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Pennsylvania Governor Signs Ignition Interlock Law

In 2015, roughly 5,500 Breathalyzer-enabled interlock devises were installed in Pennsylvania. The devices require drivers to blow clean into a Breathalyzer to start their vehicles. Last month, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 290, which amends Title 75 to significantly expand the use of ignition interlock devices for DUI defendants. The bill, whose primary sponsor was Senator John Rafferty (R), will take effect in 2017.Breathalyzer-enabled ignition interlock devices prevent motorists from driving while intoxicated. Currently, first-time DUI defendants face a one-year license suspension upon conviction, and ignition interlocks only apply to repeat DUI offenders (drivers with more than one offense in 10 years). Under the new law, first-time DUI offenders with BAC levels of .10 to .15 percent could avoid the current one-year driver’s license suspension by instead seeking an ignition interlock license. The new law renders the devices available to first-time DUI offenders with the requisite BAC.

Many citizens require a car to get to and from work. Thus, many consider the new interlock law a major improvement on the previous law, which prohibited DUI defendants from driving under any condition for a specified period. Senator Rafferty stressed the amendment is a more sensible punishment for a first-time DUI offender. “He can still support his family or she can still support her family by driving to work,” he said. “They can go to the athletic events with their children [and] drive to church or synagogue.”

According to the Pennsylvania DUI Association, the new law will render roughly 12,000 Pennsylvania drivers eligible for devices. Based on the association’s calculations of data obtained from the devices based on a state contract, they have prevented individuals from driving under the influence 53,000 times. What’s more, drivers blew clean over 14.3 million times, suggesting that the systems are an effective deterrent to drunk driving.

Convicted drivers will bear the costs of the installation and lease of an approved ignition device. Under the new law, the driver would first be charged a $65 fee to apply to PennDOT to obtain the device. Along with the application, the driver must prove that the ignition interlock system was installed and provide evidence of financial responsibility. The systems cost between $800 and $1,300 to lease and install. Pennsylvania believes that the fees associated with the devices will cover the costs of the program, as well as generate an added $2 million for Pennsylvania each year.

Under the new law, first-time offenders are immediately eligible for the devices. (Individuals with a 12-month suspension must first serve six months.) Under the employment exception, if a person must as part of his job operate a vehicle owned by his employer, he need not install the device on his employer’s car. However, the employment exception does not apply if the employee partially owns or controls the vehicle, or when the car is made available for the employee’s personal use. School buses are additionally excluded from all interlock device exceptions.

PennDOT says the new law should go into effect next summer.

Hiring the right attorney can make all the difference in the world, even if your case seems straightforward or you have no criminal record.  If you find yourself arrested for a DUI, make sure you have a capable attorney on your side. Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Zachary B. Cooper will be aggressive and will fight to make sure that your rights are protected so that your family and you can move on with your lives. Call (215) 542-0800 for a free consultation to discuss the legal options that may be available to you.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Rejects Contention That Appellant’s Sentence Violates Ex Post Facto Clause, Pennslyvania DUI Blog, October 3, 2016.

Pennsylvania Appellate Court Reverses DUI Conviction in Light of McNeely, Pennsylvania DUI Blog, September 1, 2016.

Pennsylvania Appeals Court Holds DUI Defendant Not Constitutionally Entitled to Jury Trial, Pennsylvania DUI Blog, August 25, 2016.

Pennsylvania Superior Court Quashes DUI Appeal as Untimely, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, August 10, 2016.