Pa. Lawmakers Seek Expansion of Ignition Interlock Usage in DUI Cases

car keys-gavel-liquorAccording to a recent report by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, potentially ground-breaking legislation regarding ignition interlock usage in DUI cases is pending before the state Senate Transportation Committee. Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, has proposed Senate Bill 1036, which expands the ignition interlock program to include first-time DUI offenders. As Pennsylvania DUI attorney Steven E. Kellis can tell you, current Pennsylvania law provides that only repeat DUI offenders are required to install interlock devices on their vehicles as a condition of their ability to drive.

Ignition interlock devices are installed on vehicles to prevent motorists from driving drunk. A driver must blow into the device before the vehicle will start. If the device measures the driver’s blood-alcohol level to be 0.025 percent or greater, then the vehicle will not start, even though the legal blood-alcohol content level for drivers is 0.08 percent in the state of Pennsylvania.

Under the proposed bill, first-time DUI offenders may choose to have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicles for a certain period of time instead of losing their driver’s licenses. Depending on the circumstances, a first-time DUI offender can lose his or her driver’s license for 12 to 18 months. The cost to the driver for an interlock device is about $65 to $110 per month.

By allowing these offenders to continue driving rather than having their licenses automatically suspended, they will likely be able to keep their jobs and support their families. The ability to drive legally also can assist parents who must drive their children to school or other activities, or other adults who regularly care for their elderly parents. Plus, the legislation can help prevent drivers from driving illegally, or when they are subject to a license suspension; some statistics suggest that as many as 60 percent of people who are convicted of DUI continue to drive on suspended licenses. Drivers who are found to be driving while their driver’s licenses are suspended can face further penalties, including lengthier terms of license suspension.

The Pennsylvania DUI Association estimates that about 8,000 repeat DUI offenders in the state of Pennsylvania have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. However, law enforcement officials reportedly made almost 55,000 DUI arrests last year. If the proposed legislation passes, then thousands of additional DUI offenders would be eligible to participate in the ignition interlock program. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found ignition interlock device usage can reduce repeat drunk driving incidents by as much as 67 percent. Despite the proven success of such programs, however, very few DUI offenders participate in ignition interlock programs nationwide, due in large part to the dearth of state laws that make these programs compulsory or even available for DUI offenders.

Both the Pennsylvania DUI Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving support the pending ignition interlock legislation. The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis believe that expanding the ignition interlock program would be helpful, especially to first-time DUI offenders. Having the option of installing an ignition interlock device would assist first-time offenders in continuing to meet their family obligations while still preventing impaired driving. Our office will continue to monitor this proposed legislation.

For more information about DUI offenses and penalties, including the installation of ignition interlock devices, please contact the Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis today.