Ignition interlocks may soon be mandatory for first-time offenders

Bill would require some first-time offenders to install ignition interlock devices

Pennsylvania may soon be the latest state to order ignition interlock devices to be installed in the vehicles of first-time DUI offenders, according to FOX News. A proposed law would require some first-time DUI offenders to have the devices installed in their vehicles if the measure is passed by lawmakers. Ignition interlocks are breathalyzer-type devices that drivers blow into in order to start their cars. If they blow a blood-alcohol content level above a preset limit then the car will fail to start. Advocates for the law say the devices will help reduce DUI-related accidents while helping DUI offenders maintain their quality of life.

Proposed legislation

Under current law, only people convicted of multiple DUI offenses are automatically ordered by a court to have an ignition interlock device placed in their cars. First-time offenders instead face a one-year license suspension unless they qualify for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Discharge (ARD) program.

The proposed legislation would instead require first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol content level above 0.10 to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. Pennsylvania would be the 39th state to have such a law and lawmakers say they expect to have the political support necessary to pass the bill this session.

General support

Some concerns have been raised about the proposal, including about funding and whether it is an overly harsh sentence for first-time offenders. However, generally there is fairly broad support for the measure, according to its advocates.

Critics of the current system say it is both unfair and ineffective, according to the Patriot-News. They point out that people who have a suspended license are often placed in the difficult position of either driving on a suspended license and thus risking further criminal charges or losing their jobs because they can no longer commute to work. Supporters of the bill point out that an estimated 70 percent of people continue to drive on a suspended license following a DUI conviction. Ignition interlocks would allow offenders to keep their driving privileges, thus making it easier to maintain a livelihood.

Defense against DUI charges

Although an ignition interlock may seem like a more reasonable sentence than losing one's driving privileges outright, the truth is that they are still a severe and intrusive punishment. People facing a DUI charge should, therefore, treat such charges extremely seriously. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible. Such an attorney can examine all angles of a DUI case in order to ensure that his clients' rights are upheld and that their best interests are represented by somebody with a deep knowledge and experience of the law.