Just in time for the holidays, a new law aims to get drunk drivers off the road.
A new law took effect Nov. 12, which adds stronger penalties for people who are repeatedly caught driving under the influence.
The law, Act 59 of 2022, also known as “Deana’s Law,” which was passed July 15, upgrades a DUI charge to a third-degree felony if a driver has two or more previous DUI convictions. With three or more convictions, that penalty increases to a second-degree felony.
Under Deana’s Law, an individual convicted of a DUI offense who has three or more prior offenses will be required to serve their new sentence consecutively, instead of concurrently, to any other jail time the individual is already serving except for violations that are required to be merged. Additionally, those individuals will also face an 18-month license suspension.
An individual who refuses breath or chemical testing pursuant to a valid search warrant or court order and has two or more prior DUI offenses commits a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to seven years in prison; or has three or more prior DUI offenses commits a felony of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as described in a release from Sen. Wayne Fontana.
The law was named after Deana Eckman, a 45-year-old Delaware County resident who was killed on Feb. 16, 2019, in Upper Chichester, Delaware County. Eckman died when a car driven by David Strowhouer crossed the center line and collided head-on with her vehicle.
Strowhouer had five previous DUI convictions over a nine-year timeframe. At the time of Eckman’s death, Strowhoer’s blood-alcohol level was 0.199, which is nearly three times the legal limit with traces of cocaine, diazepam and marijuana also in his system. Strowhouer had been paroled five months earlier for a one-to-five year sentence in another, nonfatal crash.
The bill was championed by Rich and Roseann DeRosa, Eckman’s parents as detailed in a press release from the Pennsylvania Republican Caucus.
“Had a judge sentenced Strowhouer to consecutive jail time for each offense in those previous cases, he would not have been free to drive on the day he killed Deana,” Sen. Wayne Fontana said via statement.