Deana’s Law – Cracking Down On Repeat DUI Offenders In Pennsylvania

Over the last several years Pennsylvania has been increasing the penalties associated with drinking and driving – especially for those who have had previous DUIs. Alcohol is involved in over 30% of the traffic fatalities in the state and of those arrested for DUI (49,730 in 2018), about one-third are repeat offenders.

In 2018, Senate Bill 961

  • Upgraded to a third-degree felony a 3rd DUI in 10 years with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .16 or higher.
  • Upgraded to a second-degree felony a 4th (or more) DUI in 10 years with a BAC of .16 or higher
  • Increased the minimum sentence for DUI vehicular homicide from 3 years to 5 years if there was a previous DUI and to 7 years if there were two or more previous DUIs
  • Increased penalties for those who get a DUI while driving with a DUI-related license suspension

Unfortunately, the new laws were not in effect when David Strowhouer pled guilty to his 5th DUI in 2017. He was sentenced to 1 to 5 years in prison for a misdemeanor and was released on parole in the fall of 2018. On February 16, 2019, Strowhouer got behind the wheel with a BAC over 2 times the legal limit and caused the death of Deana Eckman when he crossed the center line and hit head-on the vehicle Eckman was a passenger in.

At Dan Doyle Law Group, our Philadelphia drunk driving accident attorneys are skilled advocates that will make a drunk driver pay for the bad judgment that caused you damage.

What is Deana’s Law?

Deana’s Law is the name given to the bill her tragic story inspired. House Bill 773 is a revised version of an earlier Senate bill and targets the chronic DUI repeat offender. House Bill 773 was approved by the House Transportation Committee in March and will now move to the full House for consideration.

The bill would

  • Make a 3rd DUI where the BAC is .16 or higher a second-degree felony with up to 10 years in prison
  • Grant authority to enhance the sentences for those with 4 or more DUIs
  • Require that any sentence imposed upon a person who has two or more DUIs be served consecutively with any other sentence imposed

Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) Devices for Repeat DUI Offenders

Although the Senate version of Deana’s Law was voted down last fall, a revised version may be in the works. The Senate version would mandate the use of CAM devices. CAM devices are worn by the individual and test perspiration for the presence of alcohol. York County has been using the devices for several years with good results. York reduced repeat offenses by 90% during the first year following a DUI and DUI fatalities dropped by 21% from a previous 3 year average.

The House just passed a similar bill that would give judges the option of requiring an alcohol monitoring device as a condition of release for repeat DUI offenders. The bill gives judges discretion to decide the type of device to be used.

The actions of lawmakers in Pennsylvania acknowledge that repeat drunk driving must be stopped because repeat offenders cause some of the most horrific results on the roads. Longer sentences may keep them physically off the roads. Monitoring devices may help to stop those who are not incarcerated from driving when they are impaired. The goal is to make the roadways safe so that innocent families do not have to face the devastating loss that Deana Eckman’s family must now live with.

If you or a family member have been injured by a drunk driver, Dan Doyle Law Group can help. When people make the decision to drink and drive they put everyone in their path at risk. The results can be disastrous. Our Philadelphia drunk driving accident lawyers won’t let drunk drivers forget the damages they caused. We will see you get every bit of compensation you are entitled to. We invite you to schedule a free consultation here to discuss your case with one of our lawyers or call our office at 215-987-3730.