“Under current Pennsylvania law, a drunken driver has an incentive to flee the scene of a crash if the person kills someone, a local state legislator says.
If the driver stays at the scene and is arrested, the person faces a minimum of three years in prison.
The penalty is far less – one year in jail – for those who flee and are apprehended after the alcohol is out of their system.
State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-120, Kingston, wants to close the loophole. She reintroduced legislation, House Bill 227, to change the law relating to hit-and-run crashes that are deadly or cause serious injury. Previous attempts have failed in the state House.
“Drivers involved in an accident have a duty to stop and render aid,” Mundy said. “Drivers who flee the scene of an accident may increase the time it takes for medical personnel to be notified, especially if the crash occurs in an isolated area or late at night. It also could lead to the victim suffering additional injuries or death if no one is there to assist them and alert oncoming traffic.”
Mundy said the legal loophole was brought to her attention in 2007 after a fatal hit-and-run accident in Plymouth. The driver who caused the crash admitted to drinking the night of the accident, but police were unable to test her blood-alcohol level because of the amount of time that had elapsed between the accident and when she was taken into custody.
“Consequently, the driver ended up receiving a lesser sentence because the penalty for a hit-and-run offense is lower than it is for drunken driving accident resulting in death or serious injury,” Mundy said. “That’s not justice.”
Another family affected by the loophole is supporting Mundy’s effort.
Joan Kukosky, 45, of Pringle, died after being struck by a vehicle while walking along South Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre just after midnight on May 7, 2006. She was clipped by a Jeep Wrangler, which fled. It was never determined whether the driver, caught a week later, had been drinking. If he had been, the loophole worked in his favor. He served one year in jail.
“More or less, he got a slap on the wrist,” said Kukosky’s daughter, Jodi Stash. “She was left like an animal to die on the side of the road,”
“I’m just glad something is trying to be done. I hope it does get passed,” Stash said.
State law classifies a drunken driving accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury as a second-degree felony, punishable with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. A hit-and-run accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony punishable with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Mundy’s legislation would reclassify a hit-and-run accident when death occurs as a second-degree felony. It would also add an additional fine and term of imprisonment for each victim, as well as raise the penalties if the hit-and-run accident is committed while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.”
This information was taken from the standardspeaker.com. It was not written by Justice for John, and was not claimed as such.