Pennsylvania bill would expand ignition interlock program

Certain first-time offenders would be ordered to install devices if bill passes

A proposed law currently being considered by Pennsylvania lawmakers would significantly expand the state's current ignition interlock program. Senate Bill 290 appears to have bipartisan support and its advocates say they expect to have enough votes to get it passed into law this legislative session, according to FOX 43 News. Pennsylvania would join a growing number of states that are making ignition interlocks mandatory for first-time DUI offenders if the bill does pass.

Expansion of program

Under current Pennsylvania law, ignition interlock devices are only mandatory for repeat DUI offenders. Many first-time offenders currently face a one-year license suspension, according to The Patriot-News. Ignition interlocks prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver blows a blood-alcohol content reading above a preset limit.

Under the proposed legislation, first-time DUI offenders would be ordered to install the devices if they were convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol content level of 0.10 or more. Proponents of the law say they expect the bill to pass this legislative session after working for four years to get similar legislation passed. Pennsylvania would join 38 other states that currently mandate ignition interlocks for at least some first-time offenders.

Maintain livelihoods

Advocates for the bill say the only concerns raised so far have been over "technical issues." They claim that dramatic reductions in DUI-related accidents in other states with similar laws have led to broad support for the initiative in Pennsylvania.

Although the new law can be interpreted as an increased punishment for DUI offenders, some defense attorneys are also supportive of the change. They note that current law puts drivers at risk of being arrested again if they choose to drive on a suspended license. Suspending one's driving privileges, they note, often has a devastating impact on an offender's livelihood, making it difficult for him or her to get to work and earn a living. Some critics, however, are worried about the cost of the program and say the devices are overly intrusive.

DUI defense

While ignition interlocks may provide DUI offenders with the benefit of being able to keep their driving privileges, the proposal should not be viewed as a softening of DUI laws. Law enforcement agencies are aggressively cracking down on drunk driving and anybody convicted of making a single mistake could face the prospect of fines, jail time, and other restrictions. Additionally, a criminal record can hamper a person's employment prospects and other opportunities.

As such, anybody charged with DUI needs to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. A well-qualified attorney will be able to inform defendants of their options so that they can respond to such serious charges in a way that may ultimately help them maintain their freedom and reputation.