Bill To Discourage Hit-and-Runs Expected to Become Law After Push by Bicycle Activists
Coming in somewhere between ‘Liquor’ and ‘Voter ID’ on Pennsylvania’s long list of weird laws might be the hit-and-run loophole. Until House Bill 208 is signed, the penalty for leaving the scene of a fatal hit and run is lesser than that for being involved in a fatal DUI. The current law, then, gives murderous drivers an incentive to leave the scene of a crime if they were drunk, sober up, then turn themselves in.
That’s in the process, now, of changing. Last week, the Senate passed HB 208 and the governor is expected to sign it. The bill makes both a fatal hit and run, as well as a DUI, a second-degree felony. Previously, a hit and run was third degree and a DUI was a second degree. Therefore, a hit-and-run carried a lesser mandatory minimum sentence.
Local activists at the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia had been encouraging their members and supporters to push for this bill in the wake of a hit and run last year on Lehigh Avenue, in which bicyclist Gregory Loper was killed while riding his bike.
According to the Bicycle Coalition’s blog, which refers to the loophole as “mostly closed,” the bill keeps the mandatory minimum sentence for hit and runners at one year, but allows for “sentencing enhancement,” which means it’s “more likely that a defendant will receive a substantial period of jail time.”