By Jack Firneno
Wire Staff Writer
Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia) announced plans to sponsor legislation that will address underage drinking. His bill will allow police to administer a breath test to a minor before an arrest to determine if he or she has consumed alcohol.
“This bill became necessary because of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that blocked police from using Breathalyzers to determine if a minor is under the influence,” said Murt.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that police could not use pre-arrest breath tests (PBTs) to issue citations for underage drinking in 2010.
The court’s decision was based on the fact that the authority to PBTs rests within the
vehicle code, while underage drinking is covered under the crimes code.
Murt’s bill would change the appropriate section of the law to allow a police officer to use a PBT to determine if a minor has consumed alcohol. A positive test result would be allowed to be offered as evidence that the minor consumed alcohol in violation of state law.
“We must do whatever we can to help those who misuse alcohol,” Murt said. “We cannot allow a quirk in the law hamper the enforcement of our laws prohibiting underage drinking.”
Meanwhile, Murt has also co-sponsored legislation aimed at increasing the penalty for people who cause the death of a police animal when that animal is killed in the line of duty.
The bill, known as “Rocco’s Law,” calls for the crime to be considered a second-degree felony with a seven- to 10-year prison sentence.
Introduced as Senate Bills 1260 and 1261, the legislation is named after an 8-year-old German shepherd police dog in Pittsburgh who was stabbed to death last month while helping to apprehend a suspect.
“The outpouring of emotion from the public has been staggering, and many people are asking why there is not a more severe penalty for killing a police animal,” Murt said.
Currently, injuring or torturing a police animal is a third-degree felony. Rocco’s Law would make the penalty equal to killing a human law enforcement official.
Under current law, injuring or torturing a police animal is a felony of the third degree. The new legislation would place the penalty for killing a police animal on equal footing with killing a human law enforcement officer.
“Police animals may not be humans, but they are undeniably considered by most to be fellow law enforcement officers,” Murt said. “They receive extensive training and risk their lives to protect and serve our communities. Those who intentionally or recklessly take the life of a police animal should face a harsher penalty.”