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Changes to Ignition Interlock Device laws and Their Effect on First-time DUI Offenders

On May 25, 2016, Senate Bill 290 was signed into law by Governor Wolf, which expanded existing ignition interlock device (“IID”) law. Until this bill was signed, Pennsylvania law only required IIDs on the vehicles of repeat drunk drivers. The amended law now requires that first-time DUI offenders convicted of having a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher install an ignition interlock device on all of their vehicles.   The portions of the law that are applicable to DUI offenders went into effect on August 25, 2017 and will apply to all DUI cases that resolve after that date.

The rationale behind this movement is public safety.  “Drunk driving is a deadly crime that puts Pennsylvania families at risk and this legislation will help prevent people from driving drunk and endangering themselves and putting other lives at risk” Governor Wolf said.   In addition to protecting society, it also allows someone who has been convicted of a DUI to remain a productive member of society, allowing those who fall within the .10 to .15 blood alcohol content range to avoid the mandatory one-year license suspension by obtaining an ignition interlock license.  This will allow them to drive to work, taken their children to school, and attend doctor appointments without having to rely on someone else to take them — as long as they have not consumed any alcohol!

What is an ignition interlock device?

It is device that is installed on a vehicle that requires an individual to blow into it before the vehicle will start.   Pennsylvania law requires that the alcohol level be less than 0.025%.  If the device detects an alcohol level greater than this very small amount, the vehicle will not start.   After a vehicle is successfully started,  the device will periodically require the individual to blow into the device while the vehicle is in operation.  Which means that you will be required to blow into the device during your drive.

It is important to note that some food and drink will prevent your engine from starting.   This includes foods made from yeast, as well as any food, mouth wash, or medicine containing alcohol.

Who does the new law apply to?

Under the new law, those convicted of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .10 or higher (high reading) may apply for an “ignition interlock license.”  The new law specifically excludes those involved in a DUI-fatality.  And it applies to ALL VEHICLES in the person’s name.

 

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Are the penalties the same if you have been charged with a Refusal?

The answer is no.   If you have been charged with a refusal to submit to chemical testing, the penalties are more stringent. If it is your first offense, your suspension will be for 1 year.  For any subsequent offenses, it is 18 months.  These penalties are in addition to any license suspension resulting from your DUI conviction.

 

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How do I apply?

You must submit an application, required fees and all necessary documentation 30 days prior to eligibility. You must complete everything listed in the Restoration Requirements Letter before you will be approved.  This must all be sent to PennDOT via certified mail.   PennDOT will provide you with a list of the ignition interlock dealers approved by the State.  You must then choose an installer and have the device installed. Once these steps are completed, the installer will notify PennDOT and your Ignition Interlock Limited License will be issued.   This limited license allows you to operate a vehicle equipped with the ignition interlock device.

This applies to all vehicles you own.   According to PENDOT “all vehicles owned, operated, or leased by” the person who was convicted of DUI must be equipped with a device.   The literally reading means that any unregistered, inoperable, and antique vehicles owned by that individual MUST be equipped with an ignition interlock device.   You will be required to complete a “Self-Certification of Vehicle(s) Owned/Operated Form” and list all vehicles that you own.

Are there any exemptions?

Yes, there is an Employment Exemption.  This exemption allows a person to drive an employer-owned vehicle without an ignition interlock device but only for employment purposes.  Your employer must file an affidavit with PENNDOT certifying that the driver’s job responsibilities require that the driver operate a company vehicle as part of his employment.  This does not apply to use of a company vehicle for personal use.  This also does not apply to vehicles that are owned by a company in which the ignition interlock licensed driver has an ownership in.  The exemption will not apply to school buses or vehicles, or vehicles that are used to transport more than 15 passengers.   The exemption will also not apply to certified inspection mechanics so that they can test drive customer vehicles.

What is the cost?

The cost of the ignition interlock device varies, but PENNDOT estimates it to be about $900-1300 per year for each system.  This does not include any additional costs incurred from the installer, as well as the application fee for the limited license ($65) and all maintenance fees.  You are responsible for all costs.

Any violations of this program can result in additional fines, imprisonment, and the extension of the ignition interlock period, or recalling of the ignition interlock license so that driving privileges are completed suspended.

How are my full driving privileges reinstated?

PennDOT will notify you 30 days prior to the expiration of the Ignition Interlock License and send you the required form to obtain your unrestricted license.  This form must be submitted along with the required fee for reinstatement.   If you license is set to expire within 6 months, you may choose to renew it at that time by paying an additional fee.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicles.  Call and set up an appointment to discuss your case with our knowledgeable DUI attorneys.

 

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Saile & Saile, Attorneys at Law, is located in Langhorne, PA and serves clients in and around Langhorne, Furlong, Pineville, Buckingham, Wycombe, Jamison, Fountainville, Rushland, Penns Park, Zionhill, Holicong, Mechanicsville, Doylestown, Warrington, Richboro, Warminster, New Hope, Newtown, Carversville, Chalfont, Gardenville, Hatboro, Southampton, Plumsteadville and Bucks County.
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