On October 24, 2018, Act 153 of 2018 was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf increasing penalties for habitual offenders of Pennsylvania’s DUI Laws. The new law went into effect just before the Holiday Season, on December 23, 2018. Multiple convictions for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is now a felony under the new law. Previously, Pennsylvania was one of only four states in the country that did not consider multiple DUIs as felonies.
Under Pennsylvania three tier system, it is now a felony if you are caught driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 or higher or under the influence of a controlled substance and it is a third conviction. A fourth DUI conviction or higher — regardless of blood alcohol level or substance involved — will now also be considered a felony.
Under 75 Pa. C.S.A. §3803 (a)(3), an individual who violates section 3802 and has three or more prior offenses or has previously been convicted of a violation of section 3735 (relating to homicide by vehicle while driving under influence) commits a felony of the third degree.
The law also punishes habitual offenders who refuse to submit to breath or chemical testing similarly. Under 75 Pa. C.S.A. §3803(a)(4.1), an individual who violates section 3802(a)(1) where the individual refused testing of breath or chemical testing pursuant to a valid search warrant, court order or any other basis permissible by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Pennsylvania, or who violates section 3802(c) or (d) and who has two or more prior offenses commits a felony of the third degree.
Penalties are also increased for motorists who cause the death of another person as a result of a DUI, including a potential first degree felony charge for repeat offenders.
Under 75 Pa. C.S.A. §3735(a)(1), a person who unintentionally causes the death of another person as the result of a violation of section 3802 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) and who is convicted of violating section 3802:
(i) is guilty of a felony of the second degree; or
(ii) is guilty of a felony of the first degree if, before sentencing on the present violation, the person has incurred a conviction, adjudication of delinquency, juvenile consent decree, acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other form of preliminary disposition.
The penalty for homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence has also been increased. Under 75 Pa. C.S.A. §3735(a)(3), a person with one prior DUI conviction or adjudication before sentencing shall serve a term not less than five years. A person with at least two prior DUI convictions or adjudications before sentencing shall serve a term not less than seven years. Prior convictions or adjudications include convictions, adjudications of delinquency, juvenile consent decrees, acceptances of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other forms of preliminary disposition for any of the offenses. Consecutive five or seven-year term of imprisonment shall be imposed for each victim whose death is the result of a violation.
In addition, the law increases the penalty for driving under suspension for a prior DUI, from a summary offense with a minimum $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail to a summary offense with a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail and $1,000 for a second offense, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. A third and subsequent offense will be a misdemeanor of the third degree with a mandatory $2,500 fine and six months in jail.
Adults are prohibited under the law from accompanying someone driving on a learner’s permit when under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a degree that they endanger themselves or others.