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Proposed Bill Would Expand Use of Ignition Locks in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

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.

While the law might give some DUI defendants a means to continue driving, it also means far more widespread use of ignition interlock systems at greater cost to defendants. The law appeals to advocates for stricter DUI laws, including MADD, which have publicly supported the bill and touted its public safety benefits. MADD and other organizations say that people continue to drive even with a license suspension, and the limited license created by this law would acknowledge that reality. An estimated 8,000 individuals in Pennsylvania have ignition interlock devices, while about 55,000 DUI arrests took place in 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that wider use of ignition interlock systems can reduce the number of repeat offenders.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania , it is critical that you consult with a qualified DUI lawyer to determine the best way to handle your defense. Zachary B. Cooper, Attorney at Law, P.C. has dedicated 100% of his practice to DUI defense. We are available to help you 24/7. Please contact us online or at (215) 542-0800 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

2013 Was a Tumultuous Year for Court Decisions in DUI Cases Regarding the Accuracy of Breathalyzer Results, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, February 12, 2014

Pennsylvania Driver Challenges Suspension of License for Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, January 26, 2014

Anatomy of a Pennsylvania DUI Offense: How is “Impairment” Defined? Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, January 21, 2014