PA Bill Number: SB565
Title: In firearms and other dangerous articles, repealing provisions relating to firearms not to be carried without a license, providing for license not ...
Description: In firearms and other dangerous articles, repealing provisions relating to firearms not to be carried without a license, providing for licens ...
Last Action: Veto No. 4
Last Action Date: Dec 2, 2021
Concealed Carry Seminar – Sponsored by Rep. Eric Nelson - 12/7/2021
Word of Life Church 4497 State Route 136 Greensburg, PA
Annual Holiday Party - 12/12/2021
Al's Cafe 440 McMurray Road, Bethal Park, PA
Concealed Carry Seminar – Sponsored by Ambridge District Sportsmen’s Assoc. - 02/26/2022
ADSA Clubhouse 2900 Ridge Road Extension, Baden PA
Deana's Law passes overwhelmingly in state House :: 11/19/2021
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a package of reforms to the state’s driving under the influence laws Wednesday by a margin of 168-32, a major step forward in enacting stronger drunk driving laws in the name of a Brookhaven woman killed in 2019.
“Deana’s Law,” named for Deana Eckman, would substantially increase penalties for drivers with multiple DUI convictions involving high blood alcohol content levels and would require consecutive sentences for a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction.
Eckman was killed by David Strowhouer in a drunk-driving crash as she and her husband, Chris, were returning home from a family gathering Feb. 16, 2019. Chris Eckman was also injured in the crash.
Strowhouer’s blood-alcohol level was 0.199 and he had traces of cocaine, diazepam and marijuana in his system at the time. He later pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and related offenses, for which he received a sentence of 25½ to 50 years in state prison. Strowhouer is scheduled to be resentenced in that case Monday before Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary Alice Brennan.
Eckman’s parents, Rich and Roseann DeRosa, have championed increased penalties for repeat drunk drivers due to Strowhouer’s history of DUIs and because he received concurrent rather than consecutive sentences on his fourth and fifth offenses.
“This bill targets the worst repeat DUI offenders – the offenders who drive on our roadways constantly drunk until they ultimately kill an innocent person,” Roseann DeRosa told the Senate Transportation Committee hearing earlier this year. “The grief me and my husband carry every day is torture and never ending. …Losing a child is the most heart-wrenching, chest-crushing, breath-stealing tragedy on earth. My life will never be the same because nothing in this world will ever fill the space that belonged to only her.”
“Remember that your families and loved ones share the road with irresponsible DUI drivers,” Rich DeRosa said. “Don’t think for a minute that this tragedy couldn’t happen to your family. I used to think that, now there’s an empty chair at my table and a hole in my heart.”
The DeRosas worked with former state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, to pass a bill in the last session, but it was defeated largely due to an amendment that carved out marijuana “used lawfully” under the state’s Medical Marijuana Act from definitions for a “controlled substance.”
That exception, which was later removed, garnered opposition from AAA, while penalties including first-degree felonies drew the ire of second amendment organizations because they bar an offender from later owning firearms.
A new pair of bills introduced in March by state Rep. Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown, and state Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24 of Marlborough Township, would try to head off the Second Amendment issue by raising offenses only to the level of a second-degree felony for a fourth or subsequent offense. State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-45, has meanwhile sponsored a bill to remove DUI penalties for legal medical marijuana use as a stand-alone bill in the Senate.
The sole “no” vote from the Delaware County delegation on House Bill 773 – numbered for Eckman’s birthday – came from state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 of Haverford.
“The reason I voted against mandatory minimums is because it takes the power away from elected judges to do justice,” said Vitali. “It reduces their discretion. Every case is different. You have a tragic, compelling case like Deana’s, but the bill we just passed affects all almost 13 million Pennsylvanians. Some DUI cases are that tragic, some are more tragic, some are minor and everywhere in between.”
Vitali pointed to a letter sent out to representatives by the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union urging a “no” vote on Deana’s Law because it would require “stacked” sentences that could be used by prosecutors to coerce defendants into accepting guilty pleas on lesser offenses and would impose a felony sentencing enhancement for those who refused breath or chemical testing.
State Rep. Craig Williams, R-160 of Concord, a former federal prosecutor, debated Vitali’s points on the House floor prior to Wednesday’s vote and bristled at the suggestion that the law was based on faulty anecdotal information.
“This isn’t anecdotal evidence – this happened to someone from Delaware County,” he said.
Williams agreed that defendants in criminal prosecutions should be considered innocent until proven guilty and provided every opportunity to exercise their right of silence, including refusing testing.
“But once convicted, we’re talking about community safety at that point,” he said. “This guy (Strowhouer) had 5 DUIs before he hit Deana head-on at 80 miles per hour. For the third, fourth and fifth DUI, he was sentenced in the same hearing. He got one to five years concurrently (and) was paroled in less than a year. Had he been serving those sentences consecutively… Deana Eckman would be alive today.”
“You can’t just keep putting bad people on the streets and hoping for a better result,” said Quinn. “This is for the worst of the worst offenders. This is not the guy who goes out and has an extra glass of beer or an extra glass of wine and is just slightly over (the limit). …If you haven’t learned your lesson after three strikes, we really need to begin to ratchet things up.”
The House bill now heads to the Senate Transportation Committee, where Mensch’s version is already pending. Quinn said he would soon get to work on setting up meetings with state senators to advance the legislation in the hopes of getting it passed this session.