DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania: Too Harsh or Just Right?

  • Steve Jarmon,
  •   DUI
  •   Comments Off on DUI Penalties in Pennsylvania: Too Harsh or Just Right?
In Pennsylvania, DUIs are classified as a misdemeanor offense, but the consequences and penalties of a DUI conviction are more severe than most other misdemeanor offenses and some felony offenses. A DUI arrest and conviction has an effect on a individual that could effect every aspect of that person’s life. The two primary reasons for this are mandatory jail sentences and mandatory license suspensions.

 

 A person with no prior record who gets convicted of a DUI will likely face at least 3 days of incarceration and a one year loss of license.  Both of these factors would play a significant role in a person’s ability to continue to work at their job and provide for their families.  Even if a person were fortunate enough to have a job that would allow them to have time off to serve their jail sentence, not having a license for a year would be a hurdle that most people, especially those who live in the suburbs, would not be able to overcome.  A one year loss of license for most people would certainly put their jobs in jeopardy if they rely on their car to get back and forth to work. There are also family concerns associated with a loss of license. Not being able to drive your kids to doctor’s appointments or pick them up from school certainly would cause hardships for a family.

 

To put this in perspective, a person with no prior record who is charged with misdemeanor Simple Assault on their spouse, which many would agree is  amore egregious offense, would not face nearly the same consequences. If convicted, that person may only receive a probationary sentence. In some situations, the District Attorney may agree to drop the charge altogether in exchange for the person participating in a domestic violence class. Aside from participating in some programs, the charged individual is often times allowed to continue on with their life and career with little interruptions.

 

The reality is that the criminal justice system punishes DUI offenders based not on what they did but based on what they are trying to prevent, which is the unfortunate deaths of many innocent people at the hands of drunk drivers. Most people would agree that someone who gets behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and kills someone should be dealt with severely by the criminal justice system, but the real dilemma that deserves considerable thought is what to do with the individual who consumed more than they should at the office Christmas party or dinner out with friends who happens to get stopped at a checkpoint or pulled over for speeding. Do they deserve the consequences they will likely have to endure? Consequences that people who have committed more egregious offenses will likely avoid. Only the public can decide this through their elected representatives. For now, the public has decided that the answer is yes.

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