About a year ago, Governor Wolf signed new legislation into law which will change the way a DUI conviction will affect your driver’s license. The new law, which focuses primarily on ignition interlock devices, goes into effect in August. The law requires many DUI offenders to obtain ignition interlock devices for their vehicles even for a first offense DUI conviction. At the same time, it will also allow many people to keep their driver’s licenses who would have otherwise lost their licenses for a year. The intended effect is that the law will prevent DUI offenders from driving drunk while at the same time allowing them to keep their licenses so that they do not lose employment.
Under the previous DUI law, a judge could not order a defendant convicted of DUI to obtain an ignition interlock device for his or her car for a first offense. Further, a first-offense DUI conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol would result in a mandatory one-year license suspension for BACs above .10. Once the law goes into effect, motorists convicted of DUI will have to obtain an ignition interlock for their cars for at least one year. The devices require the driver to blow into a tube that measures the driver’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”). If the driver’s BAC is too high, then the car will not start. However, if the driver submits proof that he or she obtained the ignition interlock device to PennDOT, then the driver will be permitted to drive with an ignition interlock driver’s license instead of having their license suspended for a year. This means that it will be possible to completely avoid the previously-mandatory driver’s license suspension for a first-offense DUI conviction. The law also shortens the mandatory suspension for second and subsequent offenses as it allows the defendant to apply for the ignition interlock license after serving a portion of the license suspension.
These ignition interlock devices will be expensive. PennDOT has contracted with a number of companies which will install the devices in an offender’s car. The cost to the driver will range from $650 to $1100 for the ignition interlock. However, PennDOT does offer a program for defendants who are unable to afford the device. If the defendant can show that they are below a certain income level, then the state will pay for the ignition interlock. Additionally, if the defendant drives an employer-owned vehicle for work, the defendant may submit the appropriate documentation to PennDOT in order to apply for a waiver of the ignition interlock requirement for the employer-owned vehicle.
The devices will not be required for first-time offenders who are accepted into the ARD program. Under the terms of the ARD program, the defendant must complete a period of probation, pay fines and costs, attend classes, and the defendant may have his or her driver’s license suspended for up to two month depending on the BAC level at the time of the offense. However, if the defendant successfully completes the program, then the case will be dismissed and the record of the arrest can be expunged.