Families of victims killed in DUI crashes rally in support of bill calling for increased penalties
Fifteen Pennsylvania familes held photos of family members killed in DUI-related crashes in the state capitol Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 961, which seeks to increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
The families shared their stories of how their loved ones’ lives were cut short due to the poor choices made by drivers who were under the influence, many of which who were repeat offenders.
One of the family members referred to vehicles operated by drunk drivers as “4,000-pound weapons.”
Another woman, Kelly, talked about her nephew Zachary Gonzalez. He was 15 years old when he was killed by a driver under the influence of drugs. Gonzalez was riding his bike at the time.
“We had custody of Zachary because his father was killed when he (Zachary) was 3 years old by a drunk driver crossing the street,” Kelly said. “A small family of four, two lost, by others’ choices to drive impaired.”
Senate Bill 961 would make the following changes to existing laws:
A felony penalty for a third DUI within 10 years if the third offense involves a blood-alcohol content of .16 or higher, and in all other cases after the fourth offense
Increased penalites for homicide by vehicle while DUI, which is currently a 3-year minimum.
If convicted of a prior DUI, the minimum setnence for causing death would be 5 years.
If convicted of two or more prior DUIs, the minimum sentence for causing a death would be 7 years.
Increased penalties for driving while under a DUI-related license suspension.
According to PA Parents Against Impaired Driving, repeat DUI offenders are responsible for approximately 40 percent of all DUI-related fatalities, and there are over 50,0000 new DUI cases in the state annually.
“The purpose of this law is so that no other families will have to stand here holding a picture .. with their loved one’s photo,” said Sen. John Rafferty. “We have drawn the line and said ‘no more is this going to continue in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.'”
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