In 2003, the Pennsylvania legislature undertook efforts to toughen the state’s laws regulating drunk driving. At the urging of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”), the state lowered the maximum blood alcohol content level for the legal definition of intoxication and increased the length of jail sentences, especially for repeat offenders. Yet despite these measures, other loopholes in the state’s DUI laws allow repeat offenders to continue to drive.
Like all other states, Pennsylvania defines intoxication as having a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.08 percent. Any person who has a level of alcohol in his or her bloodstream of 0.08 or higher is conclusively deemed to be intoxicated. The 2003 legislative changes also provided for longer jail sentences for repeat offenders.
A major difference between Pennsylvania’s laws governing drunk driving and the laws of other states is the fact that the state does not automatically suspend the license of a driver who fails a breathalyzer test or a blood test. Most states suspend the license of anyone who refuses to take such a test and anyone who fails the test, even if the driver has not yet been convicted of DUI. In Pennsylvania, however, a driver who has been arrested with a blood alcohol content in excess of .08 percent may very well be back driving the next day.
A second major difference between Pennsylvania’s DUI laws and those of other states is the requirement that a person have previous DUI convictions, rather than just DUI arrests, before harsher penalties such as license suspension and imposition of longer sentences for repeat DUI offenses can be imposed. A person can have a series of arrests for DUI, but until a conviction is rendered, each offense is regarded as a “first offense” and results in a lighter sentence.
The legislature is currently conducting hearings on possible changes in the state’s DUI laws. Some of the current loopholes may soon be closed.
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Despite tougher Pa. DUI laws, many repeat offenders stay on the road,” Mark Fazlollah Dylan Purcell and Craig R. McCoy, Sept. 8, 2014