DUI Update: PA's New Ignition Interlock Law Takes Effect

Pennsylvania’s new Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) Ignition Interlock Law took effect on Friday, August 25, 2017. We have written about the pros and cons of the new law previously, but prior to taking effect, the Pennsylvania Legislature modified the law so that it would bring many of the same advantages and disadvantages to recipients of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (“ARD”) Program. Unfortunately, the changes to make ARD defendants eligible for the Ignition Interlock License will not go into effect until October 2018. Additionally, most defense lawyers believed that the law would be applied retroactively to motorists who were already serving their suspensions when the law took effect. Based on recent guidance from PennDOT, it now seems clear that the DUI Ignition Interlock Statute will apply retroactively. This means that many motorists who are already serving DUI-related suspensions will be immediately eligible to obtain an Ignition Interlock device and have their driver’s licenses reinstated.

Pros and Cons of the New DUI Ignition Interlock Law

There are some significant pros and cons to the new law. In general, the law makes Driving Under the Influence Convictions more expensive by requiring even some first-time offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. These devices can be costly, but the law does allow for subsidized interlock installations upon a showing of financial hardship. At the same time, the law provides many motorists with a way to keep their licenses or serve shorter driver’s license suspensions than those statutorily required in the absence of the law.

One of the biggest problems with Pennsylvania’s DUI statute is that it requires a one year driver’s license suspension for many first-time offenders, and Pennsylvania does not really offer the kinds of work licenses offered in other states. This means that a DUI would ordinarily cause many people to lose their jobs if they drive for a living or need to drive to and from work. This is a problem even for criminal defendants who are accepted into the ARD program as even ARD requires a sixty day driver’s license suspension for a motorist who blew above a .16 or had drugs in their system. The law solves some of these problems by allowing many drivers to keep their licenses while at these are time protecting the public from drunk drivers by requiring them to obtain ignition interlock devices. 

Changes to the DUI Statute

Now, even first-time offenders in the highest tier (meaning they had a BAC above .16 or drugs in their system while driving) can obtain a special Ignition Interlock license which will permit them to keep driving during the period of suspension. This will result in many DUI defendants being able to keep their jobs. At the same time, it makes the roads safer by requiring those convicted of DUI to obtain these ignition interlock devices. The devices prevent a car from starting if the device detects the presence of alcohol in the driver’s breath. Notably, the devices have no way of detecting the presence of any kind of drugs. Additionally, the legislature recently amended the statute so that defendants who are diverted into the ARD program will be eligible for ignition interlock licenses. This portion of the statute will not go into effect until October 2018, so ARD currently still requires the license suspension. The law also does not help criminal defendants who have had their driver's licenses suspended due to convictions for drug possession or possession with the intent to deliver.  

We Can Help With DUI Cases and Ignition Interlock Licenses

Goldstein Mehta LLC - Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers

Goldstein Mehta LLC - Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers

You can learn more about the law and its benefits on PennDOT’s website. If you have questions about your eligibility for an ignition interlock license or the procedure for applying for this type of license, call one of our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers at 267-225-2545 for a free consultation. We can also help with DUI and driving with a suspended license charges in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.