Governor Wolf has just signed a new Pennsylvania DUI law making dramatic changes to the status quo. Legislators and prosecutors have advertised the law as a measure to require ignition interlock devices for all first-time DUI offenders. Actually, the law does far more than advertised.
First, the law immediately removes urine testing as an approved method for obtaining evidence in DUI cases. Is not clear what impact this will have on any existing cases where a hospital drew urine for medical purposes and the DA then obtained the results.
Another change which takes effect immediately involves the manner of calculating prior offenses. This is a monumental change to Pennsylvania DUI law. Effectively, the new law defines prior offenses as any offense that occurred 10 years prior to the date of the offense in question OR after the date of the offense in question. Thus, in our legislature’s eyes, a prior offense is any prior or subsequent offense. Thus, it is possible that someone who commits a second offense DUI and then a third offense DUI could be sentenced to two third offense DUI mandatory minimum sentences. Thus, where the result in Pennsylvania has normally been one year plus 90 days, that defendant might now serve one year plus one year. Further, where the defendant could previously avoid this outcome by being sentenced on a subsequent higher BAC DUI prior to being sentenced on an earlier lower BAC DUI, that loophole has been closed.
The rest of the changes in the law don’t take affect until 15 months from now. At that time the occupational limited license law presently in effect will be eliminated as it pertains to DUI cases. It will be replaced by a much more progressive version. It appears that this law will NOT apply to ARD cases. For drivers who are convicted of DUI, it provides for immediate eligibility for an ignition interlock limited license (IILL) for any driver with no prior DUI offenses. PennDOT will have 20 days to process applications. Any driver who has a prior DUI offense and is suspended for an ungraded misdemeanor or second degree misdemeanor DUI offense is eligible for the IILL after six months of suspension. Any driver who has a prior DUI offense and is convicted of a first degree misdemeanor DUI offense is eligible for an IILL after serving nine months of suspension. Whereas the former law required that the driver equip every car he owned with ignition interlock devices, the new law sensibly only requires that the driver must equip one car with ignition interlock and cannot drive any car that is not equipped with ignition interlock. Whereas the former law made no exception to permit driving an employer’s vehicle, the new law permits an employee subject to an IILL to drive an employer’s vehicle without installing ignition interlock. The employee just has to notify the employer of his restriction and carry a notarized copy of that notification while driving.
In summary, the changes to Pennsylvania’s OLL law permit a person subject to a first offense DUI suspension to drive with an IILL license within 20 days of suspension. Subsequent offenders are eligible after serving six months or nine months of their suspension period. This means that more people subject to DUI suspensions will be able to drive sooner than under the previous law, but first offenders will have to install ignition interlock devices where previously they did not.
This law is brand-new and as of this writing there has been no commentary about it whatsoever. We welcome your questions and comments below.