Pennsylvania's Hit-and-Run Laws Need to Change, Lawmakers Say
Pennsylvania's hit-and-run laws were changed in September, but some lawmakers want them to get even tougher. They say that the current laws actually encourage drunk drivers to leave the scene of an accident.
Under the state's current law, people who are convicted of drunk driving in a fatal accident face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years. However, people who leave the scene and then are caught after the alcohol has left their system are usually only charged with fleeing the scene. This carries a one-year minimum term.
Last year, a state representative proposed increasing the minimum penalty for hit-and-run drivers to match that of drunk drivers. He says that other lawmakers opposed the idea, claiming it could lead to overcrowding in prisons. A compromise was struck – the offense was made a second-degree felony instead of a third-degree felony, carrying a maximum term of 10 instead of seven years. The one-year mandatory minimum term stayed the same.
Officials say that the changes most likely won't have any effect on offenders with little or no criminal history. Sentencing guidelines take criminal history into consideration, which would not allow judges to impose the maximum sentence.
Source: "Pennsylvania law said to encourage drunken drivers to flee." WTAE.com. January 13, 2012.