The Pennsylvania Legislature recently enacted a new law which significantly increases the penalty for third and subsequent driving under the influence (“DUI”) offenses. The law, which is nicknamed Deana’s Law, provides that a third DUI within ten years will now be a third degree felony instead of a first degree misdemeanor. Further, a defendant who has three or more DUIs within the prior ten years will face a second degree felony should they again get arrested for DUI rather than what would previously have been a felony of the third degree. Previously, a third degree was a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
This change increases the potential maximum sentence for a DUI conviction because a misdemeanor of the first degree is punishable by up to five years in prison, while a third degree felony conviction may result in seven years in prison and a second degree felon may result in up to ten years’ incarceration.
The law also increases the potential mandatory minimums for a defendant who has to serve sentences for multiple DUI offenses at the same time. The law provides that anyone who has two or more prior offenses must serve a DUI sentence consecutively to any other DUI sentence. This means that if a defendant gets arrested for a third and fourth DUI and is sentenced for both cases, the judge cannot run the two sentences concurrently. Instead, the judge must run them consecutively. As a third degree DUI is normally punishable by a mandatory minimum of one to two years’ incarceration in a state prison, this means that a third and fourth DUI would result in a mandatory two to four years’ incarceration rather than the possibility of a concurrent one to two years’ incarceration on each count.
The law also directs the sentencing commission to provide a sentencing enhancement for a refusal of chemical testing under certain situations. Accordingly, the new law substantially increases the potential penalties for picking up multiple DUI cases in a ten year period.
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