Pennsylvania drivers need to be wary of a newly enacted law that increases the level of crimes and imposes stiffer penalties for repeat DUI offenses.  

The legislation, known as Deana’s law, was enacted in 2002 in response to the tragic death of a 45-year-old woman from Brookhaven. Deana Eckman was killed in an accident by a repeat DUI offender, Matthew Strowhouser, on February 16, 2019 while in Upper Chichester. The collision also gravely injured Chris Eckman, Deana’s husband and passenger.

Strowhouser later pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while under the influence, third-degree murder and several other felonies. The incident was Strowhouser’s sixth DUI offense. He was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

Deana’s Law amends the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code by increasing the level of certain DUI offenses in cases of repeat offenders. A DUI is now a third-degree felony if the individual has two prior offenses. It is a second-degree felony if he or she has three or more prior offenses. These higher felony levels apply to drivers charged with a high-tier offense, which is defined as a DUI based on any of the following grounds:

  • A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 or higher
  • The presence of certain controlled substances or metabolites in the blood
  • A chemical test refusal

With this higher grading comes additional penalties. Penalties for a third high-tier offense DUI now include:

  • A maximum of seven years in prison
  • A mandatory minimum of one year in state prison
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $2,500
  • An 18-month driver’s license suspension

When a person is convicted of a fourth high-tier DUI offense, they could face:

  • Up to 10 years in prison
  • A mandatory minimum of one year in prison
  • A mandatory minimum fine of $2,500
  • A driver’s license suspension of eighteen months

Another critical change to repeat offender sentencing made by Deana’s Law requires that judges impose consecutive sentences for any DUI offender with two or more prior DUI convictions. Consecutive sentences mean that for any offenses that do not merge, the judge must run them back-to-back and not at the same time. This includes running DUI sentences consecutive to other sentences, not just those the defendant currently faces. This can result in substantially longer prison sentences than under the old version of the law.

Due to the gravity of the penalties possible under Deana’s Law, anyone facing charges as a repeat DUI offender needs to put forth the strongest defense available, which means hiring an effective DUI defense counsel.

Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law in Somerset has skillfully represented Pennsylvania drivers in DUI cases for more than 25 years. Contact us online or call 814-443-1631 for a consultation on your case.