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Pennsylvania may soon require interlocks for first-time offenders

On behalf of Pat Lauer at Law Offices of Patrick F. Lauer, Jr. LLC

Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking at passing legislation that will require ignition interlocks for many first-time DUI offenders.

Proposed legislation is seen as likely to pass during the current session

Pennsylvania state lawmakers look set to pass a bill that will significantly expand the scope of current ignition interlock requirements, according to CBS Philadelphia. Under current law, ignition interlock devices are required only for repeat DUI offenders. If the proposed legislation passes, then the devices would become mandatory for many first-time DUI offenders as well. While ignition interlock devices have been credited with reducing drunk driving recidivism rates, some critics claim imposing them on first-time offenders is an overly harsh sentence.

First-time DUI offenses

Ignition interlock devices have become increasingly popular both with lawmakers and judges across the country in recent years. The devices are installed in vehicles and function similarly to a breathalyzer test. A driver who is ordered to install one of the devices must blow a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level below a preset limit. If the BAC reading is too high, the engine will fail to start.

Currently, the devices are required in Pennsylvania only for offenders who have multiple DUI convictions. If the proposed legislation passes, which its supporters say is likely during the current legislative session, then ignition interlocks would also be mandatory for first-time DUI offenders with a BAC above 0.10.

Benefits and drawbacks

Supporters of the bill point out that other states with similar legislation have seen dramatic decreases in DUI recidivism rates, which ultimately benefit both public safety and DUI offenders themselves. According to the Patriot-News, some defense attorneys also favor the bill by pointing out that current law, which can often leave first-time offenders with a license suspension, can mean people convicted of a DUI must make the difficult choice of either giving up driving (and thus risk losing their jobs in many cases) or drive on a suspended license and risk further legal consequences.

Detractors of the bill, however, claim that making ignition interlocks mandatory for first-time offenders goes too far. They say that ignition interlocks should be reserved for offenders who have a clear history of repeated DUI offenses rather than for people who may have made just one mistake.

DUI charges

When faced with a charge of DUI, it is important for defendants to have the best legal defense possible. A criminal defense attorney with plenty of experience successfully defending clients charged with DUI can be an invaluable source of legal assistance and guidance. Such an attorney can help anybody accused of DUI understand what their rights are and what the best course of action may be in responding to such charges.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, arrest, penalties