Numerous friends and supporters of parents who lost their little boy to a drunk-driver have reportedly signed an online petition aimed at targeting what is being called a “loophole” in Pennsylvania’s DUI law.
The accident behind the petition, which occurred back in 2012, was allegedly caused by a man who ultimately pleaded guilty to fleeing the scene of the accident. For that he received a two-to-five year sentence. Under state law, the mandatory minimum for the crime is one year, whereas the mandatory minimum sentence for homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence is three years.
The latter point is what the online petition seeks to address. It is the fact that drunken drivers may receive a lesser sentence when they flee from the scene of an accident than if they choose to remain at the scene. There has been some support expressed among lawmakers for making the mandatory minimum sentences for these crimes match, but it isn’t clear exactly when this will take place.
From the perspective of criminal defense, mandatory minimum sentences don’t always make sense, since they remove a judge’s discretion to consider an alternative approach in different cases. Still, even cases involving mandatory minimum sentences need to receive strong criminal defense advocacy. A good criminal defense attorney will know how to present a case in such a way that it is resolved in the best interests of the defendant. Even if this doesn’t mean avoiding conviction altogether, it may mean receiving a conviction for a lesser crime or a lighter sentence.
Source: The Sunday Dispatch, “‘Kevin’s Law petition to close Pennsylvania’s DUI loophole gathers steam online,” Roger Dupuis, May 5, 2014.