HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Monday to increase penalties for motorists who have multiple DUI convictions to try to end what critics call Pennsylvania’s “revolving door” for the most serious drunken drivers.
The state Senate passed the final version last week after a couple of attempts to get the bill through the Legislature.
The new law takes effect in November and increases penalties for some offenders who receive a third or subsequent DUI conviction.
It aims to lengthen sentences by requiring someone convicted of a third DUI offense to serve consecutive sentences for separate counts, instead of serving the sentences at the same time.
The law also increases the grading of offenses — and the potential length of the sentence — for someone convicted of a fourth DUI if they are caught with drugs or record a high blood alcohol content.
The bill was inspired by the death of Deana Eckman. A five-time drunken driver killed the 45-year-old Delaware County woman in 2019 when he drove his pickup truck across a double yellow line and slammed head-on into the car she was riding in, driven by Eckman's husband, who was seriously injured.
Bill author Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Deleware) said, “Today marks the end of an effort that began more than three years ago, shortly after the tragic and senseless death of Deana DeRosa Eckman."
“Her memory is now permanently enshrined in state law, and Pennsylvanians will be better protected from the worst-of-the-worst repeat DUI offenders because of Deana’s Law," Quinn continued.
The 30-year-old pickup driver pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and other charges and was sentenced to 25 1/2 to 51 years in prison.
The driver, David Strowhouer, had been freed from state prison a few months before the crash after serving a concurrent sentence for his fifth DUI conviction.