The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1239 to close a loophole which allowed some repeat drunk drivers to escape harsher penalties and drive on the roads.
After the passing of the bill, prosecutors will now be able to charge DUI suspects with harsher penalties if they are repeat offenders and have been arrested again for subsequent DUIs. The will now face stricter penalties that come with repeat violations.
An incident lead to the introduction of the bill when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled a driver who had been arrested twice for DUI in the same night. However, the case was treated as a first offense and so he faced lesser charges as he did not have a conviction for the first offense.
The bill is pending approval from the Senate now.
News Source: www.ABC27.com
PHILADELPHIA – A suspected drunk driver was taken in custody in West Philadelphia after he tried to flee and evade police officers. While he was attempting to flee, he hit a 22-year-old man riding a bicycle and also struck a parked car.
The incident took place on Saturday and started around 12:40 a.m. Police tried to stop a vehicle which was speeding and travelling in the wrong lane of a two-way street at 5500 Spruce Street. However, the driver completely ignored the police and struck a bicyclist. The incident took place in the 800 block of South 56th Street in Cobbs Creek.
The driver, who was thought to be driving while under the influence then continued to flee while officers pursued him. He hit a parked vehicle which caused the parked vehicle to strike another parked vehicle. The vehicle was parked along the 5000 block of Baltimore Avenue.
After the driver hit the parked vehicle, he tried to flee from the scene in foot. He was later found at his home by the police where he was arrested.
The bicyclist who was hit by the drunk driver sustained several injuries and was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He sustained injuries to his arms, legs and neck. However, he was listed to be in stable condition.
The drunk driver who tried to flee from the accident spots was expected to be charged with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, recklessly endangering another person and similar offenses. The identity of the 20-year-old driver was not immediately released by the police.
News Source: Philadelphia.CBSLocal.com
UPPER DARBY – A DUI crash that took place on Sunday resulted in a Drexel Hill man being charged with aggravated assault and related offenses.
According to police reports, the man was driving under the influence, seriously injured a 31-year-old woman and also slammed into three vehicles.
The offender, identified as 57-year-old Ronald Devuono of the 3800 block of Bonsall Avenue, was driving a bright orange 2014 Dodge Charger when he went for a Sunday drive through Drexel Hill area around 5 p.m. Police reports state that he allegedly had an open bottle of Don Perignon in the vehicle.
Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said that Devuono struck a parked 2014 Jeep Cherokee while driving in the area of Childs Avenue and Lasher Road. The incident caused significant damage to the Jeep and Devuono fled the scene at a high rate of speed. However, witnesses were able to note the license number of his car.
After fleeing from the scene, Devuono went in the area of Garrett Road and Congress Avenue where he smashed his car into a 1999 Toyota Corolla within five minutes of the first crash. The Corolla was being driven by a woman. She suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision and was admitted to Delaware County Memorial in serious condition with multiple fractures. After his car bounced off the Toyota, he then smashed into a 2004 Acura.
His vehicle then bounced onto the trolley racks before it came to a stop. Devuono then leaned out of his Charger to empty a bottle of Dom Perignon onto the ground according to witnesses.
“When police officers arrive, he can just about get out of the car. There was a strong odor of alcohol and he flunked field sobriety tests,” said Chitwood.
Devuono suffered several injuries in the crash. He was taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries and for blood tests.
Chitwood commented on the incident saying, “Here’s a guy who could have killed numerous people, not only in vehicles, but on the sidewalk. Fortunately, nobody got killed, but the woman he hit suffered significant injuries.”
Devuono faces several charges as a result of the incident including driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, reckless driving, careless driving, accident involving damage to unattended vehicle or property, failure to stop and render aid, reckless endangerment and related offenses.
He is being held in Delaware County prison on 10 percent of $25,000 bail.
Early Sunday, an incident took place on the Schuylkill Expressway which resulted in the injury of two Pennsylvania State Police troopers. According to police reports, the troopers were helping an alleged drunk driver when their cruiser was hit by a car.
