Committee passes measure to close DUI ‘loophole’

Last updated: June 03. 2014 10:58PM - 2428 Views
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“Kevin’s Law” took a step closer to reality on Tuesday.

The state House Transportation Committee approved an amendment to a Senate vehicle code bill, proposed by state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, which would increase the minimum penalty for fleeing the scene of a fatal accident to three years.

Carroll told The Times Leader that the bipartisan committee, of which he is a member, unanimously approved his amendment. The bill next will head to the state House for a vote, possibly next week, he said.

The measure’s unofficial name is in memory of Kevin Miller, a 5-year-old Dallas boy who was struck by hit-and-run driver Thomas W. Letteer Jr. in December 2012 in Wilkes-Barre.

Letteer this week filed a motion seeking reduction of the two-to-five-year prison sentence handed down last month by Luzerne County Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr., also suggesting the judge consider placing him in boot camp instead of prison.

Currently, DUI homicides carry a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Leave the scene, and suspects face only a one-year minimum sentence if caught.

While Kevin Miller’s death was not the only local case fueling the desire for change, the issue took on renewed prominence after Letteer’s sentencing, when Miller’s family joined Carroll, prosecutors and other area lawmakers — including state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township — at a press conference calling on state legislators to change the law.

Previous efforts to change the law failed, until a partial victory two years ago.

A 2012 bill, called “Sean’s Law,” after western Pennsylvania hit-and-run victim Sean Pearce, increased the penalty for a fatal hit-and-run accident from a third-degree to a second-degree felony. The maximum range went up under Sean’s Law, but the minimum range did not.

Carroll’s amendment was tacked on to Senate Bill 1312, which was introduced to amend the state’s Highway Code on a number of issues, including vehicle lengths and transportation of modular housing.

Carroll noted his amendment also deals with changing the highway code, thus is considered the same subject matter as the original content of the bill.

Once the House approves the measure, it would return to the Senate, where it originated, for what is known as a concurrence vote, Carroll said. His goal is to see the bill passed before lawmakers adjourn for the summer on June 30.

If not, Carroll said, the bill would remain constitutionally viable until the end of session on Nov. 30.

But, as Carroll said he told Kevin’s mother, Caroline Miller, on Tuesday, he remains hopeful of achieving success by June 30.

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