Pennsylvania bill would expand interlocks to first-time DUI offenders

A pending bill would require first-time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices.

A bill is currently pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature that would significantly increase the penalties for certain first-time drunk driving offenders. In what would be the first change to the state's drunk driving laws in more than 10 years, the Pennsylvania Senate recently approved a bill that would require some that have been convicted of first-offense DUI to install ignition interlock devices on their cars, before they may resume driving.

Specifically, the bill would apply to those convicted of DUI while driving with a blood alcohol level of .10 percent or more, including first-time offenders. Since this is a mere .2 percent more than the legal limit, the bill potentially could affect a large portion of DUI offenders.

The bill is a significant change from the ignition interlock law that is currently in force. Under the current law, only drivers that have been convicted of repeat DUI charges need to install ignition interlock devices; first-time offenders are exempt from the requirement.

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill, no doubt influenced by statistics showing the high effectiveness of ignition interlock devices in reducing the number of repeat DUI offenders. A study by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, found that states that have passed legislation requiring interlock devices for first-time offenders, have seen repeat DUI offenses decrease by 66 percent.

Additionally, even Pennsylvania's current less strict interlock law has been effective in reducing the number of intoxicated drivers behind the wheel. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the current law has prevented about 50,000 driving attempts by previous DUI offenders. As a result, the Senate believes that increasing the pool of those using interlocks can further reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road.

Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it goes to the Pennsylvania House for consideration. It is expected to meet minimal opposition and will almost certainly end up on the governor's desk for signature into law.

Speak to an attorney

If (or more accurately, when) the bill becomes law, it will likely lead to a significant spike in the number people facing a mandatory installation of interlock devices on their vehicles. Since it is the responsibility of the convicted person to pay for the installation, and periodic calibration or maintenance of the device, first-time DUI offenders face significantly higher financial penalties than they do under the current law.

Because of this reason, if you are charged with DUI, it is important to aggressively fight the charges. Although you may be unaware of any problems at the time of your arrest, breath test errors and other procedural mistakes can lead to a false test result. An experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the circumstances of your arrest and work to secure the best available result for you.