Bill would expand use of ignition interlocks in Pennsylvania

A new bill proposes to extend the use of ignition interlock devices to first-time DUI offenders.

Recent actions of the Pennsylvania Legislature have sent the message that it has zero tolerance for repeat drunk driving offenders. In the first change to drunk driving laws in over 10 years, the Pennsylvania Senate recently voted unanimously to require certain first-time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their motor vehicles before they can resume their driving privileges.

Under the provisions of the bill, drivers convicted of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .10 percent or more must install interlock devices on their car, even if it is their first offense. This percentage is only slightly above the legal limit of .08 percent.

This proposed change to the law is a significant departure from the current interlock law. Under the law now in force, ignition interlocks are only required for drivers with multiple DUI convictions. Currently, first-time offenders are exempt from having to install the devices.

In voting on the proposal, the state Senate was influenced by statistics touting the effectiveness of interlock devices in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that have required interlock devices for DUI offenses have seen repeat offenses decline by two-thirds. Even under the more lenient law currently in force, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has reported that interlocks have prevented approximately 50,000 attempts to drive by those previously convicted of DUI.

Having passed the state Senate, the interlock bill heads to the House of Representatives, where it is also expected to pass. Assuming this occurs, it will be up to the governor on whether it will become law.

If the bill becomes law as expected, Pennsylvania will join a growing number of states that require at least some first-time offenders to install ignition devices. The devices are connected to the vehicle’s ignition. They work by requiring the driver to blow into the device before the vehicle may be started. If the device detects alcohol in a percentage greater than .025 percent on the driver’s breath, it prevents the vehicle from being started. In addition, ignition interlocks require the driver to periodically blow into the device while driving.

Although the use of ignition interlock devices have the benefit of allowing those convicted of drunk driving to continue driving to their jobs and run necessary errands, it comes at a price. Those convicted are financially responsible for the installation and maintenance of the device during the required period, which can quickly exceed $1,000.

An attorney can help

If you are accused of drunk driving in Pennsylvania, you face serious financial penalties as well as the loss of your freedoms. The proposed bill is the latest in a long list of reasons why it is important to aggressively fight the charges. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Applebaum & Associates can work to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

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