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Pennsylvania considering expanding ignition interlocks to first-timers

A recent Pennsylvania bill would significantly expand the use of ignition interlock devices in the state.

Ignition interlock devices have long been used in Pennsylvania as a deterrent for repeat drunk driving offenses. The devices prevent drunk drivers from operating a motor vehicle by forcing them to give a breath sample. If the device detects an alcohol level above a certain threshold, it prevents the vehicle from being operated. They have been widely successful in preventing repeat drunk driving offenses in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, interlock devices have prevented about 50,000 persons with alcohol levels that are too high from driving.

Currently in Pennsylvania, the law requires interlock devices only for multiple DUI offenders. However, encouraged by the success of interlock devices in reducing repeat DUI offenses, the Pennsylvania Legislature is currently considering a bill that would expand the use of interlock devices for those convicted of DUI.

If passed, the bill would require first-time DUI offenders that have a blood alcohol level of .10 percent or higher. The bill, recently approved unanimously by the Pennsylvania Senate, is currently being considered by the House. The bill’s proponents point to studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to justify the need for expanded interlock use. These studies found that states that have passed laws requiring interlock use for first-time DUI offenders have experienced a decline in repeat offenders by 66 percent.

Although popular with both political parties, the bill’s passage is far from assured. Soon after the bill reached the Pennsylvania House, it adjourned for the recent election. Since it has reconvened, the bill has not been voted on. Unless the bill is passed before the upcoming holiday break, it will likely die and need to start the legislative process over again next year.

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The bill, if passed, would greatly expand the use of interlock devices over the current law. Since the law would apply to those with a blood alcohol level of merely .2 percent above the .08 percent legal limit, potentially several thousands of additional first-time DUI offenders will find themselves having to install the devices.

Although the devices have the benefit of allowing offenders to carry on with their jobs and other activities requiring a vehicle, it can come at a heavy price. Under the law, DUI offenders are responsible for paying the installation, maintenance and calibration of the devices, which can quickly exceed $1,000. Because this amount is in addition to the fines and penalties first-time offenders must pay, many may soon be faced with a heavy financial burden.

If you have been accused of DUI, there are significant fines, jail time and negative future repercussions at stake. It is therefore important that you aggressively fight the charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can work on your behalf to secure the best outcome possible for your situation.