The Philadelphia DUI Law Blog

Off-Duty Trooper Kills Woman in DUI after DUI Victim Memorial

In a biting example of irony, a Pennsylvania state trooper has been charged with DUI homicide by vehicle after being involved in an accident while off-duty on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on May 18th, according to WPVI-TV. Trooper Barry Searfoss had been attending a golf outing in memory of Phebe Blessington, who had been killed by a drunk driver in 1997, according to NBC10.

Searfoss allegedly had a blood alcohol level of  .188, over twice the legal limit of .08, reported NBC10. On the night of the accident, Robin Williams, a North Philadelphia woman, was driving around 11 to 16 miles per hour, likely because of her car breaking down, when Searfoss rear ended her around 71 to 76 miles per hour. The impact caused Williams' car to burst into flames, which killed the 21-year-old.

Looking at the court documents from Searfoss' arraignment, you can see that he has been charged with two felonies, two misdemeanors, and three summary offenses. This method of charging allows for a jury to determine the level of liability based on what facts they find.

While irony is not yet an enhancement to DUI offenses, this off-duty officer has given himself enough enhancements because of the results of his actions. Normally, a DUI is a misdemeanor, which means that there are lower penalties and usually little to no jail time. Lower penalties still include losing your license for a period of time and fines in the thousands.

However, as soon as you add an enhancement to get an aggravated DUI, then you are in for some real trouble. Aggravated DUI is only a more serious misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, but that is true only up to the point where you hurt someone.

Once you seriously injure or kill someone while driving under the influence, then you have entered the land of the felony — second degree felony to be specific. The minimum jail time for a second degree felony is 3 years, and the maximum is 10.

Not surprisingly, Trooper Barry Searfoss is human and makes mistakes. We just wish that our state troopers would provide more of a role model for regular citizens to strive for, and not appear in news articles about a trooper charged with a DUI that ends in the death of a young woman.

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