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Pennsylvania bill may eliminate drunk driving charges loophole

According to Pennsylvania lawmakers, there is an incentive in the current laws that seems to tacitly approve of drivers leaving the scene of some accidents. The current law carries a lesser penalty for fleeing a fatal accident than if a driver is facing drunk driving charges. There are currently two similar bills in each house of the Pennsylvania legislature.

The current law on the books has a minimum three year sentence for a driver that causes a fatality if the driver is intoxicated at the time of the collision. Conversely, if a driver leaves the scene of an accident where there has been a fatality, then the minimum sentence is only a year in jail if the driver can be found and charged. The lawmakers are attempting to rewrite the laws that would make the minimum penalties the same for both offenses.

If the bill passes, the intention is to reduce the implied incentive for drunk drivers to leave the scene of a crash. Some of the drivers who have admitted that they left the scene of an accident also allegedly confessed to drinking alcohol the night of the wreck. However, because they could no longer be required to submit to alcohol testing, they were not charged with drunk driving. Some lawmakers have expressed the belief that some of these drivers are purposefully fleeing to avoid a longer jail sentence.

The fate of either bill is unknown at this time. It is important to remember, however, that not every fatal accident results in charges being filed against a driver. It should also be kept in mind that, even if a driver is facing drunk driving charges, that does not equate to being guilty of the crimes alleged. Any Pennsylvania driver who has been charged with a DUI is guaranteed the presumption of innocence throughout the criminal process. The driver is also entitled to challenge any evidence, factually and/or on legal grounds.

Source:, "Bill would close DUI loophole that now encourages flight", Adam Brandolph, June 21, 2014

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