Pennsylvania law states that any DUI re-offenders must serve two months in jail for the second offense and an additional year for every following offense, in addition to having his or her license suspended. However, this law hasn’t prevented a former CNN courts commentator from being arrested for drunk driving five times within a year, and never serving more than 10 days in jail.
According to an article on Philly.com, Joseph Lawless was able to find a loophole in the law that allowed him to plead guilty as a first time offender for each case of DUI. In addition, he was driving with a valid license for each of these arrests. This was possible because the law only requires license suspension after an offender has been CONVICTED of DUI. In other words, drivers have free reign of the roads while awaiting trial.
In comparison with other states’ DUI laws, Pennsylvania seems pretty lax despite recently lowering the blood alcohol requirement to be considered an impaired driver and increasing jail time for repeat offenders. In 41 states, authorities immediately suspend the licenses of drivers who fail sobriety tests. Thirty-one states, but not PA, require the use of an interlock device after the first conviction. These devices don’t allow drivers to start their vehicles if they are drunk and DUI rearrests are said to fall two-thirds when they are used.
According to the article, the biggest PA loophole abusers can be found in Philadelphia. Philly.com states that one in every four DUI offenders gets away without punishment, mostly because they just don’t show up for court. Philly traffic court is so backed up that it isn’t always prepared to effectively go after offenders.
Be sure to read the article to get the full story of Joseph Lawless and to see how harshly DUI re-offenders have affected local families.