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How would Bill 961 change Pennsylvania's DUI laws?

The proposed legislation, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 961, would serve to increase penalties associated with repeat DUI offenses if it becomes law. It would also increase penalties for people who kill or injure others while driving. As of last reports, the law passed the Pennsylvania State Senate last April with a near-unanimous vote of 45-4. Now it's with the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee.

According to the Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving (PAPAID), if the legislation becomes law, the state House of Representatives will have taken action to address a drunk driving problem that is killing hundreds of people throughout the state every year. PAPAID believes that failure to pass the legislation will result in additional deaths.

What are the increased punishments associated with proposed Senate Bill 961?

The law is primarily about increasing punishments for those convicted of drunk driving. Here are the most important aspects of the proposed legislation's increased punishments:

Increased punishments for multiple DUI convictions: A third-offense DUI conviction that happens within 10 years of the other convictions will be a felony-level penalty if the blood alcohol content is .16 percent or above. Otherwise, it will take a fourth-offense DUI conviction for the offense to be a felony.

Increased punishments for DUI homicide convictions: Those convicted of DUI while causing a homicide by vehicle will experience a minimum penalty of five years in prison as opposed to the current three-year mandatory sentence. If the person has two or more previous DUI convictions before the fatal DUI incident, the minimum penalty will be a seven-year prison sentence.

Increased punishments for DUI on a suspended license: Those convicted of DUI while having a suspended driver's license will also suffer from an increase in penalties.

A well-organized DUI defense is more important than ever in Pennsylvania

Due to the possibility of increased punishments related to a DUI offense in Pennsylvania, it is becoming more important than ever for those who were inappropriately accused of DUI to defend themselves. Fortunately, even if the Pennsylvania criminal justice system becomes stricter in terms of DUI offenders, accused individuals will still have a chance to defend themselves against the allegations in court. No defendant will face conviction or punishment related to any crime until -- and only if -- the prosecution proves him or her to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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