HARRISBURG (July 30, 2015) Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) has introduced legislation to crack down on repeat drunk drivers who cause a fatal car accident.
The need for this legislation became apparent after Meredith L. Demko, 18, a Lampeter-Strasburg High School graduate, was killed last July, when her vehicle was struck by a repeat drunk driver.
“This bill is designed to ensure that these crimes are treated with the gravity they warrant,” Smucker said. “With harsher penalties, the bill has the power to take repeat drunk drivers off the road and prevent future tragedies,” Smucker said.
The legislation introduced today will increase the penalty for killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance when an individual has more than two prior offenses within a 10-year period. It would add a presumption of recklessness or negligence when a person dies at the hands of a person driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
The bill would also consider this offense murder of the third degree, which is graded as a felony of the first degree, if the individual has more than two prior offenses.
An individual who commits a violation and has more than two prior offenses within a 10-year period would be guilty of a felony of the third degree.
Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that nearly one-third of all DUI convictions involve repeat offenders, and a person with a prior DUI arrest has more than four times the risk of being involved in a fatal automobile accident.
Under Smucker’s bill, the penalty for driving under the influence would be increased for a driver with more than two offenses from imprisonment of not less than 10 days to imprisonment of between two to seven years. In addition, the fine would be increased from not less than $500 to between $5,000 and $15,000.
“We have to send a strong message: drunk driving is a serious offense with serious consequences. It deserves more than a slap on the wrist, especially when a drunk driver’s actions take the life of an innocent person,” Smucker said. “Alcohol and automobiles do not mix, and the law must reinforce that message and reflect the magnitude of the crime. It’s not too late to save someone else’s life.”
CONTACT: Diane McNaughton