Legislation goes to PA House for consideration
The State Senate passed Deana’s Law, groundbreaking legislation sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester & Delaware), requiring the use of innovative technology to combat drunk driving and named in memory of DUI homicide victim Deana Eckman.
“Less than a year ago, Deana Eckman was violently and callously murdered by an individual now convicted of his sixth DUI,” said Killion. “With Senate passage of this legislation, we are a major step closer to honoring her memory and better protecting Pennsylvanians from the worst of the worst DUI offenders.”
Deana Eckman was killed in a head-on collision on Februrary 16, 2019 in Upper Chichester Townhip, Delaware County. The individual convicted in the crash, which seriously injured Deana’s husband, Chris, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, and a host of other felonies and has been sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.
“There is no word strong enough to describe the lifelong pain of outliving your child,” said Roseann DeRosa, mother of Deana Eckman. “I am grateful to the State Senate and especially Senator Killion for their efforts to pay tribute to Deana by making sure no other family endures the tragedy that we have.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 773, numbered in honor of Deana’s birth month and year, will mandate the use of continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) devices for the first time in Pennsylvania. Similar to home arrest monitors and other devices affixed to offenders, CAM devices are strapped to the wearer.
At regular intervals, CAM devices sample and test the wearer’s insensate perspiration for the presence of alcohol. As sensitive and reliable as Breathalyzers, CAM devices upload test results to a base station installed in the wearer’s home and transmits them to a monitoring agency.
CAM devices have been used for the last several years in York County as part of the adjudication of DUI cases. York experienced a 90 percent decline in DUI recidivism in the first year of their use. DUI fatalities in York dropped 21 percent from the previous three-year average during that same period.
“CAM devices work. They effectively deter offenders from consuming alcohol,” said Killion. “You keep someone from drinking, you keep them from turning a vehicle into a killing machine.”
Requiring those arrested for a third or subsequent DUI offense be fitted with a CAM device is just one of the innovative methods and changes provided for in Deana’s Law. Killion’s legislation would also:
- Increase jail time for those convicted of three DUIs or more. Those convicted of a fourth offense would be subject to a five to 10 year sentence rather than the current three-and-a-half to seven years. Fifth and subsequent DUI convictions would expose the felony offender to a 10 to 20 year rather than the current three-and-a-half to seven years.
- Require the imposition of consecutive sentences after conviction. Deana’s Law would mandate that those convicted of a third DUI offense serve the sentence for that offense consecutively to any other sentence the offender is serving and to any other sentence to be imposed by the court.
“Repeat DUI offenders callously disregard the lives and safety of others,” said Killion. “Those convicted of these crimes should not be allowed the luxury of serving DUI sentences concurrently.”
“Had concurrent sentences not been imposed on the drunk driver who took Deana from us, he would have still been in prison when she was killed,” noted Rich DeRosa, father of Deana Eckman.
“Children should outlive their parents. That’s the natural order of things,” said Roseann DeRosa. “We fervently hope and pray that Deana’s Law will be enacted to spare other families from this never-ending nightmare.”
“I’m grateful to my Senate colleagues for their support of this important legislation and respectfully ask the House of Representatives to pass Deana’s Law without undue delay,” said Killion. “No other family should suffer as the DeRosa and Eckman families have.”
Senate Bill 773 moves to the House of Representatives and will likely be referred to the Transportation Committee.