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New Pennsylvania DUI Law Means More Ignition Interlock Devices

Posted on October 10th, 2016

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are breathalyzers for automobiles that require drivers to blow into them before the vehicle can start. If the driver’s breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is greater than the preprogrammed BAC limit, the engine will not start.

Pennsylvania is among the many states in the nation that makes installation of IIDs mandatory for repeat driving under the influence (DUI) offenders, but a bill signed by Governor Tom Wolf in May means that certain first-time offenders will also be required to have IIDs installed on their vehicles for one year in order to obtain provisional licenses while their privileges are suspended.

Act 33 takes effect in August 2017 and will allow drivers convicted of their first DUI with a BAC higher than 0.10 percent to get provisional licenses after six months if they use IIDs for one year. Under current law, such drivers have their licenses suspended for one year following a conviction.

Eileen Lee, director of ignition interlock quality assurance with the nonprofit Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence (PA DUI) Association, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the change could make 8,000 to 12,000 additional drivers statewide eligible for the devices annually. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), IIDs stopped more than 78,000 instances of drunken driving in Pennsylvania between October 1, 2003, and December 1, 2015.

West Chester Drunk Driving Arrests

The costs of expanding Pennsylvania’s current IID system are expected to be covered by what drivers pay for the systems and their installations, Criminal Courts Administrator Thomas McCaffrey told the Tribune-Review. Lee told the Tribune-Review that IIDs cost $800 to $1,300 to lease and install, and drivers also pay a $65 fee to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for a special license.

For many alleged DUI offenders, the costs of installing and maintaining IIDs in their vehicles are simply too much to bear. While many convicted offenders need to be able to get back on the road in order to maintain employment, attend school, or perform basic household duties, the significant fees involved with IIDs can be a major obstacle in resolving DUI cases.

Individuals who cannot afford to install and maintain IIDs in all of their vehicles may be able to apply for a hardship exemption that allows them to only install the devices in one of their vehicles. People who are arrested for driving a vehicle without an IID installed not only face possible fines and imprisonment, but they can also have the length of their IID periods extended for an additional year.

IIDs occasionally present other problems for people convicted of DUI offenses. Certain devices can be remarkably sensitive, and people may fail tests after eating certain foods. As an August 25 editorial in the Pocono Record pointed out, some individuals lack the lung capacity to produce a sufficient sample for their IIDs, resulting in them being unable to drive despite being stone sober.

The best way to avoid the very costly requirements of installing and servicing IIDs is to contact a West Chester criminal defense lawyer who can fight to possible get DUI charges reduced or dismissed. Among many other issues that can impact a drunk driving case, breathalyzers of other equipment that has been improperly operated or maintained by authorities can lead to inaccurate BAC measurements.