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Lawmakers try anew to toughen penalty for repeat DUI drivers

November 17, 2021 GMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The state House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation aiming to increase penalties for motorists who have multiple DUI convictions to end what critics have called Pennsylvania’s “revolving door” for the most serious drunk drivers.

The bill passed 168-32, and goes to the state Senate for consideration there. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2020, but it died in the House.

Under the House bill, penalties would rise for those who receive multiple driving-under-the-influence convictions with higher blood-alcohol content levels.

The bill was inspired by the death of Deana Eckman. The 45-year-old Delaware County woman was killed in 2019 by a five-time drunk driver whose pickup truck crossed the double yellow line and slammed head-on into the car driven by her husband Chris Eckman, who was seriously injured.

The 30-year-old pickup driver pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and other charges, and was sentenced to 25½ to 51 years in prison.

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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.

The bill would ensure that someone who commits a fourth DUI with an elevated blood alcohol level serves a longer jail sentence, in part by raising the offense to a second-degree felony, and that offenders with two offenses serve more time by making them serve their sentence consecutively with other counts.