HARRISBURG, August 8, 2008 – State Senator Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) today announced that he and Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-Montgomery) plan to introduce legislation to close a loophole in the law that recently allowed a repeat DUI offender in Allegheny County to escape additional mandatory jail time.

Fontana said that the bill, currently being circulated for co-sponsors, will amend the Vehicles Code to close a loophole that allows repeat DUI offenders to escape additional jail time and more serious charges by refusing to submit to chemical testing. This problem with the current DUI law was brought to his attention by District Attorney Stephen Zappala and was an issue in a recent case where a Lawrenceville man plead guilty to his eighth drunken-driving offense, “I don’t think that the General Assembly ever intended to allow repeat offenders the opportunity to avoid stiffer penalties by refusing chemical testing. While everyone should have that choice, there shouldn’t a benefit to those who do so.”

Rafferty also emphasized the need to address this issue, “Five years ago, we voted to amend the DUI law in an effort to give the public more protections by removing repeat offenders from the road. The problem with the law is that it is unclear and needs to be addressed now by the General Assembly.”

The Vehicles Code provides that a person who is a DUI/license-suspended repeat offender (3rd or subsequent offense) who has a blood alcohol level of .02 or greater at the time of the offense would be sentenced to a first degree misdemeanor, pay a fine of $5,000 and receive jail time of not less than two years. If the person refuses to submit to the chemical test, he or she may only be subject to a summary offense. Without the results of a blood alcohol test, he or she could avoid the heightened sentence, fine and jail time in the law. This problem occurs in a similar section of the law dealing with second offenses as well.

“Moving this legislation forward quickly will insure that individuals who are repeat offenders don’t have the ability to circumvent the law and receive lesser penalties just
because they fail to consent to a chemical test,” Fontana said. “I’ll work with my colleagues to have prompt consideration of this legislation so that that repeat offenders face the penalties that the General Assembly intended for their actions.”

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