The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 17, 2013

Tighten penalties on hit-and-run drivers

— As our lawmakers delve finally into the issue of prison overcrowding and its relationship to sentencing guidelines, we expect plenty of debate.

One discussion that caught our attention this week was a call for changes in Pennsylvania laws that some say might be encouraging drivers to flee the scene of an accident if they have been drinking.

A good starting point for serious discussion, don’t you agree?

Here is what some prosecutors and politicians have told an eastern Pennsylvania newspaper:

Under current law, people convicted of driving under the influence in a fatal accident face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years – but those who leave the scene and are caught after the alcohol has left their system usually can only be charged with fleeing the scene, which carries a one-year minimum term.

Officials believe that the mandatory minimum sentence for hit-and-run convictions should not only be equal to but higher than that for driving under the influence in a fatal crash.

The Associated Press reported that state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, last year proposed increasing the mandatory minimum penalty for hit-and-run drivers to three years, but that some state senators objected, saying mandatory minimum terms lead to overcrowded prisons.

We hope readers agree that a flaw exists here, one that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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