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DUI Penalties & Fentanyl Test Strips: PA Laws Enacted in 2022

A driver's hands rest on a steering wheel.
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There’s no denying the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on substance use. The CDC estimates that as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use a way of coping with pandemic-related stress. As substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers grappled with a complicated post-Covid landscape in 2022, legislators worked to tackle issues like the growing prevalence of fentanyl and amending guidelines for DUI penalties.

In this post, we’ll catch you up on new laws enacted in Pennsylvania in 2022 and why they matter.

Need help with addiction treatment? Please call Gaudenzia’s 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected]

Tougher DUI Penalties in PA

Introduced by Rep. Christopher Quinn, the 2022 Act 59 increases penalties for repeatedly driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in PA, as well as for those driving with high blood-alcohol levels. Act 59 outlines that, depending on circumstances, individuals charged with a DUI who have three or more previous DUI offenses can be sentenced to up to a decade in jail for committing a felony of the second degree, while those with two or more prior DUI offenses can be sentenced to up to seven years in jail for committing a third-degree felony.

Act 59 is also known as “Deanna’s Law,” referring to a 2019 incident where Deanna Eckman of Delaware County was killed in a head-on collision with a pick-up truck. The truck driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the collision and had 5 prior DUI offenses.

Fentanyl Test Strips Decriminalized

Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid that’s often mixed with other drugs to increase their potency. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 78% of the 5,343 overdose deaths in PA in 2021 involved fentanyl. Fentanyl cannot be detected through taste, smell, or sight, and drug users often have no idea they are ingesting the deadly substance.

Fentanyl test strips were previously classified as “drug paraphernalia,” which made selling and distributing them illegal. A 2022 amendment to Act 111 — signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2022 — decriminalized fentanyl test strips, making it possible for those using substances like heroin and other drugs frequently contaminated with lethal doses of fentanyl to test for it.

Fentanyl Lethal Dose
Shown above: a potentially lethal amount of fentanyl (imagine Source:

Some consider decriminalizing fentanyl test strips controversial as it can be seen as encouraging or enabling those who use substances to continue their use. The ability to detect and avoid fentanyl, however, directly saves lives and affords those with an SUD an opportunity to seek and receive the SUD treatment services they need.

Learn more about fentanyl here.  

If you or a loved needs help with addiction treatment, please contact our 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected] today.

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