Legislation named in memory of Deana Eckman, Delco woman killed in February crash
MEDIA, PA – Joined by the parents and husband of DUI homicide victim Deana Eckman, Senator Tom Killion (R – Chester and Delaware) today announced the introduction of groundbreaking legislation in her memory that would require the use of innovative technology to combat repeat DUI offenders.
“The death of a child cannot be described in words,” said Rich DeRosa, father of Deana Eckman. “It is a constant state of depression. To lose someone in such an unnatural way, to be killed by a now six-time drunk driver, literally shakes your faith in humanity.”
Named Deana’s Law, Killion’s legislation is Senate Bill 773, numbered in honor of Deana’s birth month and year.
“We must utilize everything at our disposal to keep those who have multiple DUIs from endangering lives on our roadways,” noted Killion. “My bill will mandate the use of continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) devices for the first time in Pennsylvania.”
Similar to home arrest monitors and other devices affixed to offenders, CAM devices are strapped to the wearer. At regular intervals, CAM devices sample and test the wearer’s insensate perspiration for the presence of alcohol. As sensitive and reliable as Breathalyzers, CAM devices upload test results to a base station installed in the wearer’s home and transmits them to the monitoring agency.
CAM devices have been used for the last seven years in York County as part of the adjudication of DUI cases. York experienced a 90 percent decline in DUI recidivism in the first year of their use. DUI fatalities in York dropped 21 percent from the previous three-year average during that same period.
“CAM devices work. They effectively deter offenders from consuming alcohol,” said Killion. “You keep someone from drinking, you keep them from turning a three-ton vehicle into a killing machine.”
Requiring those arrested for a third or subsequent DUI offense be fitted with a CAM device is just one of the innovative methods and changes provided for in Deana’s Law.
Killion’s legislation would also:
- Increase jail time for those convicted of four DUIs or more. Those convicted of a fourth offense would be subject to a five to 10 year sentence rather than the current three-and-a-half to seven years. Fifth and subsequent DUI convictions would expose the felony offender to a 10 to 20 year rather than the current three-and-a-half to seven years.
- Require the imposition of consecutive sentences after conviction. Deana’s Law would mandate that those convicted of a third DUI offense serve the sentence for that offense consecutively to any other sentence the offender is serving and to any other sentence to be imposed by the court.
Regarding this provision of Deana’s Law, Killion noted, “These crimes are so egregious, those convicted of them should not be allowed the luxury of serving DUI sentences concurrently. It was a concurrent sentence which allowed the individual who killed Deana to be on the road rather than behind bars.”
Additionally the legislation would:
- Mandate the impoundment of a vehicle used in a DUI offense at the time of a third DUI arrest. If enacted, this will be the first Pennsylvania statutory requirement to impound a vehicle because of a DUI offense which is practiced in states across the country.
- Direct the Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to formulate recommendations regarding the establishment of DUI Courts and increase from one years to two years the required period for the installation of an interlock device on any vehicle operated by a person convicted of three or more DUIs.
“Repeat DUI offenders callously disregard the lives and safety of others,” said Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland. “This legislation recognizes the seriousness of these crimes and gives law enforcement important new tools to make sure these offenders never again have the opportunity to harm others or take a life.”
“Deana’s Law takes a major step in advancing DUI laws in PA,” said Debbie D’Addona, Victim Services Specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving PA. “Senator Killion is to be commended for his efforts in spearheading this legislation.”
“There is no word strong enough to describe the lifelong pain of outliving your child,” said Roseann DeRosa. “With Deana’s Law our goal is to target repeat offenders, save lives and spare other families from this never-ending nightmare.”
“My deepest thanks are reserved for Rich and Roseann DeRose and Deana’s husband, Chris Eckman,” noted Killion. “They have endured unimaginable heartbreak, but they’ve remained steadfast in their commitment to fight for her memory.
“Deana Eckman was a warm, loving, generous woman. Those who knew and loved her should still be enjoying her presence in their lives. Because of an individual now convicted of six DUIs, they are mourning her death.
“We are committed to doing all within our power to make sure no other family suffers the way the DeRosa and Eckman families have. We are committed to honoring Deana by passing this legislation in her memory.”
Senate Bill 773 currently has 13 co-sponsors, both Republicans and Democrats, and has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.