A bill currently pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature, SB 1036, would significantly expand the use of ignition interlock devices in DUI cases. This is a device that tests breath alcohol content (BAC) and prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver’s BAC is above a certain level. Currently, state law only requires the device for individuals with more than one DUI conviction. The bill, if enacted, could actually enable people to begin driving again sooner after a DUI-related license suspension than before. At the same time, however, the bill has the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an organization which rarely supports legislation that makes things easier for DUI defendants.
State law defines an “ignition interlock system” as one that requires a driver to give a breath sample before starting the vehicle, and which prevents operation of the vehicle if the breath sample shows BAC of 0.025% or higher. The device is required for drivers with two convictions for DUI within a ten-year period, drivers whose license has been suspended for refusal to submit to chemical testing while under arrest, or who violated a previous order to use an ignition interlock system. Drivers must have the device professionally installed, and they are responsible for paying a monthly service fee. Once the state has issued a restricted license requiring ignition interlock, the driver must use the device for at least one year before obtaining an unrestricted license. Drivers with only one DUI conviction are not required to use an ignition interlock device at the end of their license suspension.
The bill would add a new section to the chapter on licensing of drivers to create an “ignition interlock limited license.” Under current law, a first conviction for DUI can result in license suspension of twelve to eighteen months. A person’s license can also be suspended for refusing to submit to chemical testing. Instead of an automatic license suspension, the proposed new law would give drivers the option of continuing to drive with the use of an ignition interlock device. The amount of time an individual has this type of license would be credited to any other period of time they would be required to have an ignition interlock system under current law for the same alleged offense. Continue reading