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Study says Pennsylvania’s drunk driving laws are lenient

Since law enforcement agencies began cracking down on driving under the influence in the 1980s, the percentage of fatalities due to drunk drivers has decreased nearly 52 percent in the United States. In 2012, the percentage of deadly drunk driving accidents nationwide was 31 percent. This is despite the fact that some states, like Pennsylvania, are considered lenient on drivers who get behind the wheel when they are intoxicated.

In fact, the study says that Pennsylvania is the third most lenient state on drunk drivers. Researchers compared 16 different categories of prevention methods and criminal penalties in order to determine where a state ranked. Some experts say that penalties do not have to be severe to be effective. Drivers simply need to know that they will be caught and punished.

In Pennsylvania, there is no minimum jail time required for a first offense, but a minimum fine of $300 may be imposed. If convicted of a second DUI, there is a statutory minimum sentence of five days in jail and fine of $300. There is no felony DUI in the state, but the penalties can increase if a driver’s blood alcohol content is above .16 percent or a child is involved. Use of an ignition interlock system for 12 months is not a consideration until the second offense.

Even though Pennsylvania laws are considered lenient and the penalties may not be as severe as other states, a drunk driving conviction can still negatively impact an individual’s life. Anyone accused of driving under the influence needs to quickly gain an understanding of his or her rights and what to expect as the case progresses through the court system. In some circumstances, it may be possible to avoid a DUI conviction all together.

Source: Lower Gwynedd-Ambler-Whitpain, PA Patch, “Pennsylvania Named Third Most Lenient State On DUI”, Justin Heinze, June 16, 2015

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