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A Push for Tougher Penalties for Repeat DUI Offenders

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) A bill in the general assembly would make repeat DUI’s a felony here in Pennsylvania. But with lawmakers only having a few days in session before the November election, some supporters fear there isn’t enough time to get it passed.  Eyewitness News Harrisburg Reporter Matt Heckel has the story

“There’s nothing worse than losing a child. The pain never goes away.”

It’s a pain Chris Demko knows all too well. In 2014, his 18-year old daughter “Meredith” was driving home in the middle of the afternoon when her car was hit by another driver.

  “Who was two times the legal limit, high on heroin, driving on a suspended license.” Said Demko

That driver also had two previous DUI’s. Which is why Demko, who since co-founded “Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving” is pushing lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 961. It would increase a DUI to a felony on the fourth offense or third if the driver’s b-a-c is at least double the legal limit.

  “it’s going to send a message, if you choose to drive impaired after your first offense, the penalties are greater.” Noted Demko

  “It’s common sense change. It’s long overdue. I think we’re one of the last states that didn’t have a felony for DUI” said Lancaster County D.A. Craig Stedman.

Right now, Pennsylvania is one of only four states to not treat repeat DUI as a felony. Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman says it’s been frustrating.

  “If you steal a pen three times from Wal Mart, that’s a felony. But, if you commit three DUI’s in Pennsylvania, it stays a misdemeanor unless you kill somebody.” Said Stedman

The bill would also increase penalties for homicide by vehicle while DUI and for driving while under a dui-related license suspension. When lawmakers return to the capitol on Monday, They’ll have less than ten session days to get the bill passed. Chris Demko is now hoping to put enough pressure on lawmakers to do just that.

  “Please contact your Senator or Rep. This bill will save lives.” Stressed Demko

And Senate Bill 961 passed the Senate in April and is now in the house judiciary committee.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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