Pennsylvania – Ignition Interlock for First Offense DUI?

Filed under: DUI by Contributor @ February 16, 2015

According to recent news reports, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is preparing a new push to have the Pennsylvania state legislature enact legislation requiring that an ignition interlock system be installed in the car of  first-time DUI offenders whose blood alcohol content exceeds .10%.  A similar effort passed unanimously in the State Senate at the tail end of last year, but not with enough time in the legislative session for the House to take up the bill.

In his sponsoring memo, State Representative Keith Greiner claims that  there are over 30,000 first-time DUI offenders each year, and a substantial number violate the terms of their license suspension.  He also states that similar laws are in effect in 15 other states, which have caused recidivism rates to drop by 60%.   State Senator John Rafferty introduced the same language (Senate Bill 290) that passed the state senate last year, so expect quick passage out of that body.  House Bill 278 was reported to the Transportation Committee for consideration last week.

The law is designed is to require individuals convicted of DUIs to obtain a “ignition interlock limited license,” which allows the operator to legally drive only vehicles equipped with the standard interlock system.  Obtaining the license from the government is conditional upon proving that the individual’s car is so encumbered.  The new law is designed to match up with section 3805 of the Criminal Code, the traditional interlock requirement statute.    That statute allows special-case exemptions for employer transportation and economic hardship in limited circumstances.  As the law stands now, it requires an individual to have a prior offense for the ignition interlock requirement to kick in.

The primary complaint against requiring ignition interlock systems is the cost.  In Pennsylvania it costs roughly $1,000 for installation alone. Drivers not only must pay for the cost of the device and its installation, but regular calibration checks as well.  All of this at a time when drivers may be paying thousands of dollars for an attorney, thousands in fines, court costs, and program costs, and losing time from work to complete community service, go to court, obtain court-ordered assessments, etc. Also, ignition interlock systems are ineffective against other types of drug use and can cause severe hardship and inconvenience for families.  Finally, some individuals suffer from lung or other health problems that make it difficult to unlock the devices and there have been reports that the devices have failed – resulting in serious accidents.  Nevertheless, according to MADD, other states with ignition interlock requirements have seen DUI-related deaths drop by nearly half.

Requiring ignition-interlock systems for first-time DUI offenders raises the stakes for everyone involved.  To speak to a Fairlie & Lippy attorney today about your case, contact us here.   Stay tuned for more details as the bills progress further in Harrisburg.







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