The troopers were on patrol when the incident happened around 2:30 am. They saw a car stopped in the highway’s eastbound lanes near Montgomery Drive. When the troopers arrived, the man pulled his car to the left side of the road instead of to the right. As the troopers pulled up behind him, they tried to get his vehicle out of the way of traffic. Just then, another car slammed into their cruiser from behind.
According to Capt. James Raykovitz, commander of Troop K, when the car hit the cruiser from behind, one trooper had to go over and physically jump over the Jersey barrier to avoid being struck. “The other trooper was accessing something . . . he was partially in his car when it was struck,” said Raykovitz.
The other trooper hopped back over the collision to assist the trooper in the cruiser who sustained more severe injuries.
The injured trooper remained in Hahnemann University Hospital on Sunday afternoon for treatment of head injuries. According to the hospital, he is expected to make a full recovery. His partner was also treated for minor injuries and released.
The driver of the vehicle stopped in the left lane was charged with driving under the influence and related offenses.
The other driver who struck the police car was not found to be intoxicated. It is not clear what charges he may face.
News Source: Mobile.Philly.com
LEVITTOWN, Pa. – According to police reports, a driver accused of hitting and killing a teenager from Bucks County and injuring another one while driving under the influence of a prescription drug will not be charged. The driver was also under the influence of cocaine.
The victim’s family members say it is a miscarriage of justice.
The victim, identified as 15-year-old Zachary Gonzalez, was struck and killed along Route 13 while riding his bike with his friends. The incident took place 3 months ago, but police tape still marks the spot where the incident took place.
Since the DA’s office says that it cannot charge the suspect in the teen’s death, the grief of the victim’s family is turning into rage.
Sarah Hughes, the mother of the second victim injured in the crash said, “After two children went over your windshield that’s what you cared about? And the DA doesn’t think that’s enough evidence.”
The drunk driver allegedly struck her son Jeffrey, and his friend Gonzalez, as they rode their bikes along the stretch of Route 13 in Levittown in January.
Jeffrey is still struggling and dealing with the aftermath of the crash and has not given his statement on camera yet.
The offender, identified as 60-year old Brian Patterson, was driving under the influence of prescription drugs and cocaine when he hit the boys. According to the police, he don’t have enough evidence to prove that the drugs were the reason behind the crash.
Matt Hoover, Assistant District Attorney for Bucks County said, ” Multiple witnesses to the crash confirmed the victim entered the road way on his bicycle and the defendant did not have any time to react and avoid the crash.”
Patterson was located at his home by Fox 29, but he refused to talk about the crash. They also found that Patterson had a history of drug and DUI charges, which date back up to 15 years. Patterson has also pleaded guilty to driving while his operating privileges were suspended. This happened just a week before the January crash.
“He hit somebody and they’re no longer here. And he hurt my child and that’s not ok and I want to know why he’s not getting charged with that,” Hughes said.
If Patterson is convicted, he will face a mandatory 3-day jail sentence and up to one year in prison for each of the two drug possession charges.
News Source: www.MyFoxPhilly.com
According to the Pennsylvania defense lawyers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s refusal to accept an appeal of the Superior Court’s ruling that the accuracy of alcohol breath tests in highest-rate driving under the influence cases must be determined at trial, has taken much of the steam out of what once seemed as it can be a game-changer for DUI law.
A DUI lawyer with Wagner & Spreha in Harrisburg, Pa, Edward F. Spreha Jr., who was not involved in the case, said that Commonwealth v. Schildt, which had the potential to impact large number of pending driving under the influence cases all over Pennsylvania, is now merely “a footnote”.
According to Spreha and other DUI attorneys, the case did raise an unusual challenge to the scientific accuracy of those tests, the merits of which remain unaddressed by state appellate courts. Arguments same like that may be used either as pretrial bargaining chips or trial defenses going forward, said attorneys.
