Breath test in vehicles now required for first time DUI offenders

Filed under: DUI by Contributor @ July 2, 2012

The trend of heaping more and more requirements upon Pennsylvania DUI offenders is firmly established, but Virginia has beaten Pennsylvania to the punch when it comes to installation of breathalyzers in the vehicles of first time offenders.

First time DUI offenders in Virginia are now required to have breathalyzers installed in their vehicles to ensure their blood alcohol content is below .02 before the vehicle will start. The legal limit in Virginia, as in Pennsylvania, is .08.

The driver of the vehicle must breathe into the device, called Smart Start 20/20, for 4 seconds, then hum for another 4 seconds. The device is linked to the ignition system of the vehicle and if the driver does not pass the test, it will not allow the engine to start.

The new law further mandates that after the vehicle has started, the device will blink, notifying the driver that he or she must pass another breath test. These rolling tests occur every 15 to 45 minutes. If the driver does not comply within 6 minutes of being notified, the vehicle’s lights will begin to flash and the horn will sound.

In addition to these requirements, every month the driver is required to return to the makers of the device where a technician will ensure that the device has not been tampered with. The technician will also download a report, which will then be sent to the Virginia state authorities. The report will contain a variety of data including how often and when the person drove, as well as how many times the device recorded a blood alcohol content of .015 or greater.

These new requirements come as DUI incidents are down across the United States but are still a significant problem. In Virginia, alcohol-related crashes fell from 11,265 in 2001 to 8,411 in 2011. During that same stretch, annual fatalities dropped from 358 to 245, while injuries dipped from 8,211 to 5,465.

Pennsylvania has seen similar drops overall, but fatalities have begun to climb again, especially in the 21 to 25 age range where over half of driving deaths were the result of drinking drivers. This is up from 44% in 2009. In all age groups, Pennsylvania in 2010 saw 459 fatalities that involved alcohol – an increase from 449 in 2009. DUI statistics have not yet been released for 2011 in Pennsylvania.

It is our opinion that breathalyzers will eventually be required for first time offenders in Pennsylvania. The trend is clear – measures adopted to combat DUI in other states are eventually adopted in our state as well.

The repercussions of being convicted for DUI in Pennsylvania can be very severe, and for second offenses, frequently result in jail time. If you have been charged, contact Fairlie & Lippy at (215) 997-1000 as soon as possible for a free consultation to discuss your options.

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