Murt to introduce underage drinking bill

State Rep. Thomas Murt 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 (R-152nd dist.), whose dis­trict in­cludes por­tions of the North­east and east­ern Mont­gomery County.

The Pennsylvania Su­preme Court ruled in 2010 that po­lice could not use pre-ar­rest breath tests (PBTs) to is­sue cita­tions for un­der­age drink­ing. 

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.

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.

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.” ••

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