A Philadelphia DUI defense and personal injury lawyer, Cary B. McClain said, “There’s now a legitimate issue to litigate before a jury and it gives the defense bar room to negotiate for a fair compromise”.
On 25th of February, the high court denied allocator in Schildt.
Last October, defense counsel had asked the justices to take up the case, saying that allowing the accuracy of breath test proof to be determined prior to trial “promotes uniformity in the law, gives a clear signal to future litigants and is also scientifically correct”.
In September 2013, a three-judge Superior Court panel overturned Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr.’s controversial ruling in Schildt saying that alcohol breath test proof in a driving under the influence case on the grounds that Clark’s determination was premature.
Clark found that breath alcohol testing devices that were used by law enforcement cannot accurately detect BAC level above or below the calibrated range of 0.05 to 0.15% and therefore are not enough to meet the burden of evidence in highest-rate driving under the influence cases.
Lawyers said that Clark’s ruling had the potential to impact a large number of pending DUI cases all around Pennsylvania but the Superior Court never found a scientific analysis of the breath tests in its seven-page memorandum opinion, instead finding that Clark abused his discretion in granting pretrial habeas corpus relief to defendant Jason R. Schildt due to the reason that the state made at least a prima facie showing that Schildt had been driving with a BAC level of 0.16% or above.
The court wanted the case for trial.
Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen said Clark “manifestly abused” his discretion by requiring the state to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the reliability of the breath test administered to Schildt at such an early stage in the case. “In short, the trial court prematurely and improperly held the commonwealth to its burden of proof at trial, in granting appellee’s pretrial motion to quash the complaint”.
Judges Susan Peikes Gantman and Sallie Updyke Mundy were with Allen in making the decision.
Justin J. McShane of the McShane Firm in Harrisburg, said that he did not consider it to be a loss due to the reason that it merely focused on the timing of Clark’s ruling, while leaving the scientific analysis in Clark’s opinion “undisturbed”.
Schildt urged the court to address the scientific analysis in his petition to the Supreme Court, saying the case “presents the best opportunity to provide guidance on a statewide level as to this repetitive issue”. Schildt argued in the petition, “this exact matter will be litigated hundreds if not thousands of times” all over the state but now that the justices have declined to hear arguments in the case, driving under the influence defense attorneys said they don’t believe the courts will be inundated with similar challenges to breath tests.
According to them, a large number of law enforcement agencies all over Pennsylvania have moved away from breath testing to blood testing.
Spreha said, “If you want to fight it on a case-by-case basis, you have to bring in the experts and spend the cash”.
A DUI lawyers with Fairlie & Lippy in North Wales, Pa., Steven F. Fairlie said that defense experts in cases like Schildt “probably cost in the area of $20,000. The average citizen can’t afford that”.
For those defendants with the means to challenge breathe tests, according to the attorneys it can be difficult to justify advising a client to take a driving under the influence case to court.
Advising a client to challenge a breath test at trial means advising a client to risk jail time in lieu of simply accepting ARD, said Fairlie.
Spreha said that lawyers will require gauging whether judges in a particular county have exhibited a proclivity for siding with the defense when they make arguments similar to those that rose in Schildt. “If you know all the judges are finding people guilty regardless of your argument, it’s hard to say to your client, ‘Let’s try again”.
According to Spreha, jury trials are risky due to the reason of their unpredictability but lawyers did agree that the scientific challenge raised in Schildt is an interesting one that could gain traction under the right trial situations.
McClain said, “It’s a good argument and I think you could see juries getting persuaded to follow it”.
News Source: www.TheLegalIntelligencer.com
Barry M. Searfoss Jr., a former state trooper, has been sentenced for a fatal crash that took place in Upper Dublin in 2012 that resulted in the death of a woman.
According to reports, the ex-lawman pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol on Tuesday in a Montgomery County Court. The two-vehicle collision took place on a section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Upper Dublin which resulted in the death of 21-year-old Robin Williams of Philadelphia.
