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Host: Scott LaMar

Should fatal DUI be a felony in Pennsylvania?

Written by Scott LaMar, Executive Producer | Aug 28, 2018 4:00 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, August 28, 2018:

(This is an encore episode of Smart Talk from June 19, 2018)

Eighteen-year-old Meredith Demko was killed in a Lancaster County car crash in July, 2014.  The driver of the other vehicle had been arrested twice previously for driving under the influence and was driving with his license suspended.  His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and he had heroin in his system at the time.  Even though the driver's actions resulted in a death and he had multiple offenses, he wasn't automatically charged with a felony that would result in a longer prison sentence.  Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states where fatal DUIs aren't treated as automatic felonies.

In fact, Pennsylvania is considered to have some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country.  But a few lawmakers and parents who lost children to drunk or impaired drivers are trying to change that.

Meredith's father and mother, Chris and Susan, co-founded the group Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving and have fought a passionate battle to make DUI laws tougher. The Demkos are on Tuesday's Smart Talk.  Also with us are Republican State Senator John Rafferty and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.

In Pennsylvania, first-time DUI offenders don't automatically have their driver's licenses suspended or serve time in jail.  The severity of the penalty often depends on the driver's blood-alcohol level.

Repeat offenders account for about 40% of all fatal DUI-related crashes and tens of thousands continue to drive without a vaild license.

Should DUI laws be toughened in Pennsylvania? 

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Susan and Chris Demko

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