The Commonwealth is continuing to crack down on drunk drivers, particularly those with prior DWI offenses.
As of December 23, 2018:
- a person convicted of a third DWI offense with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .16 or higher or a fourth (or subsequent) DWI offense regardless of BAC is guilty of a felony. In the past these crimes were misdemeanors;
- a person convicted of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence faces a sentence of five years in prison if he or she has a prior DWI offense. If the individual has two prior DWI offenses he or she faces a seven-year sentence. In the past the maximum sentence was three years.
Finally, part of the punishment for a DWI offense (whether as part of an ARD disposition or an actual sentence) is license suspension. Some offenders continue to drive during such suspensions. Prior to the law change, the penalty for this was a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Under the new law, a second conviction for driving while a license is suspended (for DWI reasons), is punishable with a $1,000 fine and imprisonment of not less than 90 days. For a third (or subsequent) conviction, the penalty is upped to a fine of $2,500 and imprisonment for not less than six months. For a first-time offender the penalty has not changed, but $500 and up to 90 days is serious, and it should also be noted that such a conviction would disqualify the person from a potential for ARD so the stakes are still enormously high.
— Rod Fluck