News Source: www.TheIntell.com
In an attempt to fulfill the requirements of individuals, authors of changes to Pennsylvania’s penalties for 1st time DUI offenders made no one happy.
Only repeat DUI offenders are required to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles which require individuals to give a breath sample after which the device allows the engine of the vehicle to start.
Proposed changes in the law will increase interlock requirement for almost every individual but not in the way the state legislative affairs manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Frank Harris, would like. He wants to see those individuals convicted of drunken driving with an interlock device installed than serve a suspension because according to him, the issue with suspensions is that individuals continue to drive without a driver’s license. He noted, “Ignition interlocks were proven to reduce repeat drunk-driving offenses by 67 percent”.
The legislation that was proposed first would have required drivers to install an interlock only but concerns were raised that this is easy for repeat offenders, so amendments made by the Senate Transportation Committee last week will require drivers to serve out half their suspension prior to having the option to get an interlock and get behind the wheel again.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67% decrease occurred and it also found that advantage disappeared once interlocks are removed from vehicles. Individuals again start driving under the influence.
A second measure in the Pennsylvania legislation was created to make the changed behavior as it is. It requires that drivers do not fail a breath test on their interlock for 2 months prior to having the device removed, even if they have completed the time designated in their sentence.
The legislation was proposed by State Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery).
Vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Association for Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys, Mike Sherman, said that due to the reason that the interlock device can give false result of positive BAC level, it could mean an inappropriate sentencing extension. According to him, most 1st time offenders are unlikely to repeat their mistake. He said, “When you put an ignition interlock device in that vehicle, when he has to have his boss in his car, when he has to have clients in his car, he’s not going to be able to do that. He may lose his job”.
The cost of renting the devices is almost $2 a day. Washington State created a fund to pay for the devices but that’s not part of the current plan in Pennsylvania.
News Source: www.NewsWorks.org
Rule of Criminal Procedure 574 (Forensic. Laboratory Report; Certification in Lieu of Expert Report)
This rule was adopted in 2013 to address the issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009), that held that the 6th amendment confrontation right precluded presentation of laboratory reports without a live witness testifying in the trial. In Melendez-Diaz, the U.S. Supreme Court noted with approval the use of ”notice and demand” procedures as a means of permitting routine laboratory reports to be admitted without the expense of supporting the admission by live expert testimony while protecting a defendant’s confrontation rights.
This rule provides a ”notice and demand” procedure for Pennsylvania. Under the rule, the attorney for the Commonwealth may seek to admit a forensic laboratory report as evidence without the testimony of the analyst who performed the testing that was the subject of the report if notice requirements are met and no demand for the presence of the analyst is made. If the defendant makes such a demand, the analyst would be required to testify before the report could be admitted into evidence.
Nothing in this rule is intended to preclude a stipulation agreed to by the parties for the admission of the laboratory report without the analyst’s presence.
For cause shown, the judge may extend the time period of filing a demand for live testimony or grant a continuance of the trial.
For purposes of paragraph (D)(2) of this rule, a laboratory is ”accredited” when its management, personnel, quality system, operational and technical procedures, equipment and physical facilities meet standards established by a recognized state, national, or international accrediting organization such as the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accrediting Board (ASCLD/LAB) or Forensic Quality Services—International (FQS-I).
Rule 574. Forensic Laboratory Report; Certification in Lieu of Expert Testimony
- In any trial, the attorney for the Commonwealth may seek to offer into evidence a forensic laboratory report supported by a certification, as provided in paragraph (D), in lieu of testimony by the person who performed the analysis or examination that is the subject of the report.
- If the attorney for the Commonwealth intends to offer the report as provided in paragraph (A) as evidence at trial, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall serve upon the defendant’s attorney, or if unrepresented, the defendant a written notice of that fact at the time of the disclosure of the report but no later than 20 days prior to the start of trial.
