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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Druce is loose
Get out of the street and stay off the sidewalk. Although former state Rep. Tom Druce hasn't finished his mandatory minimum sentence, he's back on the road.

Almost four years ago, he killed a guy with his Jeep, kept going and later tried to cover it up by giving the taxpayer-leased Grand Cherokee back to the dealer and claiming he hit a sign.

So, what is former Bucks County state Rep. Thomas W. Druce doing back behind the wheel today?

It was the first thought that struck me when I read that Druce was cited for speeding - doing 57 mph in a 40 mph zone - on June 5 outside Harrisburg, the city where he now admits he ran down Kenneth Cains on July 27, 1999.

That's politics in Pennsylvania, most folks said, when I broached the question with them.

Not true, according to a lawyer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

"The legislature has only provided a one-year suspension for this offense," said Harold H. Cramer, assistant chief counsel for PennDOT. "That's the penalty provided by law. We can't impose what we think is fair. We can only do what the law allows."

Although Cramer wouldn't discuss Druce's license suspension specifically, citing state confidentiality laws, he said as soon as the former lawmaker was sentenced in October 2000, his driver's license should have been taken away.

Druce was bailed out for $600,000 two months later and has been free ever since, pending an appeal of his two- to four-year jail sentence. The appeal has now worked its way up to the state Supreme Court.

"An appeal does not stay the (license) suspension and a criminal court can't issue a stay," Cramer said. "It doesn't have the authority."

After Druce spent a year off the road, PennDOT had no choice but to hand him his license back, Cramer said. Druce should have also received five points on his driving record which, under state law, would have lapsed away by now.

If convicted of speeding 17 mph over the speed limit, Druce faces another four points on his driving record, according to Cramer.

But under state law, Druce can keep driving unimpeded. He wouldn't even have to take a written test unless he goes over six points. The Department can't pull his license again unless he goes over 11 points.

Leaving the scene of a fatal accident carries a mandatory one-year jail term and a maximum of seven years and a $15,000 fine. The combined maximum sentence for the two other charges Druce faces - tampering with evidence and defrauding insurers - is nine years and a $20,000 fine.

Still, Cramer said Druce was "handled rather sternly" in criminal court.

"Some times they don't even prosecute," he said. "They give them ARD," or accelerated rehabilitative disposition - a form of probation for first time offenders. He noted that a lot of people in those programs appeal their license suspensions with PennDOT.

"I'm shocked at the light sentences some of these people get," he said, adding he believes Druce's former colleagues in the Legislature should hold a task force and rewrite the law. "Should somebody get their license back only one year after taking a life?"

Hey, even the state Game Commission sets limits on how many times hunters can kill.


  • Was Druce alone when he killed Cains and did Crime Stoppers catch him? His fellow inmates think so.

  • Did Capitol police help Druce cover up? One columnist's opinion.

  • Is the word Druce now a verb? Buzzwhack.com has accepted it.

  • Did Druce vote himself a mandatory 1-year sentence in 1996 for leaving the scene? (He did, Senate Bill 140 passed the house 197-0)

  • Were the sentencing judge's comments to the AP prejudicial? (Hardly, he gave Druce the mandatory minimum sentence for hit-and-run and six months each for the other two charges.)

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

June 16, 2003