree felony that comes with a fourth DUI conviction, the prison sentence is up to ten years.
Sentences Under Deana's Law Are Served Consecutively
Deana's Law also requires that sentences are served consecutively. This means that a person serving sentences for multiple crimes cannot combine them and so serve them all concurrently. Instead, the driver convicted under Deana's law has to serve their sentences one after the other.
Deana's Law Affects Even First-time Offenders
Because Deana's Law applies in cases where a defendant has been convicted of DUI twice before, it becomes even more important that drivers who are charged with DUI for the first or second time receive proper legal advice and a strong legal defense.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have the knowledge and experience to help you defend against a DUI or drugged driving charge in Pennsylvania. Call Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or reach out through our contact form to learn more about how they can help you defend your case.
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