- A copy of the report shall be provided to the defendant prior to or contemporaneously with the notice.
- Except as provided in paragraph (C), the report and certification are admissible in evidence to the same effect as if the person who performed the analysis or examination had personally testified.
- No later than 10 days following receipt of the notice provided in paragraph (B), the defendant’s attorney, or if unrepresented, the defendant may serve upon the attorney of the Commonwealth, a written demand for the person who performed the analysis or examination that is the subject of the report to testify at trial.
- If a written demand is filed, the report and certificate are not admissible under paragraph (B)(3) unless the analyst testifies.
- If no demand for live testimony is made to the use of the laboratory report and certificate within the time allowed by this section, the report and certificate are admissible in evidence.
- The analyst who performed the analysis or examination that is the subject of the report shall complete a certificate in which the analyst shall state:
- that he or she is qualified by education, training, and experience to perform the analysis;
- a description of his or her regular duties;
- the name and location of the laboratory where the analysis was performed; and
- that the tests were performed under industry-approved procedures or standards and the report accurately reflects the analyst’s findings and opinions regarding the results of those tests or analysis.
- An analyst employed by a laboratory that is accredited by a state, national, or international accreditation entity may, in lieu of the required certificate under paragraph (D)(1), submit a copy of the laboratory’s accreditation certificate.
- The analyst who performed the analysis or examination that is the subject of the report shall complete a certificate in which the analyst shall state:
Official Note: New Rule 574 adopted 2012, effective 2012.
This week, a hearing on legislation that will expand the installation of ignition interlocks in drunken driving cases will be held in Harrisburg. The legislation was proposed by a Chester County’s state senator.
The state Senate Transportation Committee will hold the hearing on Rafferty’s legislation, SB 1036, which will make the installation of ignition interlock mandatory in the vehicles of individuals convicted of DUI.
Sen. John Rafferty who is the head of the state Senate Transportation Committee is forcing the residents to contact their representatives in Harrisburg for supporting the legislation.
Last week, MADD President Jan Withers said, “Currently, Pennsylvania law requires ignition interlocks only for repeat offenders. SB 1036 will strengthen the law to require ignition interlocks for first-time convicted drunk drivers with an illegal blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater for at least six months”. 20 states have interlock laws like that in place, said Withers.
The repeat DUI offenses are decreased by 67 percent with the help of ignition interlocks said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Withers also said, “States that are enforcing all-offender ignition interlock laws, such as Arizona and Oregon have seen a reduction in DUI deaths by 43 to 42 percent, largely due to these comprehensive laws requiring all drunk drivers to receive an interlock”.
The law will be amended and it will change the current provision that requires the installation of interlocks in only those individual’s vehicles with drunk driving conviction and license suspension for 1 year or more than that. If the legislation sponsored by Rafferty is passed, the 1st time DUI offenders face mandatory use of the interlock devices.
Last fall, Rafferty said, “This will prevent people who are pulled over and convicted of DUI from getting onto the highway again and be able to harm someone. I am hopeful this will awaken first offenders that they may have a problem”.
An ignition interlock is a device which requires a breath sample for testing the BAC level of a driver before it allows the engine of the vehicle to start. If the BAC level is determined more than the legal limit of driving than the engine will not start. Breath samples are also required after regular intervals of time while the vehicle is in motion to prevent a sober friend from starting the vehicle by providing the breath sample. If the individual will not provide a sample or a sample BAC limit is over certain blood alcohol content limit than it will result in the sounding of alarms.
On Friday, District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement, “Drunk driving offenders, and particularly recidivist offenders, are somebody’s death waiting to happen. Tools like the ignition interlock will help us save lives. Drunk drivers will try to think up ways to get around the interlock device, but the game of adapting to stay one step ahead of criminals is the story of law enforcement”.
On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee hearing will be held.
News Source: www.DelcoTimes.com